Users will, for the first time, be able to buy Windows by download.

Microsoft iis set to announce that consumer versions of Windows Vista - such as Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate - will be available on Microsoft's Windows Marketplace e-commerce site, said Bill Mannion, director of marketing for Windows. Microsoft Office 2007 also will be available on Windows Marketplace, marking the first time customers can purchase the productivity suite by downloading it.

Microsoft has sold games, some of its less popular applications and partner software on Windows Marketplace, but it previously has not sold its core Windows and Office products there, Mannion said. The company revamped the site in August, adding a new feature called Digital Locker, which keeps track of a customer's licence key online so that software can be downloaded and securely purchased over the Internet. This feature is one of the reasons Microsoft now feels it is safe enough to distribute Windows Vista and Office over the Internet, he said.

Microsoft also will announce pricing for a previously revealed consumer upgrade system for Vista called Windows Anytime Upgrade. Microsoft has said it will put all of the versions of Vista on one DVD in packaged form, or on a PC if the OS comes pre-installed. Users will get a product activation key that can activate whatever edition of Vista they purchase, and then can use that to install the OS.

However, if a user decides he or she wants to upgrade to a more feature-rich version of Vista than the one originally purchased - such as from Home Basic to Home Premium - Microsoft will allow a customer to pay for an upgrade rather than requiring that customer to go out and purchase the edition at full price.

F