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Great (and surprising) news out of Redmond last week:

Starting at general availability, if your PC is running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 you will qualify to download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99 in 131 markets.

This is tremendous news for our clients and represents a big shift in strategy at Microsoft. In a nutshell, when the time comes, anyone currently running any flavor of Windows will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for 40 bucks. It’s a huge move towards simplicity for corporate customers and average consumers: “Here’s one edition, it has everything anyone would need, and it’s cheap. Take it.”

Why is the “Pro” designation important? Because it’s required to connect to secure corporate networks like the ones we set up for small businesses. In the past, this has been an additional per-user cost that businesses have had to bear. Now Microsoft is clearly pushing everyone to be on Pro – at $40, there’s no reason not to be.

It’s also clearly a response to Apple’s moves in the last year or so. Mac OS X Lion launched as a Mac App Store download for $29.99. The next edition,Mountain Lion, due out this summer, will cost just $19.99.

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