Microsoft has finally announced pricing for its upcoming Windows 7 operating system, and is offering some substantial savings for those willing to order an upgrade nearly four months before the software officially goes on sale. Starting tomorrow, customers in the US, Canada or Japan who already own a PC running XP or Vista will be able to pre-order the upgrade disc at around half the price that they'll eventually sell for.

This means you can pre-order Windows 7 Home Premium for $49.99 or Windows 7 Professional for $99.99 - Windows 7 Ultimate is not part of this discount plan though. The pre-order deal will be accessible at and most major retailers through July 11 or "until a certain number of licenses is sold," which supposedly adds up to about a year of Vista sales volume at retail.

Microsoft also confirmed that, starting tomorrow, anyone who buys a PC "from a participating OEM or retailer" with Windows Vista Home Premium, Business or Ultimate on it will all receive a free upgrade to the equivalent version of Windows 7. The Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program will be available until January 31, 2010 and is global. As noted, the upgrade plan depends on the manufacturer, but I'm guessing most will want to participate.

Special offers aside, prices for Windows 7 will be largely in line with those for Vista. Microsoft has set the upgrade and full price for Windows 7 Home Premium at $120 and $200, respectively; $200 and $300 for Windows 7 Professional; or $220 and $320 for Windows 7 Ultimate. That saves you $10 and $40 compared to the upgrade and full editions of Vista Home Premium, but prices remain the same for the latter two.

All in all, Microsoft is offering some pretty decent deals for anyone itching to upgrade immediately or buy a new PC, but somehow I believe many Vista users will be irked by the fact that they are getting the same upgrade prices as those still clinging to Windows XP.