How much will Windows 10 cost? That's a good question. There's been a lot of speculation, but as of the time of this writing, we don't have a definitive answer. Will it be priced similar to Windows XP — or more like Windows 8? Will it be free like Windows 8.1 — or will Windows 10 be sold using a subscription model like Microsoft created for Office 365? Let's take a closer look at the history of Windows pricing and then analyze what a Windows 10 subscription might look like.
Windows pricing over time
Let's exclude versions of Windows prior to Windows 95 and take a look at the price of the Windows operating system starting there.
Windows 95 was released on August 24, 1995. At that time, you could purchase the Windows 95 Full installation package for $209.95 (USD). If you already had a Windows 3.x installation, you could purchase the Windows 95 Upgrade for $109.95.
Windows 98 was released on June 25, 1998. At that time, you could purchase the Windows 98 Full installation package for $209. If you already had a Windows 95 installation, you could purchase the Windows 98 Upgrade for $109.
Windows 98 Second Edition (SE)
Windows 98 Second Edition was released on May 5, 1999. At that time, you could purchase the Windows 98 SE Full installation package for $209. If you already had a Windows 95 installation, you could purchase the Windows 98 SE Upgrade for $109. Now, if you had already upgraded to Windows 98, you could purchase the Second Edition Updates Disc for $19.95, plus shipping and handling.
Windows 2000 Professional
Windows 2000 Professional was released on February 17, 2000. At that time, you could purchase the Windows 2000 Professional Full installation package for $319. If you already had a Windows NT installation, you could purchase the Windows NT to 2000 Professional Upgrade for $149. If you already had a Windows 9x installation, you could purchase the Windows 9x to 2000 Professional Upgrade for $219.
Windows ME was released on September 14, 2000. At that time, you could purchase the Windows ME Promotional Step-Up for $59.95. This package was designed as an upgrade from Windows 98 or Windows 98 Second Edition and was available for a limited time. You could purchase the Windows ME Full installation package for $209. If you had a Windows 9x installation, you could purchase the Windows ME Upgrade for $109.
Windows XP was released on October 21, 2001. At that time, you could purchase the Windows XP Home Edition Full installation package for $199.99 or the Windows XP Professional Full installation package for $299.99. You could purchase Windows XP Home Edition Upgrade package for $99.99 or the Windows XP Professional Upgrade package for $199.99.
Windows Vista was released on January 30, 2007. At that time, you could purchase the full installation package of Windows Vista: Home Basic for $199.95, Home Premium for $239.95, Business for $299.95, or Ultimate for $399.95. You could purchase the Upgrade package of Windows Vista: Home Basic for $99.95, Home Premium for $159.95, Business for $199.95, or Ultimate for $259.95.
Windows 7 was released on October 22, 2009. Prior to the actual release date, users in the US currently running either XP or Vista could take advantage of the Windows 7 preorder campaign, which allowed users to preorder up to three copies Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade for $49 or Windows 7 Professional Upgrade for $99. On the release date, you could purchase the full installation package of Windows 7: Home Premium for $199.99, Professional for $299.99, and Ultimate for $319.99. You could purchase the Upgrade package of Windows 7: Home Premium for $119.99, Professional for $199.99, or Ultimate for $219.99. For a limited time, Microsoft also came out with the Windows 7 Family pack for $149.99 that included three copies of Windows 7 home Premium.
Windows 8 was released on October 26, 2012. If you had purchased a new Windows 7 PC after June 2, about six months prior to the release of Windows 8, you could upgrade your system to Windows 8 Pro, via a download, for a mere $15. To give users time to make this move, the deal lasted another three months — until January 31st, 2013. On the other hand, as long as you were using an existing Windows product, you could purchase Windows 8 Pro, via a download, for $39.99. This deal also lasted until January 31st, 2013. If you wanted an actual Windows 8 Pro DVD, you could purchase it for $69.99. On February 1, Windows 8 Pro went up to $199.99, and the standard version was sold for $119.99.
Windows 8.1 was released on October 17, 2013. If you were running Windows 8, the upgrade to Windows 8.1 was free. If you were using an older version of Windows, you could purchase Windows 8.1 Pro for $199.99 or the standard version for $119.99.
As you can see, the price of Windows has fluctuated over time. If we exclude the discounts and look at the price of the top tier of the full installation of each of the versions, we can see that while the pricing has gone up and down, the most recent trend is showing that the price has been coming down.
Windows 10 subscription pricing?
Microsoft has yet to reveal the pricing structure for Windows 10, but all the speculation out there seems to point to something completely different from the way that Microsoft has sold Windows in the past. The one rumor that seems to carry the most weight is a subscription model similar to what Microsoft has already set up for Office 365.
Instead of buying Office 365, you essentially rent it by the month or by the year. You install the Office package and run the actual applications on your system, just like in the past. The only difference is how you pay for it. Instead of forking out a big bundle of cash up front, you pay as you go.
You can rent a single copy of Office 365, called the Personal package, for $6.99 a month or $69.99 for a year. You can rent five copies of Office 365, called the Home package, for $9.99 a month or $99.99 for a year. The only requirement is that you get online at least once every 30 days in order for Office to call home and verify your subscription. Other than that, Office 365 looks and feels exactly like Office 2013.
So, if we were to take this pricing model and apply it to Windows 10, what would it look like?
Let's start by using the price of Office 2013 Professional vs. the price of Office 365 Personal as a base. We'll use Office 2013 Professional, since it comes with the same set of applications as Office 365. Office 2013 Professional currently costs $399.99 and Office 365 Personal goes for $69.99. If we take a percentage, we find that $69.99 is roughly 17.5% of $399.99.
Let's now take the price of Windows 8.1 Pro ($199.99) and suppose that's what the price of Windows 10 would be. If we use the percentage we found for Office 365 Personal and apply it to Windows 10 (17.5% of $199) we can guess that a Windows 10 rental would go for $34.99 per year. That's not too bad.
Now, if we look back at the Windows 7 FamilyPack deal Microsoft made available, we can see that the company is not averse to selling the Windows operating system as a package. While that package only came with three copies, we can speculate that since Office 365 comes as a five copy package, it would make sense that Windows 10 would be available as five copy package for bundling purposes.
If we take a percentage of the Office 365 Home, we find that $99.99 is roughly 25% of $399.99. If we then take that same percentage and apply it to Windows 10 (25% of $199.99) we can guess that a five copy Windows 10 rental would go for $49.99 per year. Again, not too bad.
What's your take?
Keep in mind that this subscription model that I've laid out is all speculation. But if Microsoft came out with something like this, would you be agreeable to it? How much do you think a Windows 10 subscription should cost? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.