Microsoft is boosting the incentive to move to Windows 8 Pro by lowering the price. On Tuesday, the company announced its lowest-ever OS upgrade price -- $39.99 for current owners of its previous operating systems, Windows XP, Vista or 7.

The upgrade offer was announced on the company's Windows Blog by Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc. The offer is good "starting at availability," he said, which is expected to be in the fall, and it lasts through January 31 of next year. \

Additionally, Microsoft will throw in Windows Media Center for free through the "add features" option in Pro, after upgrading. Windows Media Center includes the software necessary to play DVDs, which no longer will be offered as a basic feature of Windows.

'Highly Aggressive'

When a user employs for the upgrade, the Upgrade Assistant provides a step-by-step downloading and installation process, after first conducting a compatibility check to make sure the PC is ready for 8 Pro.

The upgrade process also allows a user to transfer settings, personal files and apps, if one is upgrading from 7. If upgrading from Vista, only Windows settings and personal files can be brought along and, if from XP, only personal files. A user can also choose to start fresh and transfer nothing, or to format a hard drive.

A DVD version of Windows 8 Pro will also be available for $69.99 during this promotion period.

We asked Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, if the promotional offer indicated Microsoft was getting nervous about the adoption rate for the new version of its OS.

Greengart described the upgrade price as "highly aggressive" and added that Microsoft "is doing everything it can to make the transition as easy as possible for users." Windows 8, he noted, is not simply another OS upgrade, but represents "a major transition for the company and for users, since it will cause users to rethink how they use a computer."

This is largely due to the touchscreen emphasis in 8's Metro tile-based interface. Users may also choose to work with a Windows "Classic" interface.

'Pulling Out All the Stops'

Greengart said the upgrade offer will be directed primarily at consumers, given that enterprises are often slower to upgrade and have other issues besides price to think about, such as retraining employees and technical support.

But the main target of this advance promotional publicity, he said, is developers.

"Microsoft is pulling out all the stops now," Greengart said, "to make sure developers feel the installed base for Windows 8 will be big enough that they will have enough people ready to buy their apps."

Aside from price, consumers and businesses will likely have several other hesitations about upgrading. Compatibility issues were widely reported with Vista, for instance, although 7's compatibility reputation has been relatively good. But a key issue for 8 is: why upgrade?

If a current Windows machine has touch-capability, or if a user is interested in using the Metro interface with a mouse and keyboard, that might be a compelling reason. Greengart also noted that there are "thousands of new features" in 8, and "lots of things it does well." But, he pointed out, Microsoft has not yet been clear about the key benefits for mouse-and-keyboard users to step up.