Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for all users worldwide

Windows 10 logoSpeaking to Reuters from the WinHEC conference in China, Microsoft's operating system chief Terry Myerson said, "We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10." This means that everyone running Windows 7 or 8.1, irrespective of whether you pirated the operating system or not, will be allowed to upgrade to Windows 10.

It isn't clear if Myerson's comments only pertain to China, or to all Windows users worldwide. We have reached out to Microsoft for clarification, but haven't yet heard back. Myerson's wording certainly sounds like this will affect all Windows users worldwide.

Updated: ZDNet's Ed Bott got a response from a Microsoft spokesperson, confirming that the free upgrade path is indeed available for all pirates everywhere, and not just in China.

Updated again: A Microsoft spokesperson sent Ars a full statement about the situation. The wording is interesting: "With Windows 10, although non-Genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license... If a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade." This story has been updated to reflect that you don't get a legitimate copy of Windows 10.

Updated again, again: We asked Microsoft for clarification on the material implications of having a "non-genuine" free upgrade to Windows 10, and got a "no comment" in response.

As you may have heard before, Microsoft has long had an issue with Windows piracy, especially in developing markets. Back in 2011, then-CEO Steve Ballmer estimated that only 10 percent of users in China were actually paying for Microsoft software. Rather famously, one of the main reasons that Windows XP had such a massive share of the desktop market for so many years was due to rampant piracy in China. A more recent study by the BSA says that 74 percent of commercial software in China is unlicensed.

But now, according to Myerson, it's time to "re-engage" with Chinese users of Windows—and that means a free upgrade to Windows 10, even if you're a pirate. We don't yet know how this program will be implemented, but presumably it's an extension of the previously announced program, which will see Microsoft offer free upgrades to Windows 10 during the first year of availability.

Windows 10 shipping this summer, increasing presence in China

The arrival of Windows 10 heralds a different way of doing business for Microsoft. While Windows licenses have historically been a huge source of income for Microsoft, it's now moving towards a more service-based model; instead of a large up-front license cost for Windows, Microsoft will instead leverage services such as Skype, Office 365, and Software Assurance subscriptions. For this new modus operandi to be successful, it's very important that Microsoft gets everyone onto the same common platform—Windows 10—rather than a bunch of fractured, older operating systems. A free upgrade across the board, including an armistice with the pirates, will be very effective at moving everyone to Windows 10.

Speaking at the WinHEC conference yesterday, Myerson said that Windows 10 would be released "this summer" in 190 countries and 111 languages. He also announced that the Chinese companies Tencent and Qihu 360 would be giving away Windows 10 for free to its customers.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Microsoft, OSes, Windows 10

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