Although Windows 8.1 will be available as a free upgrade to everyone running Windows 8, Microsoft will still be offering retail versions for those who have yet to upgrade. Today Microsoft unveiled the pricing and packaging for these versions in the United States, while also revealing the switch from an upgrade version to a full version SKU.
Just like with Windows 8, Windows 8.1 will be available in two retail SKUs: the standard edition, which will cost $119.99, and the Pro version, which will retail for $199.99. The Windows 8.1 Pro Pack, which converts the standard edition into the Pro version, will be available for $99.99, and the Media Center add-on will cost $9.99.
Unsurprisingly, these prices are identical to what Windows 8 currently retails for. However, Microsoft will be selling boxed copies of Windows 8.1 as full versions, rather than an upgrade version like Windows 8 was. This means those who purchase a retail SKU of Windows 8.1 won't need a previous version of Windows on their PCs to install, allowing more flexibility than what's currently on offer.
Interestingly, Windows 8.1 retail SKUs will not facilitate upgrades from Windows 7 or earlier. Users who are running Windows 7 will have their files transferred, but desktop applications will need reinstalling; users on older versions such as XP or Vista will have nothing transferred, with the installer essentially performing a clean install. In either case it might be advisable to buy a copy of Windows 8 rather than Windows 8.1, which would allow a proper upgrade to be performed, followed by the free update to Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 will launch on October 18th, bringing a range of new features and enhancements to the popular operating system. Anyone currently running Windows 8 will be able to upgrade for free through the Windows Store, while anyone else will be able to grab a retail SKU from their favorite retailer.