Posts tagged Cheaper
Microsoft said Tuesday that it is has opened up its $14.99 Windows 8 upgrade offer to the general public, while online reports suggest that Windows 8’s full retail price will be lower than previous versions of the operation system.
In a blog post, Microsoft said it had opened its upgrade program, which will allow users who have recently purchased a Windows 7 PC to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $14.99. The upgrade offer expires on Feb. 28, 2013.
Under the program, announced in May, users who purchased a new Windows 7 machine after June 2 can upgrade to Windows 8. Users will need to visit the Microsoft upgrade site, register for the upgrade and supply their 25-character product key. On Oct. 26, Microsoft will begin sending out promotional codes. Customers can then upgrade to Windows 8 Pro via the Microsoft Upgrade Assistant, using the promotional codes to lower the $39.99 upgrade cost to $14.99.
Meanwhile, The Verge reported Tuesday that – according to “one source familiar with Microsoft’s plans” – the company will initially price the boxed version of Windows 8 at $69.99, increasing to $199 after Jan. 31. Upgrading Windows 8 to Windows 8 Professional will also cost $69.99, then $99.99 after the discount period.
To recap, here’s a quick breakdown of what we know of the pricing for Windows 8:
- If you have an older Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 machine, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Professional for $39.99.
- If you purchased a new Windows 7 PC between June 2nd and January 31st, 2013, you’ll pay $14.99 for Windows 8 Professional.
- According to sources, Microsoft will price Windows 8 retail copies at $69.99. That price will increase to $199 on Jan. 31, 2013.
- Windows 8 Pro will also cost $69.99 at retail, and will serve as an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for those with the standard Windows 8 systems. After Jan. 31, the price will increase to $99.99.
Microsoft has yet to announce the price for a “System Builder” edition of Windows 8 – designed to let small businesses build Windows machines for clients – which has traditionally been cheaper than other versions. However, Microsoft’s license terms now explicitly support do-it-yourself or home-built PCs, as long as buyers use the OS on only one machine, so their may not be a System Builder for Windows 8, which would close a semi-legal loophole that Windows enthusiasts often used to save some cash when putting together their own PCs. In the past Microsoft hasn’t allowed System Builder customers to phone in for tech support, restricting them to online help forums. It’s not clear whether that restriction will continue in Windows 8.
Windows Prices Are Coming Down
In historical terms, the prices Microsoft is charging for Windows 8 are great deals. In 2009, Microsoft charged $119.99 to upgrade Vista to Windows 7 Home Premium, $199.99 to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, and $219.99 to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate. Microsoft also offered a two-week promotional deal that allowed consumers to pre-order the Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade for $49.99 and the Windows 7 Professional upgrade for $99.99.
Standalone retail copies of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 7 Ultimate were priced at $199.99, $299.99, and $319.99.
Microsoft originally charged a whopping $399 for Windows Vista Ultimate, on down to $199 for Windows Vista Home Basic. Upgrade versions ranged from $99 to $259 for Windows Vista Ultimate. In 2008, Microsoft cut Windows Vista Ultimate’s price to $319 and the upgrade version from $259 to $219 in an effort to encourage consumers to upgrade to Windows 7. It also cut prices for upgrade versions of Vista Home Premium, its mainstream product, to $129 from $159.
What’s all this mean? Over time, Microsoft is charging less for its desktop operating system, most likely to keep users using PCs. At one time, Microsoft’s pressure came from the Macintosh, and from a lesser extent, Linux. That’s still the case, as upgrades to Apple’s latest operating system upgrade, Mountain Lion, costs $20 for five licenses.
Now, many potential new PC buyers are turning toward smartphones and tablets. The PC’s role as a content-creation device is becoming relatively less important as the “content” consumers are creating includes photos, tweets, text messages, status updates and the other digital flotsam and jetsam of our daily lives. Even notebooks may be too much of a pain to haul out, turn on and use to check the weather or post a Facebook message.
In that environment, Microsoft may feel it simply can’t charge as much for Windows as it used to.
Follow the Money
Fortunately for Microsoft, it doesn’t have to. Windows isn’t Microsoft’s money maker. That role is filled by Microsoft’s Business Division, or Microsoft Office, which recorded $6.2 billion in revenue last quarter, about a third more than the Windows and Windows Live Division, with almost double the profits. Microsoft’s Server and Tools business also pulls in more revenue than Windows, at roughly the same level of profitability. Windows is becoming the gateway to higher-margin services like Office and Microsoft’s other business and enterprise products.
While it’s unlikely that Windows will ever serve as a “loss leader” – the heavily discounted and advertised items that get consumers into stores and shopping – it seems likely that Microsoft will continue to lower the price of Windows over time. Whatever the reasons, consumers will benefit.
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After using a smartphone for years, the mobile Internet becomes so engrained in your life that you don’t realize how much you rely on it until it’s not there. Business and pleasure travel overseas, for example, are prime occasions where mobile web access can even be more useful than at home. But in the past, that access has been prohibitively expensive.
The good news is that as smartphone popularity increases, it’s getting cheaper to get online abroad. International data roaming is getting more affordable, and depending on your phone and carrier, there are even more options to get online. Here are some tips.
iPhone Abroad: Why It’s Awesome
While it is nice to be offine for a while, especially on vacation, having an iPhone (or any smartphone) with mobile Internet access is an incredible help. This is especially true for business travel: Having now traveled with an active iPhone overseas for business, I’d never want to do it without one.
Specifically, the ability to use maps with GPS, get directions (walking and public transit), find restaurants using tools like Foursquare Explore, search Google to translate words, and stay in touch with people via e-mail, iMessage, and WhatsApp, is all nothing short of amazing.
Your time is extremely precious while traveling abroad, and having a smartphone with Internet access can save enough time to quickly pay for itself. Your hotel, convention center, and airport will probably have wi-fi, yes. But having 3G web access while walking around is now frequently worth the expense.
How to Get Online Overseas
This information changes relatively frequently, so please check with your mobile operator first, before you leave your home country. This is generally true for most smartphones, but I’m using the iPhone and U.S. carriers as examples, as I’m most familiar with them. Your situation may vary, so please research this yourself, too.
Important note: If you’re going to use your carrier’s international roaming, it’s important to get a special international data subscription/package. If you don’t have one, you’ll be charged exorbitant rates that, frankly, should be illegal. Be careful and don’t mess this up.
Verizon Wireless: Of the U.S. iPhone 4S carriers, Verizon Wireless currently has the best deal for international data roaming. Starting April 23, Verizon now offers 100 MB of overseas data for $25, and subsequent 100 MB “buckets” for an additional $25 each. The last couple times I’ve traveled on business overseas, I’ve used about 300 MB of data over the course of a week. That would cost me about $75 at Verizon, which is pretty good. (Especially relative to the overall cost of a trip.)
If you have an iPhone 4S and a Verizon account that has been active and in good standing for 60 days, you can also call Verizon and ask it to unlock your SIM card slot, which would allow you to purchase data service from a local carrier. More on this in a bit.
AT&T: AT&T also offers data “buckets” for overseas roaming, starting at $25 for 50 MB of data (half as much data as Verizon). You can also get 125 MB for $50, 275 MB for $100, and 800 MB for $200, each with $10/10 MB overage charges. These are less expensive than they used to be, but they’re still expensive. Only at 800 MB of usage will you reach the price/megabyte level as Verizon now offers. If you’re locked to AT&T – the case for most U.S. iPhone owners – this isn’t a terrible option, as you can activate them directly from the “myAT&T” iPhone app and save time.
I expect AT&T to add more data to these plans eventually, making them a better deal. Get in touch with your AT&T rep to discuss the nuance of these plans, as they may be pro-rated over the time you need them. And AT&T now unlocks old iPhones that are no longer under contract, after you’ve finished paying off your subsidy. That may also be a good option.
Sprint Nextel: Sprint does not appear to offer any money-saving plans like these, instead charging an absurd per-megabyte rate. Avoid this unless absolutely necessary. But Sprint is also apparently willing to unlock your iPhone if your account is in good standing. Check with your Sprint rep for details and requirements.
Once you have landed overseas and have an international roaming package activated, you should be able to power up your phone and get online. If it doesn’t work, contact your home carrier.
Unlocked iPhone: The Cheapest Service
If you’ve purchased an unlocked iPhone from Apple (expensive, but potentially worth it, if you travel a lot); have had your iPhone 4S SIM slot unlocked by Verizon or Sprint; have an old, unlocked AT&T iPhone; or have used an unofficial unlocking service, you can often purchase inexpensive, prepaid iPhone data service from local carriers. There are some drawbacks, including the amount of time it takes to find and purchase one, plus potential language-barrier issues. But if you do have an unlocked phone, and want an adventure, this can be fun and can help save money.
For example, in Germany this year, when I was visiting Munich and Berlin, I was easily able to get a SIM card from Vodafone with “unlimited” data service for €20. (The clerk used a SIM cutter to make it fit in my iPhone.) In Spain, while I was attending Mobile World Congress, I got a prepaid micro-SIM with Orange service for €3.50 per day. Both times, I walked into a mobile phone store (in busy areas, where they might expect foreigners), found a store representative that spoke enough English to figure out the best option, and paid cash for prepaid service. Both times, they needed my passport. But once the service was activated, it was reliable the entire time I was traveling. This wound up being significantly less expensive than if I were to use AT&T’s roaming service.
But there was one big drawback: In Europe, in particular, it seems, prepaid “unlimited” data plans have low caps for full-speed service. After 200-250 MB of blazing fast 3G access, in both countries, my speeds were cut to a very slow 64 kbps. It was like going from an amazing broadband connection to dial-up. The Internet still worked, and low-bandwidth activities like Twitter, Foursquare, and e-mail were fine. Upstream bandwidth was, oddly, uncapped, so I could still upload photos to Instagram very quickly. But downloading photos and using Facebook or the web became tragically slow. Streaming video was a no-go. Be mindful of this limitation when choosing a provider or plan, and try to look this stuff up before you travel, so you can show up to a store knowing what you want ahead of time.
There are also third-party “roaming” providers that will sell you a SIM card and international roaming service, and require unlocked phones. These include MaxRoam, whose service I tested in Spain, and it was fine. But they are often much more expensive than using a local operator.
Getting Better All The Time
As smartphone penetration grows around the world, expect these options to improve: Pricing, the ease of acquiring service, and the usefulness of mobile Internet services overseas. But if you do have the opportunity to travel with an active smartphone, try it out. You’ll find it’s a wonderful addition to your trip. (And if you’re on vacation, stay away from your work e-mail!)
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The typical wisdom around Microsoft’s platform strategy during the past three years has been that the company is desperate to move its existing server software product customers to a cloud-based model in order to retain those customers amid growing competition. A research report from Osterman released this morning throws icy cold water on that theory. Indeed, the research team has found through direct calculation that the reason Microsoft wants to move enterprise server customers to the cloud is because that’s where the payoff is.
Using a model of a 5,000-user enterprise based around Microsoft’s three principal communications platforms – Exchange, SharePoint and Lync (sometimes called the Unified Communications stack), during 36 months of simulated licensed use, the Osterman team found the following: Of three possible configurations – conventional on-premise, private cloud and public cloud – it is the private cloud option that is the least expensive for the enterprise.
The takeaway here is that the savings that small organizations receive by going with public cloud deployments – which Osterman confirms remain sizable – do not scale up for bigger companies.
“While public cloud providers include a variety of hardware, switching, storage, license fees and other features in the base price of their offerings,” the Osterman report reads, “this base price is significantly higher than the fully amortized price of the hardware, software and other infrastructure elements offered in a private cloud deployment.” The report was sponsored by Azaleos, which incidentally is a managed services provider in its own right, including hybrid deployments of UC services.
[Chart credit: Osterman Research]
When deploying Microsoft Exchange, the Osterman team discovered that enterprises pay 26% less during a 36-month period for a private cloud-based deployment than for licensing Microsoft’s hosted Exchange service in its public cloud. They also pay 16% less for private cloud than for traditional on-premise installations. Osterman makes clear that on-premise installations, under its definition, are managed entirely in-house, while private cloud installations allow for co-location and (incidentally) managed service providers.
The gap is still sizable, but reduced somewhat when all three UC components are taken into account. Enterprises spend 10% on private cloud deployments of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync than for Microsoft’s comparable hosted Office 365 services, and 16% less than for on-premise deployments of all three, during a 36-month period. That’s the typical period now for many businesses’ requisitioning cycles – no longer the four- or five-year cycle that was common in the previous decade.
The clincher for large businesses, Osterman Research found, is all the extra costs they have to incur to upgrade what are essentially small business-class services – costs that accrue monthly. Office 365 licensing is the cheaper way to go for SMBs. But Microsoft offers its O365 licenses as upgrades to its lower tiers, which enterprises still pay for.
So in the Exchange licensing model, a per-seat/per-month license for Hosted Exchange with all the necessary features (like migration assistance and help desk support) costs $6.28, while the standard Software Assurance licensing fees for a private cloud deployment of Exchange costs $8.45. But once enterprise-class services are added, and the E2 tier license gets upgraded to E3, the public cloud license costs $27.81 per-seat/per-month versus $20.51 for a comparable private cloud Exchange deployment.
The phenomenon does not translate to all three of Microsoft’s UC components. SharePoint’s cheapest licensing model is the public cloud option, Osterman found, costing a total of $31.96 per-user/per-month for 5,000 users for Hosted SharePoint versus $34.74 for a private cloud installation. However, the study points out, that gap can be more than compensated for by opting to exclude the backup site for disaster recovery.
The firm also concedes that price savings for on-premise deployments – the most expensive option in any case – can perhaps be found by systems designers who plan for resource sharing, rather than siloing the UC components among separate servers. Still, the findings contradict the conventional wisdom that public-cloud based pricing is just as upwardly scalable as the deployments themselves.
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There have been a number of published rumors in the last week, including those in Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal that Apple plans to launch a smaller, more affordable iPhone – an iPhone Nano, if you will. According to yesterday’s story in the Wall Street Journal, the new iPhone – codename N97 – will be available some time this year for about half the cost of the current iPhone 4.
That story also also contends that Apple will be revamping its cloud-based storage service MobileMe. Currently MobileMe allows users to store their data online and sync their calendars and contacts among their various computing devices. The WSJ suggests that Apple will do away with its $99 annual subscription fee, making MobileMe a free service “that would serve as a ‘locker’ for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos, eliminating the need for devices to carry a lot of memory, the people familiar with the situation said.”
The Apple-focused blog Cult of Mac has its own thoughts on these rumors this morning. According to its sources, Apple’s emphasis on cloud-based storage and its move to build a cheaper, smaller phone isn’t just about reducing the need to carry “a lot of memory” – it’s about removing the memory altogether.
Cult of Mac says that, “The iPhone nano will have no memory for onboard storage of media, our source says. It will have only enough memory to buffer media streamed from the cloud.” Instead, the new iPhone will pull all its content from MobileMe.
If true, that raises a lot of interesting questions about the functionality of the device. How will it handle photos? Will they be uploaded immediately to the cloud? What happens when you’re offline – out of range of 3G or wireless?
These aren’t the first or only speculations about the new iPhones that are expected this year. As ReadWriteWeb’s Sarah Perez has argued before, the new iPhone may be completely redesigned. Indeed, an iPhone without storage would mean not just a redesigned phone, but for many users, redesigned behavior.
Photo credits: iPhone “Nano” mock-up from Cult of Mac
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