Microsoft made ripples when it announced that Windows 7 users who migrated to 8.1 would have the chance to upgrade to its latest OS, Windows 10, for free. Microsoft has a reputation for being stingy with its software updates, so this marked the first time in the company’s history that they have tried something more wallet-friendly. In conjunction with the release of the Surface and Surface Book computers, it all seemed like a calculated raid on Apple’s territory. But what about the upgrade offer’s fine print?
Supposedly, the offer will end this coming July, just a year from the date the free upgrade was launched. There is speculation that the deadline was put in place to try to avoid the kind of negative issues that Microsoft suffered when they dropped support for Windows XP. The problem with this kind of deadline is that, in all probability, users who decline a free upgrade for an entire year most likely don’t want the upgrade at all. If Microsoft is trying to transition its customers to a new operating system as efficiently as possible, they’re going to have a hard time convincing people – who didn’t want Windows 10 when it was free – to pay for it in the future. Hopefully, Microsoft has something else in mind with this deadline, because selling upgrades has never been the most lucrative part of their business model anyway.
Microsoft’s plan might include extending the offer, making a new offer once the next upgrade of Windows 10 hits, or taking the risky gambit of completely dropping the free upgrade. Right now, it’s all speculation and anybody’s guess. I hate to resurrect the age-old debate, but the whole situation just begs a comparison to Apple.
Having been a lifelong Windows user, I just recently made the switch to an Apple computer. I could go into a lengthy discourse on why I made that decision, but suffice to say that I have no particular allegiance to either company. I advocate the use of whatever tools help get the job done, whether or not they have a shiny white fruit on the outside. That’s why I keep a virtual Windows machine on my Mac for running Windows-specific applications that I still need. That being said, I have for the most part been happy with my switch to Apple. One thing that longtime Mac users might take for granted – but that I can appreciate as a virtual migrant – is how nice it is to not have to worry about software upgrades.
Frankly, I wouldn’t see any shame in Microsoft copying this feature. Microsoft seems to be trying to do a better job of integrating its hardware and software, and has even begun to produce its own high-end hardware with the aforementioned range of Surface devices. But part of the reason this model works so well for Apple is that they have made software integration seamless across all devices, while Microsoft still has people using old unsupported software that came out years ago.
If Microsoft is trying to hide the fact that they are competing with Apple, they’re not doing a good job of it. That’s not to say that either company’s products are inherently better or worse, but if Microsoft want to avoid the comparison, they’re going to have to figure out a system that works. The free Windows 10 upgrade offer seemed like a good step, but the jury is out until we see what they have in store for this July…. when the offer ends.