Microsoft launched its new version of Windows last night, making clear at the launch event that it would offer for free. The move marks a departure for the company, which has in the past counted on Windows for much of its revenues — but that cash has already begun to come from other places.
Microsoft will offer the upgrade to Windows 10 for free to users on Windows 8.1, the most recent version, and offer the same to Windows 7 users for the first year.
The move is a big, and probably expensive, bet on Microsoft’s new philosophy for Windows. The company is moving towards seeing its operating system not as a product. But it could also lead to more money for Microsoft.
Apple made the move to offer its OS upgrades for free with Mavericks, in 2013, after gradually reducing the price of updates. But it seemed a more obvious decision for Apple, which has always been more of a hardware company than a software one, and makes most of its money selling laptops.
Microsoft, however, is best known for Windows, and continued to make money from it.
And they weren’t the only ones, as Windows upgrades are often used by makers of hardware and chips to encourage people to upgrade. Laptop manufacturers are already struggling as people buy tablets and phones instead.
30 years in the making: Windows through the ages
30 years in the making: Windows through the ages
1/9 Windows 1.0, 1985
Announced in 1983 and shipped two years later, Windows 1.0 was Microsoft's first move away from the command-line input system of MS-DOS. Drop-down menus, scroll bars, icons and dialog boxes are ll introduced and users can multi-task in different...windows.
2/9 Windows 3.0, 1990
With its successor, Windows 3.1 (released in 1992), Windows 3 sold 10 million copies. 16 colour graphics were introduced for the first time, as were games including Solitaire, Hearts and Minesweeper. A sample advert: “Now you can use the incredible power of Windows 3.0 to goof off.”
3/9 Windows 95, 1995
Windows 95 sold a record-setting 7 million copies in its first five weeks. It introduced users to the Start button (adverts used the Rolling Stones hit 'Start Me Up') and, more importantly, the internet, with built-in internet support and dial-up networking.
4/9 Windows 98, 1998
The first version of Windows designed specifically for consumers, released at at time when computers were becoming more common at home and at work. DVDs and USBs were supported for the first time .
5/9 Windows ME, 2000
Windows ME (or Millenium Edition) introduced a number of notable features, including many aimed at multimedia (such as as Windows Movie Maker). However, it was an incredibly unreliable system and was widely panned after its release.
6/9 Windows XP, 2001
Windows XP triumphed where ME had stalled. It was fast, easy to use and most importantly it was stable. 400 million versions were installed in the first five years, and despite Microsoft's attempts to move forwards, for many people XP is still the most-important OS, used on around 30 per cent of machines worldwide.
7/9 Windows Vista, 2006
Vista was most likely a victim of XP's sucess. Users had got so used to the smooth-running of the previous OS that the 2006 update became a magnet for citicism, especially from IT specialists who deemed it 'bloated' and 'virus-prone'. How easy was it to poke fun at Vista? Well, Apple introduced the 'I'm a Mac' campaign in response.
8/9 Windows 7, 2009
Microsoft learned from their mistakes, and Windows 7 was put through its pace by 8 million beta testers before general release. The result? An operating system hailed as "what Vista should have done in the first place". However, while Windows 7 was a success, Microsoft was beginning the feel the pressure from Macs and mobile devices.
9/9 Windows 8, 2012
Their response? Windows 8: A total re-imagining of the OS that was suited towards touch-screen devices and especially Microsoft's own Surface tablet-laptop hybrids. It was a bold move and users were not happy: subsequent updates restored the option for the traditional desktop-style layout, but it's still not certain whether Windows 8 is a success or a failure.
But Microsoft might not care. Getting everyone onto the same operating system might irritate the hardware manufacturers, but for software developers it’s perfect.
Very few people upgrade quickly to new versions of Windows, meaning that people making applications have to ensure they work across even very old versions of the operating system. But if Microsoft offering Windows for free means more people upgrading, developers will be able to work much faster and create better applications.
That helps Microsoft because it’s moving towards selling apps through its own store — allowing it to take a cut, just as Apple does. The more developers want to sell apps for Windows phones and computers, and the more people that use them, the more money that comes back to Microsoft.
It will also see more people sign up for Microsoft accounts, getting them using Microsoft’s recent services like online storage service OneDrive. If Microsoft can get people into using its products, they will buy more — a strategy used effectively by Apple — and so the move could drive purchases of new devices after all.Reuse content