The most recent Windows 8 rumor suggests that Microsoft may forego a full retail option for its next OS.

The rumor comes from Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley, co-hosts of the Windows Weekly show, who speculated that Microsoft may skip a full retail version of Windows 8 because there simply is no need for it.

It's an interesting point to consider, since all Windows users already qualify for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade.

Those who don't qualify are either building a PC from scratch or installing Windows 8 on a Mac, both of which are cases where the new System Builder edition is the preferred option.

The System Builder edition is what has traditionally been referred to as an OEM edition with past versions of Windows. However, OEM editions were only supposed to be sold to system manufacturers or to customers along with hardware, making a full retail release necessary.

With Windows 8, Microsoft plans to change that by making the System Builder edition available at retail, negating the need for an additional retail SKU.

Weighing Microsoft's options

The advantage of switching entirely to OEM editions at retail is that they typically cost less than their full retail counterparts.

It also makes the decision much easier on customers as to which version of Windows 8 to buy. Do you already have Windows XP, Vista, or 7? Get the upgrade. Do you have any other computer you want to install Windows 8 on? Then System Builder edition is the way to go.

There is also a downside, as OEM editions are often restricted to a single motherboard, meaning users will have to buy an additional version of Windows if they switched computers rather than being able to transfer the license.

OEM editions in the past also lacked the 90-days of support Microsoft included in its full retail OS.

Of course, if Microsoft is taking a full retail version off the table, there is always the possibility that the single system limitation and the lack of Microsoft support could change with the System Builder edition. If that proves to be the case, then it's a win-win for customers who get the version they need at a better price.

The upgrade to Windows 8 Pro will be available to download as a special offer for $39.99 through January 31. It will also be available in DVD form, selling at retail for $69.99.

There is no pricing yet for the Windows 8 System Builder edition, but if Microsoft keeps the price low and in line with OEM editions then customers may be pleasantly surprised.

Via: Windows Weekly