23 March 2015

Microsoft desperately wants you to move to Windows 10

Windows 10

Microsoft wants everyone to be using its latest operating system and with good reason. It took over a decade after Windows XP’s release to persuade many consumers to move on from it, and Windows 7 users are carrying that torch now, thanks in large part to what happened with Windows 8. To combat this, Microsoft seems completely willing to forego the sticker price of Windows 10 in hopes of persuading everyone to move to the newest OS.

Back in January, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be a free update for anyone running Windows 7 or Windows 8 PCs. Earlier this week, The Verge reported that Microsoft will even allow this Windows 10 upgrade path for those among us with pirated copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8. So theoretically, you can benefit from a completely legitimate copy of Windows 10 even if you’ve never spent a dime on a Microsoft product. Frankly, that’s an extremely ballsy move from Redmond.

Windows 10 screenshot

Of course, Apple has made OS X free in recent years, but that’s a slightly different situation. OS X can only (legally) run on Apple’s own hardware, so presumably Apple is making money no matter what. On the other hand, Windows is designed to work on just about anything, so Microsoft doesn’t make money off of most hardware sales. The move towards free OS updates is inherently more risky for Microsoft a software company first and foremost.

Mind you, any money lost here will be mitigated by the fact that the Dells and HPs of the world still sell Windows alongside the vast majority of their consumer hardware. You can buy Linux desktops or build your own PC from scratch, but most people in North American and Europe end up buying a Windows license whenever they buy a new computer. Microsoft’s initiative is really focused on converting a massive number of software pirates in Asia and South America.

Perhaps the bigger impact here is Microsoft’s willingness to give Windows 10 away on non-traditional PCs. Raspberry Pi 2 owners will get Windows 10 for free, and tablets with screens under nine inches in size already get Windows at no cost. If the PC becomes less and less relevant over time, these business decisions could make a huge difference (positively or negatively) for the future of Microsoft.

Companies like Google and Valve are nipping at Redmond’s heels, and Windows is facing the stiffest competition it has ever seen from the likes of Android, Chrome OS, and SteamOS. Microsoft’s domination is slowly eroding, and it’s clear these major policy shifts are trying to right the ship. But whether or not Nadella’s gambit will work remains to be seen.



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