Apple vs. Microsoft OS Family Packs: Microsoft Loses

As more and more households have multiple PCs, the idea of a “family pack” (i.e., a piece of software with multiple licenses for use) makes a lot of sense. With Apple and Microsoft set to release new versions of their respective operating systems this fall (Snow Leopard in September, Windows 7 on October 22), it’s interesting to look at the family pack that will be available for each.


Microsoft finally ended the rumors and speculation of a Windows 7 Family Pack, announcing that there would indeed be such a product:

The Windows 7 Family Pack will be available starting on October 22nd until supplies last here in the US and other select markets. In the US, the price for the Windows 7 Family Pack will be $149.99 for 3 Windows 7 Home Premium licenses.

It’s not that paying $150 for three licenses is a bad deal, it’s just that the paragraph above pretty much constitutes the entire announcement, and that’s bad because:

  • Home Premium. Where is the Family Pack for Professional? What about Ultimate? Sadly, there is no such thing. Why isn’t Microsoft bundling the other editions in similar “family friendly” offerings?
  • Until supplies last. Huh? This is a software product on disc that comes with a three-user license, there are no “supplies” to run out. The only thing that can run out is Microsoft’s desire to provide this value to the consumer.

So, Microsoft will punish those who desire Professional or Ultimate by requiring full licenses even if they want to run it on all the PCs in the house. It’s practically an engraved invitation to pirate the software.

Further, after some as-yet-unnamed amount of time passes, the Home Premium deal will be withdrawn. Is this just a maneuver to juice up early sales for PR purposes, and once they can report big numbers of licenses sold they’ll just end the deal?


By contrast, Apple’s upcoming Snow Leopard will be sold in family packs for $49 with five licenses. This is a much better deal than Microsoft’s in many ways:

  • Obviously, $50 for five license is a much better deal than $150 for three.
  • Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t mess with crippled editions. Their family pack will consist of the full (“Ultimate”, to use Microsoft’s term) version of Snow Leopard.
  • There is no expiration date on availability.

I think it was a great move for Microsoft to offer a family pack for Windows 7, but I believe they’re misguided to limit it to just the “cheap” edition, and even then to make the offer short-term.