Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Free Windows 10 upgrades: Microsoft takes on the role of good cop

Free Windows 10 upgrades: Microsoft takes on the role of good cop

Microsoft appears to have come to the conclusion that any gains it can make from piracy have reached their limit. Nothing else can account for the company's sudden change of stance in deciding to offer to update all Windows users to Windows 10 free of cost.

The initial announcement, made in Shenzhen, China, appeared to indicate that only users in that country would be afforded this free upgrade. But later, it was clarified by the company that this would extend to all users of Windows.

The change of tack by a company which is well known for its bully-boy tactics, indicates how much of its clout it has lost. There was a time when Microsoft was The One. Now, it is just another technology company, trying to desperately effect a change of image, and safeguard what marketshare it has.

No doubt, Microsoft hopes that those who do upgrade to Windows 10 will continue to use it. It could resort to charging a small fee for updates in order to keep the money flowing in. But given the way PCs are going out of style, and the fact that using Windows on any other device apart from a clunky PC (or a laptop) is quite a trial, it seems likely that the number of users worldwide will slowly begin to fall.

Nearly 17 years ago, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates made his policy clear when he said, during an interview: "Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software... Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

Either collection time has come or else Microsoft wants to give the impression that its culture has changed. The fact that the change has come when it is under pressure indicates that it has been forced on the company by circumstances.

The number of computers running Windows worldwide is estimated to be in the region of 1.5 billion, an indication that Microsoft will continue to earn good profits for some years to come. Businesses will remain the number one revenue source, as it would cost them an enormous fortune to switch. After standardising on applications, and training workers, few businesses see the need to spend on retraining and refitting existing hardware. Unless there is a switch to using tablets and the like. Such devices are yet to become usable for tasks that need a lot of hardware resources.

But it's good to see Microsoft in stealth mode. The days when the bully threatened to take your lunch appear to be over.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.