You can’t actually buy Windows 8 in Australia
[Update: Well, kind of]


Update: Since this story broke, a number of readers have directed us to this Arstechnica story, which details the fact that Microsoft has changed its licensing terms around its OEM version of Windows for Windows 8, to make it quite legal for people to buy and use that version as a stand-alone full copy of Windows 8, including for purposes such as in virtual machines and for new custom-built machines without a bundled operating system. It appears as if this OEM version of Windows 8 is available from some online retailers in Australia such as Scorptec, but that it may not be available as a boxed version in all stores.

blog Microsoft’s latest operating system opus, Windows 8, launched in Sydney this morning in a glitzy, star-studded marketing launch packed full of information. Well, actually it was more packed with product demos where Redmond’s local managing director Pip Marlow raved about the new platforms’ Live Tiles functionality and how they could be personalised. Your writer couldn’t take it any more and left early. But I digress.

Because of this launch and the midnight festivities hosted by Harvey Norman, you’d think that you’d be able to waltz into a local retailer and pick up a full boxed copy of Windows 8 this morning. A statement in Microsoft’s Australian launch media release this morning appeared to confirm this. It stated: “At launch, Windows 8 Pro will be available for purchase as a Full Packed Product (off the shelf product).”

But, strange as this may sound, this isn’t the case yet — Microsoft is only selling upgrades so far. Gizmodo reports the following nugget, dug out of Marlow this morning (we recommend you click through for the full article):

“Want to buy a full version of Windows 8 to install on a new machine? You’re out of luck. Microsoft just confirmed at its Australian Windows 8 launch that the only offers on sale today are an upgrade for existing Windows machines to Windows 8 Pro.”

Now, of course Microsoft has been heading down this path for a long time. Those of us who build their own PCs will recall the struggle to buy full boxed copies of Windows XP when Microsoft stopped selling them. Virtually the only way you could buy a full legal copy of Windows XP, at various points, was through slightly dodgy ‘OEM’ copies that were supposed to be provided through Microsoft’s reseller network only with a new PC. But with the rules not being strictly enforced, you could usually get away with buying a new video card, for example, and getting a full OEM copy of Windows XP on the side. The situation got better with Windows 7, but it looks like Microsoft has reverted to form with Windows 8.

Of course, this isn’t an issue for large enterprises, which will have standardised agreements with Microsoft that allow them to download any version of Windows they want, and source licences online for the software. And it won’t be an issue for many, perhaps most, consumers and small businesses, who don’t always do in-place upgrades of the software running on their devices; many people simply buy new devices when they want to upgrade. It appears as though this is Microsoft’s preferred way for people to buy Windows 8 — through buying a new, touch-sensitive, Windows 8-capable device, with the new operating system already in place.

In addition, we’re hearing that Microsoft has relaxed the rules on OEM purchases of Windows 8 a little — so that if you’re building a new PC, you’ll pretty easily be able to buy a copy of the operating system to go with it. It’s not quite as dodgy a practice as it used to be.

But all of this does remind me a little of the difference between Microsoft and Apple. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he famously emphasised continually to the company’s staff that it was a products company — it designed, manufactured and sold products, and it needed to control every aspect of that ecosystem. Apple, it seems, learnt that lesson very well. But on launch morning, with no way for consumers to actually buy full copies of Microsoft’s new product from it, one does have to wonder whether Apple’s biggest and longest-term rival has yet to understand that concept.

Image credit: Microsoft


    • I’m actually seeing retailers like Scorptec listing Windows 8 Pro in boxed copies online for prices like $149 now, but it’s not clear whether it’s the OEM version or not. I really think Microsoft does not quite know what it is doing with this launch.

  1. But if you’re not building a new PC, why would you want to buy a full version of Windows 8, rather than the upgrade?

    I guess if you were wanting to set up some virtualised images, or something like that?

    Had a look at a couple of local stores’ websites – doesn’t seem to be any issue with getting OEM copies – they’re all reporting it as in stock.

    • Basic use case scenario: If you want to transfer your copy of Windows 8 between PCs. Usually the copies that come with OEM PCs (Dell, HP etc) are only valid for that particular PC. Owning your own copy allows you to use it on any one PC you want. Alternatively, if you want to use it as a virtual machine.

    • It’s always better to have the full version, cleaner install than the upgrade. handier if you have a disk failure and need to reinstall.

      That said most stores would always sell you OEM if you bought eityher RAM, Motherboard or a GFX card on the rational that would be an upgrade.

  2. Piracy is clearly a pressing issue for Microsoft, who, as this article shows, are doing all they possibly can to sell copies of their stuffs to anyone who wants it. I see absolutely no reason why anyone who might have been, you know, excited about the release of windows 8, may find their thoughts drifting toward words rhyming with “orrent” and starting with “t”.

    I’m sure there are bizarre marketing angles at play, like only wanting first up word of mouth stuff to be based on shiny new touch hardware, but my god Redmond, you are not the hipster kid on the block.

  3. Let me recap:

    You can’t actually buy Win8… except if you get a PC preinstalled with it, buy an upgrade version [which historically can do a clean install], or buy an OEM version.

    So other than all those ways of getting Win8… you can’t get Win8.

    • “if you get a PC preinstalled with it” — that’s not buying Windows 8, it’s buying a new PC worth at least $1k. Not quite the same thing.

      “buy an upgrade version [which historically can do a clean install]” — yes, but you need to have a copy of a previous version of Windows

      “or buy an OEM version” — the best option, but it’s not clear what legal ground you’d be on … plus, this isn’t available from most retailers.

      I know what you’re saying here — that if you really want to get a full copy of Windows 8 in Australia right now, you can. That’s true. But to do so, you’ll need to pull a trick or two — you can’t just walk into a store or head to a website and buy a retail copy of Windows 8. And that’s an issue.

      Microsoft could have resolved this whole situation by, as a large number of other software retailers do, simply setting up a website where you can pay a fee to download an ISO of Windows 8, plus a legal licence key. The fact that they don’t do this, in 2012, is simply a bad joke. They are a software vendor. They should make it easy to buy their software.

      • Just pointing out for the vast majority of people it’s not an issue.

        Geeks know how to use OEM [which we’ve been doing for years, I think you overplay the legal issues unless something’s changed recently] or you, if it’s like the past, in practise you can use win8 upgrade regardless of your existing install.

        For the general public they’ll get a new machine with Win8 [which, I’ve heard, goes as low as $300 for a cheapo tablet] or they’ll buy an upgrade.

        Sure, it might be nice to have the full version available for purchase – but exactly how many people are going to actually need it anytime soon? Seems to be a very small niche that have a preexisting computer but not a windows license AND want to buy Win8.

          • I’ll agree if it stays this way. If this only a short term matter then it’s more an interesting triviality to me.

            Anywho, thanks for the read :)

    • Honest question then: I’m a web developer. My dev box is a Mac. I use VirtualBox/Parallels/VMware etc for testing various versions of IE (6–9). How do I get a Win8 VM for testing IE10?

      • Right now, as far as I am aware, you only have quasi-legal and illegal options.

        It’s not clear, as far as I know, whether you are legally able to buy the upgrade or OEM versions and use them. You probably could, technically, but I’m not sure what the legal situation is.

        And of course there are illegal options etc; which I don’t recommend; not only because they’re illegal, but also because they’re potential sources of malware etc.

        • How about installing W8 release preview and then buying the Windows 8 Pro Pack? Would that work to get the full version?

          In my experience with W8 on a VM where I only had 128 MB for video, IE10 was great and actually worked really well. Its looks just like IE9 but the experience is vastly improved. Because I only had 128MB for video, W8 wasn’t smooth (not so much lag, just not smooth) but IE10 was the one thing that worked perfectly despite all the other issues. My friend dedicated 256MB for video and had no problems at all with any of the OS.

      • As a game dev considering a macbook pro, I’d use my very expensive MSDN subscription [thanks work!]

        Alternatively I suspect that the RC’s are still available for useage.

        That said, from the sounds of it you already have a Windows license in which case the upgrade version should work for you. Even if you didn’t have a previous license you can always buy one [sub optimal] or try the double reinstall trick [semi legal].

  4. How did I not realise -.-

    I thought the Windows 8 Pro Pack was the full version. Thank god I did’t need to purchase it.

    Anyway, I preordered the Windows 8 Pro upgrade for $68 from Officeworks. Went to their website this morning and first thing I see is WINDOWS 8 $48.72 BIG IDEAS? LOWEST PRICES…

    Fortunately an hour later I got a call from Officeworks telling they would refund my $68 and it would now only cost $48.72 as advertised :)
    Their catalogue also advertised $48.72 but for some reason I no longer get the catalogues delivered so I had no idea.

  5. Who would want to? We’ve had the beta on a few of our machines at work since it began, and it’s terrible, even on a laptop it’s still bloody confusing to use! Guess I don’t like change :\

    • I’m just going to install Start8 (its only $5)

      I tried it out. Its just like using W7 with a few changes, e.g. files have a ribbon as well now, no Aero, etc but I also get to use the ‘Modern UI’ when I need to e.g. Westpac banking app seems nice and simple, Angry Birds :P, hopefully a better version of channel 7’s catchup TV (the website’s crap)

      On top of that considering the (supposed) performance enhancements and increased security out of the box, I reckon its worth it. Its costing me $53.72 all up (including Start8) which I’m fine with for what should be upgraded performance without the need to upgrade hardware. I do of course have a touchscreen computer so that made the decision easier.

      I won’t be upgrading any of the other computers and laptops in the house until I try it and for that reason recommend most people wait until month or so until deciding to update.

        • Another option is Pokki which is free but uses their own UI, not a W7 replicant which is why I’m not going with them. You can try both Start8 and Pokki for free but Start8 is only a 30-day trial.

    • Don’t worry, everyone found Windows 95 confusing too. We take the Start Menu for granted now but a lot of people hated it at the time and there was no shortage of outrage. “Who moved my cheese?!” Of course everyone got used to it pretty quickly and eventually we agreed it was actually better than Windows 3.x ever was.

      I am very much reminded of those days whenever I read a comment thread about Windows 8; it’s the same pattern all over again. Give it about a year and everyone (apart from a few stubborn hold-outs) will be quite happily using Live Tiles all day long.

      • I found the removal of the ‘up folder’ button confusing for a time, but the breadcrumb trail that replaced it in Win7 (probably Vista too, but I never used it) turned out to work way better for me after I got over the initial confusion.

        Quite liking Win8 so far, try out [Windows Key + X] for an awesome quick menu, and [Windows Key + D] to jump back to the desktop from anywhere.

    • @Soth

      I don’t like change either, but as some posters have already pointed out, this happened with Win95. Windows 8 is no different. It doesn’t matter WHAT Microsoft do, there will ALWAYS be massive resistance to large changes in their OS…..because it’s Windows and used on 800 MILLION computers.

      I used 8 for a few weeks on my desktop. I don’t like it on the desktop for media centre use, which is what I use my desktop for primarily. But I AM looking forward to it on my new Laptop.

      I don’t see what’s so confusing about it? Sure, there’s no Start button now, but all the same functionality is there, you just have to learn where it is. Only took me 3 or 4 days.

  6. Via

    Microsoft is not expected to sell a non-upgrade, fully licensed version of Windows 8 either in a box via brick-and-mortar and/or online retailers. With Windows, full product tends to be quite expensive — and not very popular, as most users get their Windows either preloaded on new PCs, via volume-licensing deals, or as an upgrade to an existing version of Windows. Very few users want or need a complete, new copy of Windows for a machine on which Windows has not been previously installed.

    That same article also has some good info on the System Builder (OEM) license rights…

    And from:

    “The majority of consumers buying the retail license are looking to upgrade. For Windows 8, Microsoft will therefore only offer an upgrade version of Windows 8 through the retail channel. This is the license an end user would purchase who wants to upgrade their current PC from a prior version of Windows to Windows 8.”

  7. It’s almost as if the don’t want to sell their operating system heh. I’m not going to buy an upgrade, nor am I going to buy an oem. Looks like windows 7 will remain for me.

  8. From Gizmodo comments: “Was able to pick up a copy from local IT store. The OEM/System Builder (product code WN7-00403) is definately for sale. Got it for $120. It is for both “System Builders” and “Personal Use” according to the packaging.”

    Maybe we need to update the article with this information? (If someone can 100% confirm it)

  9. Hey everyone, I’ve published an update to this story reflecting the licensing terms around the OEM version of Windows 8. Thanks to everyone who highlighted this issue:

    Since this story broke, a number of readers have directed us to this Arstechnica story, which details the fact that Microsoft has changed its licensing terms around its OEM version of Windows for Windows 8, to make it quite legal for people to buy and use that version as a stand-alone full copy of Windows 8, including for purposes such as in virtual machines and for new custom-built machines without a bundled operating system. It appears as if this OEM version of Windows 8 is available from some online retailers in Australia such as Scorptec, but that it may not be available as a boxed version in all stores.

  10. I built a new PC earlier in the year, and qualify for the $15 upgrade to Windows 8. I’ve been spending today thinking “Will I? Won’t I?”

    The only thing stopping me upgrading is the couple of hundred games I have, most of which I haven’t started playing (damn you Steam, Greenmangaming, Gamersgate, GOG, Amazon, Indieputyournamehere). But so far the only bad news is about The Witcher. I’m worried about Planescape: Torment’s ability to run under Windows 8, though.

  11. Was just reading Microsoft’s upgrade information and noticed this in the fine print:

    “If you purchase a new PC with Windows 8 preinstalled and you later upgrade that PC with Windows 8 Pro Pack, Windows 8 Media Center Pack, a volume license edition, or a retail edition, you will no longer be able to install apps that are provided exclusively from your PC manufacturer through the Windows Store.”

    That seems like a disincentive for hardware manufacturers to include software via the Windows Store (e.g. DVD player software, disc copying software, backup software etc).

  12. bough a new ASUS lappy with win7 on it in Aug,,put in for the 15.00 deal for win8, clean install 20 minutes, I love it.. All you have to remember that the windows button is your start bar kind of..
    I have found no issues with windows 8.
    I’m upgrading to a new CPU, MB and ram for my main pc next week, which technically makes is a new PC and I’ll buy another legal copy of win8 for 15 bucks..
    WIn for me.. :)
    Have to agree though it’s not for the technically challenged and it does take some getting used to…

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