Microsoft showed off its latest Windows
operating system—Windows 10—today at a
media event. (It also revealed 3D “hologram”
goggles ( http://qz.com/330837/microsoft-wants-us-all-to-play-with-holograms/ ) and a
new web browser ( http://qz.com/330846/with-its-new-spartan-browser-microsoft-tries-to-move-past-internet-explorers-checkered-legacy/ ) .)
One of the more surprising Windows 10 features
the company announced was its price: zero.
Specifically, an upgrade to Windows 10 will be
free for 12 months after it launches later this
year for people using Windows 7 or Windows 8,
its two most recent releases.
Why? Because Microsoft simply needs as many
people as possible using Windows 10. This is
* Several of its new features—including apps
that run on Windows PCs, smartphones, and
Xboxes ( http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2015/01/microsoft-announces-xbox-app-for-windows-10/ ) —will only truly succeed
if Windows 10 is widely adopted. Windows 8, its
previous version, wasn’t.
* Software developers—who have focused on
Apple’s iOS, Google Android, and the web—stand
to get more excited about Windows 10 if it has
* Meanwhile, Apple—which offers free OS
updates for Macs, iPhones, and iPads—has
been steadily gaining market share ( http://qz.com/325538/apple-may-have-just-set-another-mac-sales-record/ ) .
Microsoft makes most of its Windows
money when people buy new PCs with Windows
pre-loaded. So while it will miss out on some
sales by making this upgrade free, it won’t be a
big change. (Microsoft shares closed down 1%
on the day.)
The more Windows users it has, the more
Microsoft will also be able to sell other Windows
services, including Office 365 subscriptions, Skype premium services, or cloud
storage. Executives repeatedly referred to
Windows 10 as a “service” today—not just
software in a box.
More pressing: The big-picture story is that
Microsoft has lost its dominance ( http://qz.com/330063/here-comes-microsofts-pitch-explaining-why-its-still-relevant/ ) of the
broader computer market as smartphones and
tablets—almost entirely powered by Apple and
Google software—have taken over the industry.
Making Windows 10 “free” for a year to boost
adoption is the least Microsoft can do for its
long-term relevance. A smart move by CEO
Satya Nadella, who must take big steps to move Microsoft forward.
Read this next: This is the difference between
Microsoft and Apple ( http://qz.com/330921/this-is-the-difference-between-microsoft- and-
Author : Dan Frommer