Windows 8 was sold in a “unique” way. Either you purchased an upgrade license, or you purchased a “System Builder” full version. There was no retail full version. Microsoft pretty much just assumed that most people already owned a PC anyway.
With the update to 8.1, MS is bringing back full retail packaging, and now we have a better sense of what that licensing will cost. Windows 8.1 will run $119.99. Windows .1 Pro will go for $199.99, and upgrading from Windows 8.1 to 8.1 Pro will set you back $99. The update from Windows 8.0 to 8.1 will be free.
This should reduce some of the confusion and frustration for people who want to build their own systems, and users looking into running virtual instances of Windows 8.1, but of course this is Microsoft, so improvement for some comes with new confusions for others.
See, in bringing back full retail versions of Windows, it looks like Microsoft will do away with upgrades now. Yes, you can buy a full version of Windows 8.1, and it will update your system while leaving all of your data and programs intact, but you won’t get a price break. If you’re already running a legit version of Windows 7, you’re probably better off buying an upgrade to Windows 8.0 Pro for $80 now, and then installing it when Windows 8.1 is released later this year.
Or pay more than twice as much later. Whatever floats your boat.