The launch of Vista has already had one big effect, and we’re still in week one of its official existence – it’s jacked up the price of PCs.

There has been a lot of talk of the effect the cost of Vista would have on system prices given that the base prices for Vista are substantially higher than those of the XP operating system it replaces.

Now we have firm evidence that it is adding to the cost of buying a laptop, anecdotally around 10 percent extra to buy a Vista laptop with Vista Home Enhanced version on it than the same one running XP, but with a “free” (laugh now) upgrade to Vista.

On one system we checked – a popular and current spec Acer Aspire laptop – getting a DVD with Vista Home Premium would set the user back £46.80 ($85) over and above the £510 (inc VAT) asking price of the hardware with just XP pre-installed. Alternatively, the same system (with a marginally bigger HDD) is available from other companies with Vista pre-installed for a total cost that is equivalent to the XP cost plus the upgrade. It costs suppliers more so naturally they pass on the extra cost, even if some suppliers decide to take a hit on some of the cost.

Across the industry, the same general rule appears to apply, which is one reason why businesses won’t be in any rush to adopt it. Microsoft isn’t worried because it will recoup the money from home users instead, knowing that businesses will eventually follow in the long run. You are a home user and you want Vista now? Then pay for it.

To repeat, none of the extra cost mentioned in our Acer example has to do with the extra hardware needed to run it because the hardware is the same on the non-Vista systems. The extra is down to Vista alone. And that is in a system that already has XP on it, for which the consumer is paying a license fee. So, upgrading involves paying two license fees, only one of which relates to the desired OS, though it’s also true to say that the upgrade version of Vista needs XP to be present for the install to proceed.

Is Vista experience worth it? I have no idea because Microsoft went to some lengths to keep it out of the hands of most journalists before launch so they wouldn’t gripe too much about it. In fact, I have seen it – I know a developer, and so I’ve seen it on his system, but that’s just my good luck. It’s also on display in the local PC World store. I think my granny could probably have tested it out before I did, no disrespect to my granny intended.

The remarkable thing about Microsoft Software is the way the company has been able to jack up the price of its know-how at a time when so many computing products have become commodities. If Steve Ballmer is right, and Microsoft does manage to ship another major incarnation of Windows in the coming years, then there is a good chance that software will by then make up most of the cost of buying a system, the hardware having decreased in real-terms cost relative to the rising price of Windows.

There is only one other company I can think of that thinks it can get away with that, and that company is Apple. Who said PCs and Macs were in opposing camps?