Making sense of Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade strategy

A few days back, we posted on how the Windows 10 free Upgrade Policy confuses and disappoints Genuine users of the OS. Today, I am giving my opinion on what I think of this policy.

It is the strategy of Microsoft to give free Windows 10 upgrade to all. This strategy is translucent, if not completely transparent. I mean, I have a feeling that Microsoft will start offering updates to people who upgrade from pirated Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. Most news articles say that even pirated Windows 8 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10, but won’t be considered legit and hence won’t get further updates. This is what Microsoft is saying at the moment. But it is not necessary that it is the thinking of implementing the same. And I am also sure that it is not thinking about not providing updates to people who upgrade using a pirated Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7.

Windows 10

The base of piracy is much wide. Microsoft would not want to lose out on the users using pirated copies of Windows out there. The number is just too big to be ignored. Most of the piracy happens in China, Asia-Pacific region and parts of Africa. Some news sites have said it is a Trojan that Microsoft will allow Windows 8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10. They say that as soon as they upgrade, Microsoft will zero in on the pirated copies and stop providing them the updates. However, if my analysis is true, Microsoft will do the reverse and start providing them at least critical updates. I will talk about the reason in a while.

The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, already said they are thinking of Windows as a Service. This means that in the long run, Windows 10 may be the last Windows operating system to have a number or name attached to it.

Microsoft has also made it clear that it will choose how they will deliver Windows updates to the customers and users of Windows 10. For businesses that need computers running all the time because they cannot afford any downtime, only critical updates will be provided. This too, will be offered as a choice so that admins can update their copy of Windows 10 when they want – that is during nights or during times where they can get a little time to update their copy of Windows 10.

For other businesses and normal retail users, it will offer updates in real time: both critical and feature updates. In the article linked above, Microsoft said that, by the time these updates reach the customers, they will already be tested by millions of Windows Insiders. Windows Insiders are people who opted to test Windows 10 even before its release. They will get features and updates first and based on their feedback, Microsoft will decide whether or not to distribute those updates and features.

I am coming back to why Microsoft will offer updates to people who upgraded from pirated Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7 SP1. The reason I brought in Windows 10 updates thing above is to prove that Microsoft has many things in its mind. It has already planned how to deliver updates to enterprises and individuals.

Upgrade from pirated Windows 8 / 7 to Windows 10

As said earlier, the number of clients using pirated Windows is huge, very big. That includes individuals and even small scale businesses – from China, Asia-Pacific, Australia, and parts of Africa. You can see it covers almost half the globe and hence can estimate how many people are using pirated Windows operating system.

If they upgrade, Microsoft will like to convert them into permanent genuine customers instead of having them pay legal fines for using counterfeit software. The future of the Microsoft operating system is Windows as a Service. Satya Nadella said that. All experts repeated that.

Now, if the reason for letting people upgrade to Windows 10 using pirated Windows OS is to just make them stick to an operating system without any protection whatsoever, it does not make any sense.

Microsoft will want these users to use the critical updates at the least.

There are two options I can see.

  1. Microsoft will either ask these users to provide some cost to make their copy of Windows genuine
  2. When they turn it into a subscription model, they will make all copies of Windows 10 genuine so that all the pirated users’ base can pay for subscription and get both security and features.

This is also because when Windows is offered as a service, there won’t be any possibility to get any pirated ISOs for the latest Windows features. They will be rather delivered as updates and upgrades instead of ISO files. You can get an idea by reading our article about Upgrade path to Windows 10 at The Windows Club.

The linked article talks about how upgrades and updates will be provided to users who wish to upgrade from Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. I am using it as a base to think beyond Windows 10 when they will stop building version numbers and it becomes just Windows 10 or simply Windows and updates/upgrades are pushed using Windows Updates service.

Just now, that is what Microsoft is up to. They will soon announce a subscription model. And when they do that, they will offer an opportunity to users of pirated Windows operating system to subscribe and become genuine so that they too can get the security and feature updates. And that way, Microsoft will succeed because users need the updates and the only way to get those updates is to subscribe.

In short, there are three points to consider:

  1. The user base of pirated Windows operating system is too big to ignore
  2. Beyond Windows 10, there won’t be any more version number ISOs
  3. Users will need security updates and hence will pay the subscription fee

Considering the above points, do you not think, it is a strategy of Microsoft make all the users of Windows 10, legit users so that they can use genuine Windows and receive both security and feature updates as and when they are released?

In the absence of methods for piracy, users will subscribe and probably that is why Microsoft is offering free upgrade from Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7 to Windows 10. The ultimate aim is to convert the illegal users of Windows operating system into legit users. Else why would Microsoft even care about offering upgrades to Windows 10 for pirated copies of the operating systems?

To further drive my point, I will like to talk about Reliance Communications of India. When it was launched, all the handsets were postpaid and users had to pay the cost of handset in equal installments of INR 500 (just around USD 8) per month. In addition, they were to pay the for the talk time they used for making calls. Many people bought the offer, but could not or did not pay the bills. Reliance could have suspended those users. Instead, it just waived off the handset costs and converted them from postpaid to prepaid. That way, Reliance did not lose customers and the customers too were happy that they could continue using the service without having to pay much.

This is what Microsoft appears to be doing, in my opinion. It will offer an yearly subscription to all users and then, when the users using pirated version pay for subscription, they become legit users.

Please let me know your views on this subject.

Reserve your Free Upgrade to Windows 10.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN