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.

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
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


  1. DutchPete

    It is always interesting to speculate about the ins & outs after having been given a glimpse of what is probably coming but before the real thing is rolled out to the public at large. So, whilst your views are interesting & based on piecing some bits of info together, let’s just wait for the real thing & Microsoft’s own “carved in stone” statements when the time is ripe. Speculation often ends up being a waste of time.

  2. Lakshmi

    Nice analysis.

  3. Ernie

    Your analasys is thought provoking and makes sense with the following exceptions:

    1. The subscription service sounds good in theory but might not be practical in reality. If someone buys a PC with windows 10 [or upgrades] and then has to pay a yearly subscription for that PC to continue to be safe or work without giving contant nag screens about subscription renewal and if they decide not to pay this subscription, due to finacial restraints, they will get a nag screen about being insecure as well so a lot of folks will simply move to Linux which is becoming even more like to Windows and is free from subscription.

    2. Someone running [let us, for the sake of argument, stick with leagal] versions of either Windows 7 or 8[+] will continue to recieve all windows updates, both security and non-security for the next few years so why would they decide to upgrade to a new OS where they have to pay to continue to receive the same service and have to pay for the privaledge? Or will MS simply stop providind non-security updates for these OS’s? Folks in general will not switch to a new OS just because it is there [see windows XP as an example] so where in the next few years will MS get thier money from? Personally I would rather pay a one of cost for all my OS’s as opposed to having to pay a subscription for each PC anually. The average household in the UK is thought to have [at least] 2 two or more PC’s [parents and each kid with their own] now convert that into anual running costs.

    3. The sale of new PC’s [world wide] is in decline as more folks move to tablets so MS cannot project an income based on new PC purchases and as a lot of folks will simply keep running the their [leagal] Windows 7 & 8[+] MS will also loose on the proposed subscription service here. [I know that they have other avenues of income but we are talking about Windows].

    4. I still think that MS will use the snare of a free upgrade for non-legal OS’s to catch and track down illegal users and if they choose not to legalise the upgrade by paying for it then MS MIGHT threaten legal action.

    5.Will MS use a nag screen to try and [force?] get users to upgrade to Windows 10? They have never done so in the past but will this be one of the new changes with the stated reason being that they are trying to get a unified user-base? (Just thought I would throw that one into the mix of these speculations)

    6. As to what happens to a users retail licence after upgrading. [As I previously mentioned a few weeks ago] will this retail licence then be defunct or will users be able to revert back to their old WIndows 7 or 8[+] OS’s. This will be one of the deciding factors for me. No matter what MS says there will be some PC’s that, for whatever reason, will not be compatable with Windows 10. I have one old[ish] PC running Windows 7 [sluggishly but it works] and it is possible that this one might not work with Windows 10]. So would I be able to revert back to Windows 7 on this PC after upgrading to 10 then running it for a few weeks and finding that it is not suitable or would this be impossible because the licence is now defunct?

    By the way I am looking forwards to Windows 10 but as to whether I will upgrade my PC’s to this I do not know yet.

  4. DutchPete

    From what I have read elsewhere Microsoft’s strategy to make money is not to charge an annual fee but on the sale of each new PC/tablet/phone with Windows 10. They will provide W10 as a service including security updates & bug fixes for “free”. But I am not sure if that is from the horse’s mouth. And as for their “trap” to catch the illegit users, who knows, but MS certainly has not said anything about that officially so that part of the discussion is even more speculative.
    That is why I feel that the only real contribution of a discussion like this, especially at this stage of the W10 project, is confusion. Mr. Kumar does not want to admit it, but just your mail & the one from PatSG above prove that, having read Mr Kumar’s analysis, none of are any wiser now than before.

  5. Erniek

    As you say no-one, may not even MS, has any idea as to what will eventually be decided. If Windows 10 ends up as you suggest possible then this will bring some cohesion to Windows and [IMO] it would also bring some Linux users into the fold.

    This would [effectively] make widows 10 similar to existing OEM versions and run for the lifetime of the PC. But would MS still release retail versions? My personal preference is the retail [profesional version] which allows me to un-install from one PC and then install onto a completely different one [home build] for extended testing purposes. With previous versions as one PC died I have just built a new one and then installed Windows once again using this retail key [which as you will know is not tied to specific PC].

    It is at this point I begin to wonder wouldwill these will still be available? Would we have to pay for a new licence every time we [temporarily – for a period of more than 30 days] installed Windows 10 onto a newly built PC? This scenario would possibly make WIndows 10 an expensive route to follow.

    MS usualy has good pre-release marketing and this time with all the hype and theorising that there has been they have surpased themselves. When I talk to anyone who uses a Windows PC it seems that the main questiontopic is Windows 10. The interest in WIndows 10 seems to be far greater than I remember with previous OS’s other than the slating of ME & Vista.

  6. Magee

    Why won’t people extract the updates and post them in the usual places? Unless Windows is completely an online service I can’t see how they are ever going to get a dime from a pirate. Even in that situation there will be patches and hacks to make it work without paying. I’ve been in this since programs were distributed on cassette tapes and from where I sit, piracy will still be going strong long after I’m dead.

  7. Magee

    You must run in some pretty darned advanced circles since I have yet to find anyone that wants to move from 7 to 8 let alone think about 10.

  8. Wesley

    What does this mean for legitimately obtained OS? What I mean is version obtained by a new purchase with the OS pre installed OS purchased with new specific hardware at the time of a custom built system? Is the article suggesting that all users will now subscribe to its OS, and if one fails to pay your computer will be broken? If so, then does this suggest Microsoft is remndering the legitimate data to become useless and unusable if you don’t pay? I feel that leads to ransome ware…..

  9. Erniek

    I don’t run in advanced circles I am just friends with folks who like myself have an interest in PC’s. The majority of these folks run Windows 7 and all of the PC’s I maintane run Windows 7 or Vista.

  10. Erniek

    If I read your post correctly then buying a PC with the OS pre-installed will be what is known as OEM versions and is tied to that computer and cannot be moved to another PC. At the moment if this PC is 7 or 8[+] then you would be eligable for the upgrade to 10 for the lifetime of the hardware. This would include all security and non-security updates.

    If I want to build a new PC with completely new hardware I have two choices. The first one is purchase an OEM version of an OS. At the moment if you go to the likes of Amazon you can purchase one of these OEM versions of Windows 7 for about £65.00 and when installed it will be tied to the PC it is installed on.

    At the moment, if you buy a RETAIL version, which is more expensive, you are not tied to one PC with this though you can only have it running on one PC at a time. For example if you build a computer and put a retail version on t then in a couple of years build another new PC you can uninstall Windows from the first machine and install it on the second newer PC.

    Sorry if I seems to be teaching my granny how to suck eggs.

    With your last point this is one of the things that is not known at the moment. What MS has said is that if you upgrade you will be entitled to and will get all security and non-security updates until the end of life of the PC. What this means in regard to the retail versions nobody knows just yet. Also what will happen after the 1 year free upgrade period is over again MS has not relased this info yet. As you say if, after the 1 year period I decide to upgrade what will I pay? and then what happens if I stop paying the annual subscription. Once again MS has not said anthing yet. Will my PC stop working or will it work with constant, ever increasing frequency, constant nag screens? As for being akin to ransom ware this could very well be classed as this therefor I think it will be the constant nag screens as to totaly stop the OS from working would backfire on MS. We will have to wait and see.

    As for the future this is one of the things that is unknown at the moment. Will MS still release these retail versions or will it just be [the equivelant] OEM and a version for bussinesses?

  11. safari801

    Just curious, but I’m running win 7 64 bit. Will my version of Win 10 be 64 bit as well?

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