It’s natural to look to the future as we pass the half-way point in the free Windows 10 upgrade life cycle. Will Microsoft as promised make Windows 10 a paid upgrade after this July? Or will it instead do the right thing and step away from the past completely?
Note: To be clear, I’m referring to the Windows 10 upgrade, not Windows 10 OEM, or retail, or Windows 10 bundled on a new PC. You should pay for Windows when it’s new. Just not on upgrades.
I think that Microsoft will do the right thing. And today, I’d like to make the case that this is the only correct outcome. It is in fact, “the only outcome.”
That Microsoft gets that the world has moved on is obvious: They’ve evolved Windows into an always-updated modern monstrosity, and Windows 10 is now updated as if it were a simpler mobile OS or a cloud service. Yes, there are some fits and stops along the way, but this first year is all about making that transition.
Given this, it doesn’t make sense to return the Windows 10 upgrade to the paid model from the past. That is, once you’ve paid for Windows—by getting it with a new PC, usually—you’re entitled to free upgrades for the life of that device, just as you are (basically) on Android and iOS. The passage of 12 months of time doesn’t change that at all: If a customer still using (the still supported) Windows 7 in August 2016, or January 2017, or whatever, wants to upgrade to Windows 10, it is still in Microsoft’s best interests that that happen. And it should be as frictionless as possible. It should be free.
Put simply, as long as the version of Windows you’re currently using is supported, you should get the upgrade to Windows 10 for free. Once you’re on Windows 10, upgrades should be free for the supported lifetime of the device, which is less easy to quantify, but something Microsoft needs to figure out. Because Windows 10 can’t be upgraded for free on all devices for perpetuity. At some point, the hardware just peters out. This, by the way, is how it works with mobile devices, too. So there is a problem to solve, yes.
I’m just guessing—since we can only guess—but I believe that this was Microsoft’s plan all along. The “one year of free upgrades” announcement was designed to jump start the push to the 1 billion active Windows 10 devices figure it predicted, since the biggest chunk of that figure will in fact come … wait for it …. upgrades for those 1.5 billion PCs out there. Think about it: Hundreds of millions of people will upgrade existing devices. And hundreds of millions will upgrade the hardware, and get Windows 10 that way.
Put another way, the transition from Windows 7/8.1 to Windows 10 will not happen in one year. Many customers, not just businesses, will simply need more time. They should have that time, and it should be tied to the support life cycle of the OS they’re currently using. Simple.
Naturally, there are a lot of questions out there. But whether you believe the truly insane—like Forbes’ inexcusable ass-clown and fear monger, whom I will neither name nor link to; screw that guy—or the more reasonable Ed Bott, who believes that Microsoft still hasn’t decided what to do, it’s all just speculation. As is the post you’re now reading: Speculation, wishful thinking, and some belief or hope that Microsoft will do the right thing.
And on that note, Microsoft should never, ever stop offering the Windows 10 upgrade for free. Doing so is the only way to ensure that Windows successfully evolves into a mobile/cloud-like always-evergreen system.
You buy Windows, usually with a new device. Then you get upgrades for free. For some amount of time. Not one year. Five years, perhaps, Ten. Whatever.
The Window 10 upgrade must remain free.