Microsoft stealthily backs away from free Windows 10 promise

Windows 10 logoOn Friday, Microsoft described a way for anyone to get Windows 10 for free: activated, genuine, and updated forever. We wrote at the time that we expected the company to do a volte-face and back away from this promise. Lo and behold, it has come to pass.

Since Friday, the blog post describing the changes to the Windows Insider preview program has been silently updated. Previously it said that signed up members of the Insider Program running a preview version would "receive the Windows 10 final release build and remain activated." Now it says only that they will "receive the Windows 10 final release build." The activation wording has been removed. The company has also added a "clarifying" sentence: "It's important to note that only people running Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 can upgrade to Windows 10 as part of the free upgrade offer." This is in contrast to what the company said on Friday, when Microsoft's Gabe Aul confirmed that upgraded preview copies would be Genuine.

So what does this all mean? The main thing it means is that we're not expecting clear communication from Microsoft about licensing any time soon. We don't imagine that there will be any technical difference: we expect that as previously described, Windows 10 installed via the preview will activate and show as genuine. It should be fully functional (no "non-genuine" watermark on the desktop or anything like that), and essentially indistinguishable from any other Windows 10 installation.

However, the positioning has changed. On Friday, this method of getting Windows 10 had a veneer of officialness to it. It was an explicitly documented way of getting Windows 10 that was activated and genuine for free. It isn't any more. That doesn't mean it won't work, but it's no longer completely above-board and officially authorized. This doesn't really matter to hobbyists and other home users who just want a free Windows for their self-built PC; that few million users will be able to sneakily get a free copy of Windows 10. But it does matter to corporations and organizations—groups who might be subject to a software audit. They won't be able to tell Microsoft "Oh yeah, we got Genuine copies of Windows by upgrading from the preview." And that's what Microsoft really cares about.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Microsoft, OSes, Windows 10

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