An unusual move from Microsoft Corp. left many genuine users of the Windows OS surprised as the company came clear on its Windows 10 free upgrade policy. Yes, Microsoft clarified people running pirated versions of Windows will also get the free Windows upgrade to version 10 alongside the genuine users – and not just in China, but worldwide!
The decision taken by the software giant comes close on the grounds of piracy issues. Microsoft has long struggled with piracy issues especially, in China. Former CEO, Steve Ballmer had revealed that Microsoft’s revenue in China represented only 5% of sales in the US, implying that much of its software in China was pirated and unlicensed. Although Windows 8 demand has been lackluster, the OS continues to remain one of Microsoft’s core revenue generators.
To overcome this, the tech bigwig decided to offer a free upgrade from a non-genuine version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The idea behind this is to basically get all Windows users on the same common base.
Having said that, it should be noted though non-Genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license. So, if you are running a pirated version of Windows, you’ll essentially be upgrading to a non-authorized version of Windows 10.
This is confusing. What does this mean? So will a pirated Windows user be able to upgrade to Windows 10 – but since his Windows 10 does not get activated, he will not be eligible to get further security or feature updates? This is what is being currently understood by me.
Windows 10 free upgrade policy
With Windows 10, although non-genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license. Non-genuine Windows is not activated by Microsoft. It is not properly licensed, or supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner. If a device was considered non-genuine prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine after the upgrade, said the Microsoft spokesperson.
As Microsoft describes the situation on its Genuine Windows page, you’ll may frequent messages, warning you that your copy of Windows may not be genuine. Your desktop could turn to black. You can reset it, but it will continue to turn black periodically until you activate Windows. All your applications may still be able to function, but you may not be able to update your Windows 10 computer further to get critical security updates or updates which add features to the operating system.
The latest move from Microsoft of upgrading pirated versions to legitimate versions of Windows 10 makes sense in a way.
It can help expand the Windows user base and get all Windows users on to a common base platform, which will allow Microsoft to widen its ecosystem with applications such as Cortana, Spartan, Office 365, Azure and more. This way, instead of charging an upfront fee for the operating system, Microsoft covers an alternative way for generating revenue in more passive ways, like Bing search along with subscriptions to Office and Windows as well.
The obvious fallout of Microsoft’s plan is that this disappoints all those genuine Windows users, who had paid for the operating system. Now with this step, even users with pirated versions of Windows, will come onto the common base.
Making sense of Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade strategy
It is the strategy of Microsoft to give free Windows 10 upgrades 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.
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, the 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 with 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 it 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 systems.
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.
- Microsoft will either ask these users to provide some cost to make their copy of Windows genuine
- 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:
- The user base of pirated Windows operating system is too big to ignore
- Beyond Windows 10, there won’t be any more version number ISOs
- 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 to 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 a 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.