Microsoft sets Vista prices, expands testing

Company says more than 5 million people will test a near-final version of the oft-delayed operating system.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced retail pricing for Vista, its long-delayed Windows update, and said it will broaden testing to more than 5 million people.

Last week, pricing information had been briefly posted on Microsoft's Canadian Web site.

Then on Friday, Microsoft issued Release Candidate 1 of Windows Vista, a near-final test version of the operating system.

Pricing for full retail versions of the software will be Windows Vista Ultimate, $399; Windows Vista Business, $299; Windows Vista Home Premium, $239; and Windows Vista Home Basic, $199.

Upgrades from Windows XP are priced at Windows Vista Ultimate, $259; Windows Vista Business, $199; Windows Vista Home Premium, $159; and Windows Vista Home Basic, $99.

The company said it is broadening its existing Vista customer preview program. The program lets developers and other business users obtain prerelease code. Microsoft said it will expand the program this week to "technology enthusiasts" so that they can test the consumer-specific features of Vista.

Current customer preview program participants will be able to access the latest Vista test code beginning this week. Microsoft will open the program to new participants in the coming days, it says. Vista RC1 will post to the company?s MSDN and TechNet Web sites for subscriber download this week. In addition, Microsoft says it plans to distribute RC1 DVDs to readers of a number of technology publications worldwide.

As for Vista's launch date, the timing remains unchanged, said Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows product management. Microsoft is shooting to wrap up development work in time to ship the operating system to large companies in November and have a mainstream launch of Vista in January, Boettcher said.