The one-year free upgrade possibility to Windows 10 is about to come to an end. On July 29th, one full year has passed since the launch in 2015, and after July 29th, the operating system is set to cost $119 if you wish to upgrade then. But will Windows 10 really cost $119 to upgrade?
The goal for Microsoft was to have 1 billion users in the second to third year of launch. At the end of March, over 270 million users had upgraded to Windows 10 or purchased a new computer with the operating system. So it is not unlikely, that by July 29th, Windows will have achieved a third of its goal – meaning it were just about on track to reach its goal in the three year timeframe.
But without the free upgrade, especially Windows 7 users will not be compelled to obtain the newest operating system (especially after they have refrained to do so for a whole year). Additionally, it is doubtful that Microsoft will keep the momentum up it had during launch – in the first month alone, Windows 10 was installed 75 million times. It is not unlikely that the monthly installs will decrease more over time.
So should Microsoft make Windows 10 free for a longer period of time (or keep it free completely)?
Microsoft would make itself uncredible if it did so. Why would anyone preorder any Microsoft product anymore if there were the chance that Microsoft would lower the price in the last minute? There have been speculations that Microsoft would keep the upgrade free, but that is unrealistic.
If Microsoft does not reach its install target in the timeframe it set itself, it is not the end of the world. The target was very bold in the first place, so the chances of it being met were not that huge anyway.
Possibility for a freemium operating system?
What would be interesting to see if Microsoft considers another option. What has not really been done before would be a freemium operating system model. Of course it would be quite difficult to implement, and also difficult to convey to customers, but let’s entertain the thought for a minute.
The core of the operating system would, of course, be free. And it should of course remain functional. The typical incentives that freemium apps use are not going to work. No person wants to be limited in their usage (e.g. only 20 emails from Outlook per day) when on the computer.
But what is possible is doing something similar to Google Drive. Windows is moving towards the cloud as well, so extra storage space online would be a nice feature people may be willing to pay for. The convenience of Google Docs is also something Microsoft has recognized. So the idea is not that far fetched. Depending on the usage, extra storage space might cost a bit more. Additional file security would be convenient as well, and definitely something users are seeking, now that more and more data is stored remotely on servers, instead of on the local drive.
Another possibility for Microsoft to monetize its operating system could be premium add-ons and updates. Some functionalities of the operating system are really only necessary for a small part of users. For example, Microsoft has the command terminal, but also Powershell. Powershell is a more advanced command terminal, and is intended more for experienced users. The type of features which most users do not really need could be subject to payment. The example with the command terminal is certainly not ideal, since there are a number of open source operating systems out there which developers would favor because they are completely free. But encryption could be an example of a feature which not all users are using, but those who do would probably pay for it.