Reports: Microsoft will sell Windows 7 'Family Pack'

No pricing details, but leaked EULA refers to three-license pack for Home Premium

Microsoft will offer a multi-license "family pack" for Windows 7, according to a pair of bloggers who cite details in the end-user licensing agreement (EULA) of a recently-leaked build.

The EULA for a post-Release Candidate build of Windows 7 includes a clause that refers to an upcoming family pack, said Kristan Kenney and Ed Bott, the latter a well-known Windows blogger for ZDNet.

Under a section titled "Installation And Use Rights," the EULA states: "If you are a 'Qualified Family Pack User', you may install one copy of the software marked as 'Family Pack' on three computers in your household for use by people who reside there. Those computers are the 'licensed computers' and are subject to these license terms. If you do not know whether you are a Qualifised [sic] Family Pack User, visit go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?Linkid=141399 or contact the Microsoft affiliate serving your country."

The link included in the EULA clause currently redirects to Microsoft's home page.

According to Bott, the Family Pack clause exists only in the EULA for Windows 7 Home Premium, the edition Microsoft's designed as the de facto consumer choice. It's also included in the EULA for Windows 7E Home Premium, the special version Microsoft's created for European customers that omits Internet Explorer 8 (IE8). Three weeks ago, Microsoft announced the Windows 7E -- "E" presumably stands for "Europe" -- as a unilateral move to head off EU antitrust regulators, who are thinking about forcing the company to offer users a "ballot screen" choice of multiple browsers, including those from rivals, when they first fire up Windows.

In the past, Microsoft declined to either confirm or deny that it would offer a multi-license bundle for Windows 7. ""We expect to have other great offers in the future as we lead up to and beyond general availability," a spokeswoman said via instant messaging last week. "[But] we have nothing to announce at this time."

The company sold a two-license Family Pack for Vista Home Premium for $US159 for six months in 2007. The caveat then: The customers had to have purchased a full or upgrade edition of Vista Ultimate, the most-expensive SKU in the line.

Not surprisingly, Windows 7's EULA said nothing of any criteria such as Ultimate ownership.

Microsoft did not respond today to a request for comment or confirmation on a Windows 7 Family Pack.

Analysts, such as Stephen Baker of the NPD Group, have taken Microsoft to task for not mimicking Apple, which offers a five-license family pack for its Mac OS X operating system. Apple, which has charged $US199 in the past for its multi-license bundle, said earlier this month that it will price the upcoming Mac OS X 10.6, aka "Snow Leopard," Family Pack at just $US49

Bott suspected that Microsoft would undercut the usual Apple Family Pack price by marking its Windows 7 three-license bundle at $US189. If so, Microsoft's Family Pack would undercut the price of a full-package edition of Home Premium ($US199) as well as the price of the upgrade editions of Professional and Ultimate ($US199 and $US219, respectively).

If Microsoft uses a pricing model similar to the three-license Office Home and Student 2007, however, it could price a Family Pack anywhere from $US74 to $US136. (Microsoft prices Home and Student at $US149, 62 per cent of the upgrade price of Office Standard 2007; applying that same percentage to the upgrade prices of Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate results in $US74, $US124 and $US136, respectively.)

Neither Kenney or Bott specified the build that contains the EULA with the Family Pack clause. Leaked copies of post-Release Candidate editions, however, have continued to pop up on file-sharing sites such as Mininova.org, a popular BitTorrent tracking site.

One just-posted build, labeled Windows 7 Build 7264, leaked to the Web last Monday. Several commenters on Mininova.org have noted that product activation keys for RC do not work on this build, leading them to speculate that it's a version of the so-called "Release to Manufacturing," or RTM, build that Microsoft has promised it will wrap up this month.

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Gregg Keizer

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