When Windows 10 first launched, I celebrated the return of PC-centric user experiences and the de-emphasis of the previous regime’s “touch-first” nonsense. But Windows 10 also marked an escalation of Microsoft’s desperate bid to find a new way to monetize the billions-strong Windows user base in an era when Windows license sales were collapsing.
Windows licensing was a business model for the ages: It led to Microsoft’s domination of the personal computing market and fed its expansion into new businesses too. But the dark side of Windows licensing is that it created a separation between Microsoft and the ultimate end-user. Microsoft sold few Windows licenses directly to people. The vast majority were—and still are—sold to PC makers. Which we should logically see as the middle-men that they are.