Exclusive: New Windows 10 Consumer SKU Roadmap Revealed

Posted on February 3, 2018 by Brad Sams in Windows 10 with 46 Comments

In the next month or two, Microsoft will be releasing Redstone 4 and with it will come a significant amount of changes to how the company is positioning its software as well as pricing it for its partners. Recently, I was able to view some content being shared with select partners that details the company’s plans and changes coming to Windows 10.

When it comes to SKUs, the story is quite interesting in how Microsoft sells licensing to partners. In fact, there are a total of five SKUs available for partners to utilize for consumers but they all have a defined set of parameters based on the hardware specifications.

The SKUs are Entry, Value, Core, Core+, and Advanced. On the surface, you might be thinking that Microsoft is about to go nuts with new SKUs of Windows 10 and keep in mind this is pricing for partners; further, it would not surprise me to learn that pricing is reduced as well for larger OEMs or bulk orders.

Below is a breakdown of the SKUs:

  • Entry: Intel Atom/Celeron/Pentium ≤ 4GB RAM & ≤ 32GB SSD AND ≤ 14.1” screen size (NB), ≤ 11.6” (2in1, Tablet), ≥ 17” AiO
  • Value: Intel Atom/Celeron/Pentium ≤ 4GB RAM & ≤64GB SSD & ≤ 14.1” screen size (EM ≤ 4GB RAM & ≤64GB SSD or ≤ 500GB HDD)
  • Core: Cannot be used on devices that meet the Core+ and Advanced SKU Hardware Specifications
  • Core +: High end CPU and >4 GB RAM (All Form Factors) ≥8 GB RAM & ≥1080p screen resolution (NB, 2in1, AiO) >8 GB RAM & ≥2TB HDD or SSD storage (Desktop)
  • Advanced: Intel Core i9 (any configuration) OR Core i7 ≥ 6 Cores (any RAM) OR AMD Threadripper(any configuration) OR Intel Core i7 >16GB (any Cores) or AMD FX/ Ryzen7 >16GB (any Cores) OR ≥ 4K screen resolution (any processor, includes 4K UHD-3840 resolution

Pricing for the SKUs is as follows: Advanced ($101), Core + ($86.66), Core ($65.45), Value ($45), and Entry ($25). Also, Windows 10 S is dead, it’s now Windows 10 S mode and the baseline SKU will be going away but each version will have an S mode.

What Microsoft is doing here, which isn’t too different from what they have done in the past, is that they charge more money for a Windows 10 license based on the hardware that is included. If you are buying a rig that is more powerful, the license costs more but for an entry-level device, the prices drop significantly.

Starting on April 2nd, these new SKUs and pricing will go into effect with the new pricing for Home Advanced going into effect on May 1st.

Also, Microsoft is indicating that there will be a $49 charge for Pro S users to switch to the full version of Windows 10 Pro. So, for those users hoping that the upgrade would be free forever, it looks like that will not be the case according to the documents I was able to view.

For device configuration in 2018, the company is pushing its partners to set Edge as the default browser, installing the LinkedIn UWP app, pre-install Office, and limiting app pinning to 1 legacy win 32 app on the desktop, 1 legacy app on the taskbar and for the Start menu, 25% Win32/75% Microsoft Store.

For those who like to monitor how Microsoft is pushing OEMs and understanding the SKUs for the OS, this should provide some clarity about how Microsoft works with its partners. Further, the pricing, while likely much higher than what OEMs actually pay for a license, provides a baseline for understanding when and how Microsoft causing inflation of PC pricing for different types of hardware.

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Comments (46)

46 responses to “Exclusive: New Windows 10 Consumer SKU Roadmap Revealed”

  1. djross95

    Same code, different tiers, impenetrable wording, different prices. Leave it to MS to take what should be simple and turn it into a cluster-f*ck of complexity. This is one thing Apple gets right with macOS.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to djross95: What are you talking about? Apple doesn't sell MacOS to anyone but Apple.

      • mikentosh

        In reply to SvenJ:

        But if you buy a computer from Apple, there isn’t any question about which version of the OS you need.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to mikentosh:

          There's a real chance there's no appreciable differences between Entry and Advanced in terms of the files included in the initial image. Only differences may be in HKLM in the registry and what OEMs pay MSFT for particular hardware configurations.

          This is MSFT's latest attempt to minimize consumer surplus.

      • shameermulji

        In reply to SvenJ:

        You're missing the point. There's only one macOS that works across Apple's entire Mac line => from their "entry level" MB to the top of the line iMac Pro. The only thing a user has to worry about is how much capability / performance they want to purchase in their hardware.

        This is the way MS should go; one Windows SKU that works across all PC's.

        • Yaggs

          In reply to shameermulji:

          Entry level Macs also cost $700+ Entry level windows machines can cost as low as $200... part of the cost of the Mac is that OS license.

        • djross95

          In reply to shameermulji: Thank you and Mikentosh above for being clearer than I was. That was exactly my point, and (IMHO) a major advantage for Apple. Obviously their high prices limit market growth, but you know what you're getting with macOS no matter what Apple machine you purchase.

  2. bls

    In today's world these make sense. Back in the "good old days" there wasn't the wide degree of processor and system capabilities that exists today. Charging the same for Windows on an Atom vs on a high end rig makes no business sense. Those who want to build Atom-powered devices with small screens will be unhappy with the huge license cost increase.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to bls:

      Thank you.

      This is the whole reason for this move. Microsoft wants to kick off the boom in non-premium PCs the way they were able to do for premium devices.

      With any luck this will lead to more options in the low-end, and if I'm lucky, a re-emergence of small Windows tablets.


      • hrlngrv

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        There was a boom in premium PCs, was there? Certainly a lot more on offer in 2017 than 2013 (if one ignores Dell's Precision line and Lenovo ThinkPads).

        Those premium PCs didn't stop the overall decline in PC sales.

        Remains to be seen how many more under-US$300 laptops and tablets will sell if they're US$10-25 cheaper due to Windows license cost. If the deline in overall PC sales is due to nearly all who want a PC having a PC already, how much would license cost reductions lead to significant growth in unit sales?

  3. RickInPA

    I remember paying $137 for the "small"-OEM version (Non-Royalty) of Win-XP.

    With inflation, the price went way down.

  4. Clintvs

    considering that they are selling server versions by the core this just brings it in to line.

  5. IanYates82

    This is as clear as mud - could you possibly format their text a bit better?



    Intel Atom/Celeron/Pentium ≤ 4GB RAM & ≤ 32GB SSD

    ≤ 14.1” screen size (NB)

    ≤ 11.6” (2in1, Tablet)

    ≥ 17” AiO

    (and should that be <= 17" for the All in One)?

    The Ands/Ors get awfully difficult to parse (mentally inserting brackets) when getting to the Core+ and Advanced.

    Separately from that...

    Is Windows 10 Pro being similarly differentiated price-wise?

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to IanYates82:

      1) It means all-in-ones with 17" or larger screens. Smaller than that would fall under notebook rules.

      2) No. Pro has its own pricing scheme, with 10 Pro and 10 Pro for Workstations being the standard/premium dichotomy. The days of Pro being the prosumer edition have ended, with Home Advanced taking over that spot.

  6. Sanantha

    Are they raising prices on gaming rigs (typically ci5 or 7, discrete gfx, 16gb ram, dual drive)

  7. Jhambi

    Good luck explaining this to the average Joe walking into Best buy. What a mess.

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to Jhambi:

      Hence my pointing out that this is NOT a set of Consumer SKUs.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Jhambi:

      Simple. “This machine has windows 10 Home. This one has Pro, which has features for advanced networking and power users.”

      Boom, done. Even the salesmen don’t need to know how much the OEM paid for the license. Because it doesn’t matter.

      Youre never going to see “Windows 10 Home in S Mode for Modern Entry” on a product description, or even in winver. You see “Windows 10 Home.”

  8. jpr75

    Poor OEMs. They will have to wade through this absurd labyrinth of requirements for Windows, before they can plan for or install it. Jiminy christmas - It's a desktop OS - get over it MS. It is nuts, and just greedy.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to jpr75:

      I haven't tried to chart it out completely, but there's not much overlap I can see. Looks like a straighforward decision tree: enter processors, RAM, screen size, and it spits out SKU.

      Getting more than a bit cynical, I figure they're all the same except for pricing, meaning Entry contains everything Core does and maybe every file Advanced does even if there were substantial differences within HKLM. This may only affect what OEMs pay MSFT, not what customers get in new PCs. IOW, this is MSFT engineering stable or perhaps growing Windows licensing revenues in a declining PC market.

  9. Dan1986ist

    Microsoft still offering Windows 10 on devices with only 32 GBs of disk storage to OEMs? There is not much room left after installing Office, any updates to Windows, and so on. IMO, the miminum should be devices with 64 GBs of disk storage.

    • wbtmid

      In reply to Dan1986ist:

      You are absolutely correct! I bought one of these devices for a particular purpose to run one piece of software. The storage is too small to accommodate a Windows update! I have to use a slow SD card for the purpose/ Not ideal!

  10. irfaanwahid

    Something isn't clear to me, what is the difference between 10S and Pro S? What are they going to strip down in Pro S?

  11. AJAMES

    I am reading that Windows S will allow Win32 anti virus apps to run. Surely the point of this more secure Windows 10 is that anti virus should not be needed?

  12. Spierdalaj

    Two words: S(tupid) Mode

  13. MikeGalos

    So these are not only not "Consumer SKUs" but not even SKUs at all. They're wholesale licensing pricing groups. They don't reflect different consumer products they're just wholesale pricing for different classes of licenses for a single Consumer SKU.

    Maybe the whole Windows SKUs "going nuts" thing would be less nuts if the headline reflected what the article actually talked about, something like "Wholesale Prices for Windows 10 Vary for Different Hardware".

  14. Jules Wombat

    Yep makes obvious business sense.

  15. ponsaelius

    MIT will be offering their batchelors degree in Microsoft Licensing in April 2018 so it can be understood.

    Windowsphone OEMs are still working out what $0 licenses cost.

  16. jim.mcintosh

    Reminds me of how Big Blue sold mainframes when I was there -- by size / performance of the machine.

  17. MikeCerm

    Is Microsoft ever going to stop gouging customers who buy retail copies of Windows? Because component prices for memory and GPU are insane it makes almost no sense to build one's own PC these days, but for those who still want to, a $200 retail price for Windows makes a bad value proposition ever worse.

    • Maverick010

      In reply to MikeCerm: Microsoft, isn't gouging their customers. This pricing is for the OEM's where MSFT will discount the license to them based on the hardware configuration. The Retail Pricing is $200 as it is sold in Retail and one has to account for the percentage the retailer gets plus the license for a Retail copy is slightly different with an option to also uninstall the retail version of Windows 10 on your old build and reinstall it on a completely different computer. Microsoft also sells an OEM version of Windows 10 that you can buy through newegg.com or Amazon for instance, and it is priced cheaper, but with a change in the license that limits the copy exactly to one computer, and no option to go install it on a new computer you may of built. Microsoft usually wants you to buy a new OEM version of Windows at that point, although their usually are some tricks to still using that OEM copy, and these days MSFT also seems to be lenient on allowing it too.

      Also memory I have seen steadily priced and in some cases it has been going down (exception maybe being for 32GB or more), but I agree GPUS have increased 10 fold, but Microsoft has no control over the hardware market either. I blame the damn cryptocurrency mining that is happening right now.

    • Mike Brady

      In reply to MikeCerm:
      I bet you never had to pay money for MS-DOS. :-)

    • SvenJ

      In reply to MikeCerm: Where did you see $200 for a 'boxed' copy of Windows? Nobody builds their own machine anymore because they want to save money. They build to get exactly what they want.

      • MikeCerm

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Everywhere? $200 is the full retail price of Pro.

        • Roger Ramjet

          In reply to MikeCerm:

          A quick Bing search yields prices of $49, 99, 119, 199, depending on SKU and vendor. Those sound reasonable to me. If you measure the value derived by the average consumer for this software over its useful life (talk less of a person who is advanced enough to go around building stuff) it is easily in multiple thousands. The market bears this out: there are free OS software and yet they have low market share?

    • warren

      In reply to MikeCerm:

      If you're building your own PC, you don't need any of the features in Pro and you're throwing away your money if you buy it.

      Like, seriously.... are you actually planning on joining your self-built Ryzen gaming rig to an Azure Active Directory? What about setting up a limited user account so it can run only one application? Remote Desktop? Use RDPWrap. Bitlocker? Keep in mind that you can't even take full advantage of it unless you have a TPM, which requires a Ryzen PRO chip, which isn't even available on the consumer market last I checked.

      Or maybe you're stuck in 2009, thinking that Windows 7 Home Premium and its meager 16 GB memory limit still applies in 2018? Nope. You're just fine there, too -- Windows 10 Home is "limited" to 128 GB memory.

      And if you do buy Home and find you need the Pro features, you can upgrade later in the Microsoft Store for the difference.

      • Maverick010

        In reply to warren: Pro has some very relevant features over Home beyond the Business pieces. It is a slightly more secure version, and BitLocker can also be good for home users, especially if you use your computer with your financial information, Virtualization and its features is only available on the Pro edition, which comes in handy. Also Windows 10 Pro users have a little more control on when they will receive updates. As for the TPM module, most modern motherboards and gaming motherboards, have the TPM pins and the TPM module is cheap enough to buy and doesn't require a Ryzen Pro, it Just requires the Motherboard support and the module itself and is used as an extra of security to store data such as passwords and can work inconjuction with BitLocker. Plus most gamers who are putting money out to build a gaming PC or even a Video/Photo Editing PC, Will choose Pro and if buying OEM, the price difference is like $20, which is well worth it.

      • Jarrett Kaufman (TurboFool)

        In reply to warren:

        Every single time I've thought I could finally get away with Home instead of Pro I've made it less than a week before I found something I was missing. Sorry, you're just wrong. Maybe most people don't need it, but your statement was too blanket.

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