Windows 8 software launches, but only as a professional upgrade

By Claire Reilly

Microsoft held its official Windows 8 launch this morning in a glitzy affair that focused on just how bright and customisable the user interface is. However, what was significantly glossed over in the presentation was what exactly would be available to consumers in retail stores – or more significantly, what would not be available.

Under questioning from attendees at the launch event, Microsoft representatives confirmed the only software package available to purchase in the box at retail stores was Windows 8 Pro – the version of the software which Tina Flammer, Windows Business Group Lead for Microsoft Australia, said was “truly geared towards tech enthusiasts and professionals”.

This product is designed as an upgrade to previous Windows 7, XP and Vista operating systems, though it cannot be purchased for loading onto hardware that does not already utilise these legacy systems.

The Windows 8 Pro package is available for RRP $69.99. Retailers began selling the software last night – with Harvey Norman reducing to a launch price of $58 – however, there is an option available for consumers to bypass bricks and mortar retailers and purchase a downloadable copy of Pro from the Microsoft store for $39.99.

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In another point that may cause confusion for consumers walking into retail stores, the regular version of Windows 8 is not currently available in Australia, and a timeline for the launch of the software was not available at launch.

Windows RT – which was billed by Flammer as ideal for “thin and light” devices such as tablets – is not available as a SKU for purchase, but rather is preloaded onto devices, including Microsoft’s own tablet hybrid known as the Surface.

The Surface was on display at the launch today; however, as previously reported, it will only be on sale through Microsoft’s online store. Retailers will miss out on selling the device, and there has been no word on whether this is likely to change.

In preparation for today’s launch, Microsoft has been on a five-city road show to help train more than 4,000 retail staff on the benefits of the new operating system. According to Flammer, the company has worked extensively to provide retail support and education.

“We also have training online, so retailers can refresh with training,” added Flammer. “We have field staff that are going into stores and working with teams, and we have a dedicated retail team in Sydney that works with the retailers on merchandising, advertising, assets and training. So we are incredibly supportive.”

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