There is another, less-expensive, option after Jan. 31: Windows System Builder, the version for do-it-yourselfers who assemble their own machines, and who want to run Windows in a virtual machine or dual-boot configuration. While the new "Personal Use License" of System Builder bans using it as "an upgrade license for an existing underlying Windows operating system," there's nothing stopping customers from using it to do a "clean install," the term for installing an operating system on a reformatted hard drive.
Microsoft does not sell Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro System Builder itself, leaving that to retail partners. Although some offer minor discounts, the list prices are $99.99 (Windows 8) and $139.99 (Windows 8 Pro). Those are identical to the prices for "OEM" editions -- the former name for System Builder -- of Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional, respectively.
Another price that may jump after Jan. 31 is the Windows 8 Pro Pack's, which upgrades Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft sells Pro Pack at $69.99; retailers currently sell it at that price or the slightly-lower $66.99, but note its list price as $99.99.
Other Windows 8 deadlines are also approaching: The Windows 8 Developer Preview of September 2011, the Consumer Preview of February 2012 and the Release Preview of May 2012 all expire Jan. 15. After that date, the free previews will automatically restart every one or two hours, and on-screen messages will tell customers that they must upgrade to a paid license.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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