In a landmark move to combat piracy in China and other emerging markets, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has announced that it will make Windows 10 freely available to all current users, even those who are running pirated versions of the operating system.
The move is designed to curtail piracy, which is rampant in China. A study found that over 67% of all PCs in China run a non-genuine version of Windows, and after trying and failing to prevent piracy, Microsoft is now looking to put an end to illegal downloads by giving the next version of Windows away for free. By allowing users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, Microsoft will be able to “re-engage” with hundreds of millions of customers in these countries, according to Terry Myerson.
Microsoft is heavily reorganizing its business model with Windows 10, which will be the first Windows to offer a consistent user experience across devices and form factors, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs and even the Xbox One. Windows 10 will be offered as a service, and while the first year of usage will be available for free to all users, there will be some pricing structure rolled out after that. Along with changing how Windows 10 is delivered, Microsoft is also fundamentally altering the way the operating system is built by giving millions of customers access to early builds to solicit feedback.
It is possible we’ll see an Office 365-style pricing tiers for Windows. Microsoft has not detailed as to how it will charge for Windows 10, but more details will likely emerge at its BUILD conference, which is being held next month.