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A Look At the Upcoming OS Family Packs From Apple and Microsoft


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. Since Apple (s aapl) and Microsoft (s msft) are set to release new versions of their respective operating systems this fall (Apple’s Snow Leopard in September, Microsoft’s Windows 7 in October), let’s look at the family pack available for each.


Microsoft finally ended all rumors 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 22 until supplies last here in the U.S. and other select markets. In the U.S., the price for the Windows 7 Family Pack will be $149.99 for three 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, which is bad because…

  • Where is the Family Pack for Professional? What about Ultimate? Sadly, there is no such thing. Why isn’t Microsoft making its other OS editions available in similar “family friendly” offerings?
  • It’s only for a limited time (“until supplies last”). This is a software product on disc that comes with a three-user license, there are no “supplies.” The only thing that can run out is Microsoft’s willingness to provide this value to the consumer.

So Microsoft will thwart consumers who desire Professional or Ultimate by requiring full licenses even if they want to run it on all the PCs in their home. This is practically an engraved invitation to pirate the software.

Further, after some as-yet-unnamed amount of time, the Home Premium deal will be withdrawn.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


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

  • Obviously, $50 for five license is much better than $150 for three.
  • Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t offer “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.

Aside from its OS, Apple also offers family packs for their iLife and iWork suites that are incredible values.


While I’m not suggesting upgrade pricing alone would be a reason to switch to a Mac, I do believe Apple’s family packs (which are not new) are an impressive, and important, value. I consider them part of the Apple value equation; a computer is a combination of hardware and software, not just one or the other.

I think Apple’s philosophy on family packs is clear. Put simply, they take the sting out of wanting to run multiple licenses for multiple machines. They provide such an excellent value, the consumer has little issue with legitimizing multiple software copies in their home.

For Microsoft, this is new territory. I’m glad to see there was some truth to the earlier rumors, but it all falls short. While the family pack for Windows 7 is a smart move, Microsoft is misguided to limit it to just the “cheap” edition and to make the offer short-term. Indeed, why not encourage people to legitimize multiple copies, and up-sell Professional, by offering a family pack at the high-end? If the goal was to limit piracy, I believe it will have only a minimal impact there.

Nonetheless, if your decision to use Windows 7 is already made, and Home Premium is what you desire, then I’d certainly recommend snapping up the family pack before Microsoft changes its mind.

18 Responses to “A Look At the Upcoming OS Family Packs From Apple and Microsoft”

  1. A grueling technological brawl between Steve Jobs Apple Computer, Inc. and Bill Gates Microsoft Corporation has been steadily evolving for around 30 years. And with an almost constant tech-like arms race that showed no breaks or stops, one would think exhaustion would set in. Instead, the already brewing tension recently prompted hot business waters to boil over with the introduction of Apples clever and hip “PC vs. Mac” television adverts that specifically focus on demonizing and poking fun at Microsofts products.

    When you opt for a Mac rather than a PC, youre buying a computer with a better design on the inside as well as out.

  2. According to my calculations, the equivalent to the Mac box set for Windows costs about $2,100.

    5x Windows 7 Ultimate full at $320 = $1600
    5x Microsoft Office Home and Student at $99 = $495

    Total = $2,095… Ouch!

  3. Something I **think** should be noted. That $149 price for the Windows 7 Family Pack is an UPGRADE price, not a full license price. So you’ve already got to have XP or Vista installed in order to use it.

    I realize that it wasn’t implied in this article that the $149 was for a full license, but I’ve actually seen several Windows users virtual-vomitting in forums about how much cheaper Windows 7 was than Mac OS X. Maybe they failed their math classes – most likely due to lack of paying attention in class because they were too busy fixing BSODs on their computer.

  4. jagdterrier

    Why would “families” need Professional or Enterprise features that are available in Ultimate. Home Premium is aimed at the demo. Continuously asking why MS doesn’t slash prices doesn’t make sense seeing that they’re a $60 billion company based primarily on selling software to different markets at difference price points. They mint money no matter what.

  5. Sey Hee Park
    “GRANTED, the box sets do include iLife and iWork, a great deal in the end. But nonetheless, I don’t think Apple’s entirely immune or should be exaltingly vaulted in their “cheap upgrade” campaign, as you guys would like to put it.”

    You just said it yourself! There are 3 products: Tiger, iLife, and iWork for the upgrade. Tiger being the bridge. So you don’t think they have a right to charge for the other products!? How is this still not worth the price?

  6. Dave Bissett

    Amazon has the 5 pack snow leopard for $49, if you want a single license its a mere $29, so I dont know what “Sey He Park” listed above is complaining about.

    Sure if you want to buy the equivalent of windows 7 and office in macs offerings you could get both for $169 or a 5 pack for $229, again thats cheap and the mac offering blows away what Microsoft offers by way of garageband imovie, iweb, iwork and pages.

    With windows I was always more vulnerable to attacks, the office apps always had swiss cheese holes that left my data vulnerable. If you have a mac and cant afford or dont want to update the office component, ie spreadsheet word processor etc, simply put in neo office or open office, two fairly good free offerings.

    But as for value Apple has clearly got Microsloth beat.

    yup was spending thousands of dollars trying to keep my XP connected to the web and not getting hacked, bought the best of firewalls etc and the problems still persisted, till I bought a cheap mac mini which blew the doors off my more expensive PC and I have never looked back.

  7. Note that Microsoft said that the family pack would be available “until supplies last.”

    What does that mean? I assume they meant either “as long as supplies last” or “until supplies run out.” But taken literally what they seem to be saying is that the offer will be valid only when there are no family packs available. When they become available, the offer will end.

  8. My only hesitation in buying the MS Family Pack is the painful process of Product Activation. Microsoft continues to punish those of us who pay for the software we use. Figure out a different way Redmond.

    Then – undoubtedly at some future date – I’ll be rushing to get something done in Windows before I run out the door. Whatever that thing is will require MS to verify my copy is Genuine. And at that moment I will scream.

  9. As a computer techie I have used both OSs over the years and like both. But I am currently a Mac user by choice at Home and a Windows user by neccessity at work.

    Any one want to consider the cost of upgrades over the life of a system? How often does Windows and Apple release a new version/upgrades that need to be purchased? Let’s go back to the 2001 with the birth of the new OS platforms of XP and OS X. Details can be read at and

    It would be an interesting exercise for someone to add up the cost of owning a Mac verse a PC to see who comes out ahead if they continually upgrade their system without buying a new one. Of course that is assuming the computer could handle the new OS. Macs seem to do a better job of that than PCs.

    * 2001 XP was released
    * 2006 Vista was released
    * 2009 Windows 7 to be release

    * 10.0 Cheetah 2001
    * 10.1 Puma 2001 (free upgrade)
    * 10.2 Jaguar 2002
    * 10.3 Panther 2003
    * 10.4 Tiger 2005
    * 10.5 Leopard 2007
    * 10.6 Snow Leopard 2009

  10. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

    While Leopard is an exciting upgrade (which I’ve already preordered from Amazon), it’s no where near the upgrade that Vista -> Win 7 is…

    Leopard is a neat UPDATE to an operating system. Windows 7 is a completely new operating system.

    The two cannot be fairly compared from a person without bias.

  11. Sey Hee Park

    I never realized that Microsoft was only selling the family packs for a limited time, which kind of sukcs. So there’s a valid point to be made there.

    You guys don’t mention, however, that the Snow Leopard upgrade is $50…for people who already have Leopard. What about the folks that are still on Tiger right now? And don’t say there aren’t some because there are some. They still have to pay $230 for a family pack box set. GRANTED, the box sets do include iLife and iWork, a great deal in the end. But nonetheless, I don’t think Apple’s entirely immune or should be exaltingly vaulted in their “cheap upgrade” campaign, as you guys would like to put it.

    • Mason Glidden

      Does anyone know how big the non-upgrade market is? Snow Leopard is Intel only, so the only people who need the full version are those who bought an early Intel mac and didn’t upgrade. I wonder if there is any data on the Intel/Tiger portion of Apple’s user base.

    • Since Leopard is the most successful software product at Apple, ever, it’s safe to say the $49 pricing will apply to most Intel Mac users. Certainly most of the users interested in upgrading.

      Yes, there’s a sizable Tiger contingent as well, but the $229 provides FIVE OS licenses, FIVE iLife licenses, and FIVE iWork licenses, as you pointed out. And those are “Ultimate” OS licenses, not some limited “Home” edition.

      That $229 price is almost certainly less than a Professional family pack for Windows 7 would cost, if Microsoft would even offer one (which they don’t). And let’s not even discuss Ultimate pricing.

      I think the biggest point I made is that there’s no family pack for Professional or Ultimate.

    • The typical upgrade situation is that you pay to upgrade from the previous version of the software, not two versions behind. I honestly wouldn’t expect a company to offer such an upgrade plan in most cases. (I’d make an exception for XP -> 7 as Vista was The Beast that Should Have Never Been)

    • I don’t get what your problem is. Apple are charging more to upgrade from Tiger than to upgrade from Leopard. Is this fair? Yes! It would be grossly unfair to those that did upgrade to see Tiger users get the Snow Leopard upgrade at the same price point. If you didn’t upgrade to Leopard, why should you get the benefit?