In an intriguing move, Microsoft's reportedly offering owners of illegitimate copies of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 in some territories the opportunity to upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge. In many territories pirated copies of Windows represent the vast majority, and Microsoft's looking to get all of these users on-board with its new operating system from day one.
As it stands Microsoft is holding firm on its promise that all Windows 7 or newer OS users will receive a free Windows 10 upgrade within the first 365 days.
“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,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “Non-genuine Windows is not published by Microsoft. It is not properly licensed or supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner.”
The effect of this is users upgrading from pirated copies won’t get an official license, and therefore won’t be subject to full support, which might mean they only get some updates. It’s doubtful this is going to bother users getting free copies though, and it’s win/win for Microsoft when it comes to integrating new users into its Windows 10 ecosystem. One way of thinking about this is those people using pirated copies of Windows are unlikely to buy an official copy anyway.
However, if I was Microsoft I would be thinking, "How many people are pirating our Windows products?" Of course, we cannot answer that unless Microsoft can get those pirates to add its software to their PC. So, you give it to them for free. Probably 99% will give it a go. Once a copy of Windows 10 (the unofficial copy) is on those machines, Microsoft then have the ability to "communicate" with those people. For example, they can encourage them to install the new inbound browser, Trojan, I mean Spartan. And from there it can further provide the illegitimate owner with access to Microsoft's range of software and applications.
We're currently in the era of an online land-grab. Please allow me a moment to describe this with a little analogy to help highlight what I mean. If you think back to the days when European settlers trekked into the West of America, they were rushing to get there before others so they could stake out the best land for their family farm stead or similar territory. Quickly the good land was all taken.
In the analogy the "internet" is the Wild West and the land being grabbed is you. A person. You interact with the internet and your computer to buy and sell almost everything in your life. To look at things you are interested in and news you care about. That user data alone is worth a fortune and who ever controls the data... well, you get the idea.
It's getting harder and harder to come up with incredible ways to engage the masses online. Facebook, Twitter and Game-Debate (yes, I can dream) are already in existence and so strange things are starting to happen. An example of Microsoft trying to get in front of the right people would be they bought Minecraft for an obscene amount of money. Of course companies need to spend their earnings or risk massive tax bills, but that aside, Minecraft had already sold to everyone on every platform. So why spend $2.5 billion for a company that turned 100 million dollars at their peak? It sold for that because Minecraft is an instant window to 300 million gamers, and if Microsoft didn't buy it someone else would get those 300 million. As a brand, it has scope for Minecraft 2 the social media game, where you build stores and interact with the online community via Windows 10. For reference on what users and their data can be worth - a certain social network (Facebook) is currently earning $5 Billion a year.
Yes, I am predicting a Windows 10 future update that delivers a complete integration of Minecraft 2. Seems far fetched, right? Well let's dig deeper into this online world and the land grab I'm speaking of. My insight comes from a fairly unique position, running one of the largest independently owned gaming websites in the world.
A business always needs to look to expand, otherwise it starts to fold in on itself and its competitors take over. Google, for example, currently 'controls' the majority of the internet traffic through its search engine. Pushing people from place to place, selling the traffic data it gathers from its search engine, advertising and Chrome, for an absolute fortune to those big enough to afford the price tag.
But if Google already has almost all the current internet users using it, where does it go next? How does it 'expand' fast enough to maintain its hunger for growth? The answer - It creates new users by providing the internet for free to the world's countries that previously didn't have access to the internet. You only have to look at Project Loon, with Google sending thousands of internet-bearing balloons into the atmosphere. Millions of potential customers, moving around its infrastructure, searching for things that governments and businesses would love to know about. People with real needs that the online world previously never knew about. For example, overnight those monitoring the traffic would be able to tell which political parties are most popular and why.
Google are right now funding a huge propaganda video/TV campaign, that they are trying to keep detached from. The purpose of the video will be to explain "objectively" the hardships of living without the internet in countries that could greatly benefit from getting online. Then, once the expensive, possibly viral, campaign has touched enough people around the world, Google will swoop in as a hero and point everyone to their plans that will solve the internetless problem so many face.
Dont get me wrong, I am not opposed to the world going online, the communication benefits between all people are huge, but I think it is important to understand how this is happening and why big business operates the way they do during the land-grab for users.
Anyway, back to the Microsoft situation. With Microsoft dropping the ball on the ie browser front and losing its strangle hold over the world's PC market, to the likes of Google and Apple, the other big players are moving in on Microsoft's last real bastion, the operating system. Over the past year or two Linux has started to look more and more favourable, Google have rolled out application based OS for free. Apple give their OS for free. Steam OS is being built with gamers in mind and that will be based on Linux, for free. Linux OS's are numerous and oh yeah free. See the trend here?
With Windows 10 the updates are looking to be micro updates compared to the previous monster downloads we have seen with past versions of Windows. This would probably be a similar model to Android and its versions. This means Windows 11 may not exist, so getting everyone onto Windows 10 has to be a priority for MS.
Another benefit for Microsoft, with the free rollout of Windows 10 would be the higher conversion rate of pirates to official owners. Pirates will be tempted to "click to upgrade to an official version of Windows 10 for x amount of discount this month only" offers. From a business point of view, the pirates are another untapped resource of potential new customers that were previously unavailable.
Again, I want to make it clear, I have no issue with any of these approaches. Its how businesses operate and this sort of move from Microsoft makes great business sense for them. I am personally looking forward to Windows 10, especially if the Windows Minecraft 2 update is coming, that I keep hearing about (Yes, because you keep saying it in this article - Jon). From a gaming point of view it's looking like a must-have, particularly with the inclusion of DirectX 12. This should boost hardware performance for those of us with DX11-compatible cards and higher, and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Something else to clear up about Windows 10, regarding the possibility of Windows 10 being sold as a subscription model - Microsoft has stated that Windows 10 WILL NOT turn into a subscription-based service, once the year is up. They have not said yet how much the OS will cost if you do not get a free upgrade. Windows 10 will be released to the world this summer, 2015. The final piece of the puzzle is whether Microsoft does indeed roll out the free Windows 10 upgrade plan for pirates worldwide - a game changer if ever there were one.