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Windows 10 upgrade to be 'free' for one year (bbc.co.uk)
146 points by secfirstmd on Jan 21, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 73 comments

Guys arguing about what "free for a year" means, be aware they DID specify this and if you think they haven't communicated it, you probably weren't there!

"For the first year after Windows 10 is available, we will be making available a free upgrade to Windows 10 for all devices running Windows 8.1. Once a device is upgraded to Windows 10, we'll be keeping it current for the supported lifetime for the device."

If that's not clear enough for you, I don't know what to say! Furthermore the actual public awareness campaign hasn't started (this announcement came two hours ago, remember) so chill out for a second before calling something a poor job of communicating. They have a limited time to show off a huge amount of features including a goddamn top-secret holographic VR helmet, plus the details on the release aren't even ironed out yet, so if they didn't spend an extra five minutes drilling down on the release strategy (8 months away at this point) you're going to have to forgive them.

Here's the smallprint from the page on their current Windows 10 promo site[1]:

> It is our intent that most of these devices will qualify, but some hardware/software requirements apply and feature availability may vary by device. Devices must be connected to the internet and have Windows Update enabled. ISP fees may apply. Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update required. Some editions are excluded: Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1. Active Software Assurance customers in volume licensing have the benefit to upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise outside of this offer. We will be sharing more information and additional offer terms in coming months.

1: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10/about

No RT! That's harsh, but the truth is dropping RT like a bad habit is the best thing they could do. Sucks for anyone who bought a copy on a cheap tablet, though.

RT would have been amazing if they had been able to create an x86/64 emulator. Even if it ran 50% slower than on a native CPU and even if it ate battery like crazy at least it would have given the platform a nice back-catalogue.

Instead not only did RT have virtually no software on it, but Microsoft went out of their way to make it "impossible" to build ARM-native software for it without essentially hacking into your own system.

Microsoft set RT on the road to ruin from almost day one. It is unsurprising that they're pulling the plug. I will say when they announced the Surface Pro 3 without a Surface RT 3, the writing was on the wall as far as end of life...

Or supported Win32 API which would have brought with it a number of open source and free applications, such as VLC, OpenOffice.org, AbiWord (smaller, so more suited to RT), and Firefox.

It seems that Microsoft is working on a new UI for Office which will eliminate the need for Win32 support on devices such as RT in the future.

At the same time they restrict what native applications can do on Metro devices, which limits the usefulness of existing codebases and forces Metro tablets to start over without the long time catalog of Windows software.

Engadget is reporting that RT will also be included


Meh, I got a cheap tablet that has done me good for what I wanted it to do. I don't expect something like that to stay up to day with technology when I buy it.

Windows proper won't run on Windows RT hardware, so this was kind of a given.

No one is dropping RT. RT is being moved INTO your desktop and taking it over. Just look at the list of services running on your win8.whatever.

Erm, vaguely the same amount that are visible in taskmgr/services.msc in Windows 7. I'm running the 10 Preview now and the "RT" part (Metro, I presume) is much less intrusive.

Really, your Windows 7 runs TimeBroker service? There is over 20 services and tasks with sole purpose of supporting Metro/RT crapfest, something nobody asked for nor wants.

The part that confuses me, and that I hope they sufficiently clarify, is that I run my (rarely used) copy of Windows in a VM. So I can move that VM from one machine to another as I upgrade my hardware. This seems to route around their "supported lifetime for the device" language, as they are most likely relying on eventual hardware obsolescence and continued income from OEM installs. But in a sense I'm evading that by moving the VM from one laptop with Linux pre-installed to another.

As far as I am aware, installing Windows in a VM has always been allowed by their license (although they tried to limit this in some way in the past and eventually backtracked, around the time of Vista if I recall). Will they attempt to return to such restrictions, or simply write people like me off as an extremely small portion of their install base from which they do not expect to extract further revenue?

Take a snapshot of the VM and reset it to that point when the free trial period expires. They have you do this with their official VM's for IE testing.

But this isn't a free trial period. My understanding is that if you upgrade in the first year then you have a fully licensed version of Windows for the lifetime of the "device". But what is the lifetime of a virtual machine?

Until you delete the VM. The VM is a software device. [EDIT] Or the virtualization software stops being able to run your VM.

> we'll be keeping it current for the supported lifetime for the device.

My question is: what exactly is the "supported lifetime for the device?"

Is this "supported lifetime" defined by the manufacturer's warranty? The original OS date of installation? Something else?

You're thinking too hard.

It means if you install Windows 10 during the free period, it will be as if you bought a normal Windows license.

Do you have a source for this, or is it just your assumption?

"Supported lifetime for the device" does not necessarily mean "supported lifetime for Windows 10." Although your interpretation may be correct, they have (intentionally or otherwise) used ambiguous wording in how they describe this.

That's not what they said though. That's what they want you to understand.

If they meant that, they would have said that. There's a reason they chose the language they did.

That's what they mean. You are listening/reading into it too much. Every Windows has a number of years for support, and this number can change. The number has never decreased and has only increased in the past because people/companies were too slow at getting rid of old Windows (e.g. Windows XP). We do not know what the actual number of years Microsoft is going to support for Windows 10, but I bet it's going to be around 10 years just like other Windows.

Check http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle for the current list of Windows.

It's not the price of Windows that was keeping people from adopting Windows 8. It's the irrelevancy and the fact that corporations don't see the ROI. The time it would take to upgrade their company isn't worth the gains, which are minimal.

Unless Windows 10 proves to be a massive improvement in performance or usability, I suspect it's uptake will be just as anemic, free or not.

What prevented companies from updating was the bastardized UI requiring retraining and extra IT support. I don't think Windows 10 necessarily needs a huge improvement. Companies will either update when they upgrade the physical computers and the new ones happen to come with Windows 10, or when some crucial piece of software drops support for 7. They won't actively avoid 10 or downgrade like some did for 8.

All Windows 10 needs is the option to make the UI look and behave the same as Windows 95 to 7. Do that, and the enterprise world will adopt it.

The upgrade isn't "free" for most companies, kinda.

If they're a small business and use OEM installed copies of Windows and those OEM copies are Pro or lower then, yes, they get a free upgrade.

If it comes with Enterprise OEM they won't get the upgrade, and if they are on a volume licence (which most companies, even medium sized are) then they won't get a free upgrade and will instead need Software Assurance (subscription upgrades).

Many companies upgrade because of non-obvious benefits, namely how newer versions of Windows ineract with Active Directory, WDS, WUS, and similar. Every version of Windows comes with new and sometimes impressive enterprise features that consumers just rarely notice.

For example, go here[0] and look at the Enterprise column. It is these types of things that are what gets enterprise excited, not how pretty alt-tab looks or if it has Cortana.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_8_editions

I haven't used Windows in 10+ years, so I've got some questions for those who are smarter than me on the subject of Windows:

Does it come with package management yet? Can I easily avoid DLL hell these days? Can I add my own local repository and use it to maintain a fleet of workstations, making sure they always have the same configuration no matter what?

Is it easily possible to connect to a Windows machine and administer it from a command line/scripting environment? Can I disable the GUI and use Windows without tying up resources for unneeded functionality - i.e. no graphics card required?

Is all of this onboard, or does some/most of it require the involvement of a 3rd-party add-on? If its not onboard, can I validate that 3rd-party with signed keys? Is there an onboard key agent that will make this possible?

Is there an easy way to get a compiler onboard without requiring registration and so on, or does it ship with development tools already set up and configured? Are these tools usable without requiring GUI involvement - i.e. remotely?

These are earnest questions, I honestly don't know. If the majority of the answers are in the affirmative, then I'll give Windows 10 a try - it would make a nice change from what I've gotten used to with my Linux machine.

> Does it come with package management yet?

No. There is the Windows Store (all or most Metro apps, GUI) and things like NuGet for Visual Studio, but that's not what you're looking for. There are third-party solutions.

[EDIT: See sibling comments; W10 adds one.]

> Can I easily avoid DLL hell these days?

DLL Hell is no longer a concern. It's not a matter of avoiding it, it won't happen except perhaps in very unusual edge cases I'm not familiar with.

> Can I add my own local repository and use it to maintain a fleet of workstations, making sure they always have the same configuration no matter what?

You can do this. This is one reason Windows is so big in enterprise.

> Is it easily possible to connect to a Windows machine and administer it from a command line/scripting environment?


> Can I disable the GUI and use Windows without tying up resources for unneeded functionality - i.e. no graphics card required?

In Server 2012 onwards, the GUI is optional.

> If its not onboard, can I validate that 3rd-party with signed keys? Is there an onboard key agent that will make this possible?

I am not 100% on what you want, but yes, Windows executables are commonly signed and that is integrated with the OS.

> Is there an easy way to get a compiler onboard without requiring registration and so on, or does it ship with development tools already set up and configured?

Windows does not ship with a compiler or other developer tools installed. You can install Visual Studio 2013 Community Edition, which has all the features of Professional Edition, for free and without registration (afaik - I'm doing it right now, so if I'm wrong, I'll edit). You can of course install all the free-software development tools you want. Most tools support Windows reasonably well.

> Are these tools usable without requiring GUI involvement - i.e. remotely?

Yes, although most people don't do so. I've only fiddled around. I've heard that manually fiddling with msbuild is actually more pleasant than using the GUI.

>You can install Visual Studio 2013 Community Edition,

If you prefer to use the compiler and build system at the command line and you're only interested in managed development (i.e., C#), you can download the Microsoft Build tools package[1], which contains the compilers and MSBuild for headless development.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=4493...

>> Are these tools usable without requiring GUI involvement - i.e. remotely?

Yes, I do most of my building on the command line. Editing, of course, is in VS, but I've also had fine success with Vim.

This is completely pedantic and adds nothing to the discussion, but 2008 R2 added Core Mode, rather than 2012. 2012 continues it however.

Otherwise your post is great.

Thanks for taking the time to reply - it seems that Windows is not quite caught up with the usability/experience that I've become accustomed to with Linux after 15+ years. I might take some time to learn about Windows 10 when its released, but it appears that it may not be worth the hassle ... I'm a Linux/embedded developer and have become quite accustomed to the serviceability of Linux. I think, based on your response, I would probably end up just getting frustrated with Windows.

I can answer a few:

Package management: Yes[0]

DLLs: Do not know

Local Repository: Seems to be a part of package management based on things I've seen

Command line/scripting: Powershell has been around for a while now and is quite good, but a very different idiom than UNIX shell[1].

Disable GUI: Don't believe so, but can't say for sure

Onboard: The above is all native

Easy compiler: unsure.



>Can I easily avoid DLL hell these days?

DLL hell was replaced by >20GB WinSxS directory. Every version of every single DLL, regardless if you ever used or will use one. Stored forever, with no usage stats, no mechanism of trimming, no archive option for never used ones. Introduced just in time to fill ~$40 worth of SSD with data that will NEVER EVER be read again.

> Does it come with package management yet?

Not really

> Can I easily avoid DLL hell these days?

Yes, it just stores every version on the drive, seems to work

> Can I add my own local repository and use it to maintain a fleet of workstations, making sure they always have the same configuration no matter what?

For free? not easily.

> Is it easily possible to connect to a Windows machine and administer it from a command line/scripting environment?

Powershell does a lot more on this front

> Can I disable the GUI and use Windows without tying up resources for unneeded functionality - i.e. no graphics card required?

Considering Windows Server Core still has a GUI? no.

> does it ship with development tools already set up and configured?


Thanks - so it seems Windows is not competitive with my 15+ years of experience with Linux. I would have thought that would have changed by now, but I guess its just different.

I would have upgraded several of my machines to Windows 8 if it wasn't for the price. I already have a bunch of Windows 7 licenses.

I got an 8 upgrade when offered it for 20$. It was worth the price.

Microsoft has always had seperate enterprise and consumer pricing for Windows. This is an announcement about consumer pricing. So... consumer pricing won't affect enterprise adoption. We already knew that, though.

Users in general don't upgrade unless forced, because non-technical folks are conservative. All of Microsoft's competition have encouraged (free) updates in one way or another, with much less regard towards backwards compatibility. This also creates expectations for developers, assuming that a majority will upgrade in a timely manner, therefore users feel compelled to upgrade otherwise their favorite apps may stop being supported for their current OS.

Microsoft's biggest enemy is the old Microsoft that took years to update Windows XP and IExplorer 6. And then Vista happened, which brought no improvements, except a flawed and annoying security model, bloat and instability. And do I even need to rant on 8.0? So it's no wonder that users lost their appetite for updates.

However, I believe there is serious room for improvement in how we use our computers, especially our PCs. However that line on a single OS for all devices doesn't sound good to me, because there are fundamental differences between the devices in question and I hope that Microsoft will do more than marketing gimmicks and interfaces meant for tablets being shown on large screens that have keyboards.

Vista bought no improvements? BTW, I think always notify for UAC is a better idea anyway.

If the negatives outweigh the positives, would there be improvements?

I think most companies like to be up to date as long as the move is at least lateral. I think the problem with windows 8 was that it was largely seen as a downgrade. Nobody really liked the new features or wanted them. If Windows 10 isn't worse than Windows 7, I think people will upgrade.

The price is what was keeping me from upgrading my personal PC running Windows 7.

Even if price wasn't the main problem that prevented adoption, it's the problem with the easiest and most obvious solution: make it free. So it's a good thing they addressed it.

Windows 10 looks pretty awesome. And if you like me down graded to an android phone from a pretty good old windows 7.8 phone you'll realize that the voice recognition stuff on android hardly works. I use a nexus 4 which is too new to change again, but I hate that I can't reply to texts with the headset. Yeah I know there is probably an app out there and probably a mode. I didn't figure it out. Win 7.8 phone did it automatically and switches off when you turned the headset off. So the Cortana feature looks even more amazing to me. One note that I've realized the voice rec on the latest version of Android works acutally pretty good now. It's been like 4 years. And still doesn't work great with the headset. All apps on android are scary since they want all kinds of access to contacts, messages, phone. Oh boy, I can't install anything because I'm too afraid of what it might do with that access. I only really trust the native stuff.

What I wonder is how they plan to monetize free windows 10 as a service. I'm not going to be happy if I find it's another yearly fee like Office 365. I searched forever to find a legit activatable copy of office 2010 to avoid that.

> What I wonder is how they plan to monetize free windows 10 as a service.

I've seen no reports of free Windows 10 at all, just free upgrades in the first year of release from older Windows versions (so that Windows 10 rapidly builds an install base, rapidly becomes a target for developers, and therefore becomes more attractive as a new purchase due to the software built for it.)

Supposedly the big money has never been in Windows licenses. For example, Office is a big money-maker for them. So it is in their interests to have everyone run Windows, even if they don't get license revenue.

Hearsay though.

Windows licenses is a big money maker, but nearly all of it comes from OEM installations and enterprise customers. Few people shell out for upgrading their old computer, they tend to run what came installed on it.

They should just merge the consumer versions of windows and office together. Cut the subscription plan and make it reasonably expensive even for OEMs. This would let them differentiate themselves from Chrome OS and retain all their old Office customers.

I don't think this free upgrade is much of a shock.

People who bought a Windows XP machine in 2001 enjoyed 6+ years of free OS upgrades from Microsoft. Likewise, people who buy a Mac enjoy 5+ years of free OS upgrades from Apple.

If Microsoft wants to shift into a yearly release cycle and they don't give away the updates to their existing customers then they're essentially charging for service packs, which won't fly.

It's not a shock but it's outside the norm for Microsoft. Typically you do not get free upgrades from one version of Windows to the next.

You can free updates to your current version. But never a free upgrade to the next major version.

WinXP users enjoyed six plus years of free updates to WinXP.

I don't see this type of release from Microsoft changing their update/upgrade model. They're just doing it as a means to push the user base harder to transition and possibly as a small admittance of the screw-up over Win8.

Apple, on the other hand, went from cheap upgrades to free upgrades over the last few versions of OS X. It's not the same thing as Microsoft's release pattern.

Let's be a little honest, though - this is a spectacular rebrand for 8.2, along with large user-visible changes (not forcing Metro) and some cool backend stuff. A lot of this stuff was originally going to be in the second service pack for 8.1, if I remember correctly (most distinctively, the start menu returning).

They've said themselves that they needed to get away from the stigma that is associated with 8.* - and that's great. Charging for it would be a bit harsh.

Well, sure, it's like what happened with going from Vista to Win7. But since they are mostly a software company I don't have much issue with them having a business model that makes them money, and that involves charging for software.

Does it mean that if you do the free upgrade, once the year is over you'll have to pay to continue using it? Or does it mean instead that the upgrade will be free for the first year, and if you want to upgrade after that it'll cost you?

From what I understood from the video it means you get the chance to upgrade within a year of release. They also said you'll be receiving automated updates for the supported life time of the device (whatever that means)

They've done a really poor job of communicating that.

The free upgrade for one year thing is fairly cut and dry. However what they meant by that "we'll support updates for the lifetime of the device" is completely meaningless and confusing. As opposed to what they've been doing until now..?

Also they keep on talking about "Windows as a service" with zero clarification on what that means. Is Windows becoming a paid subscription? Is that just meaningless marketing speak?

I'll say this, Microsoft has a bad track record of making these events 50% longer than they should be and filing in the gaps with marketing department nonsense that doesn't mean anything. There were some bits of that that were simply cringe and or a huge time waster.

Some fruit-named company do these presentations better. They're still better than Google however...

I agree that the language "This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no additional charge." found on Terry Myerson's blog ( http://blogs.windows.com/bloggingwindows/2015/01/21/the-next... ) is troubling at worst and confusing at best.

Since when does Microsoft decide what the "supported lifetime of the device" is? All of my devices running Windows were hand built by me from best-of-breed components that I frequently swap out.

I could see it making sense if it was for the supported lifetime of Windows 10 because that at least is something where Microsoft should be expected to define a final end of support date. But that is not what it says, and even that would be odd...Microsoft is going to either turn off my OS when they decide to no longer support it, or make me start paying to use it at that point?

Makes no sense any way you slice it, at least as currently (poorly) communicated.

What do you mean they've done a poor job communicating it? It sounds like you have it down perfectly. You get the upgrade for free within one year of release, just like you could get Windows 8 for a reduced price for a limited time. But it's not free for a year then pay for it, it's free, full stop, if you upgrade within a year. And after that year, you're not going to get charged for updates. Yes, it's different from how they did it before, because this time it's free. In the past, it was "buy it for $200, then free updates". This time it's free, with free updates.

Plus, the press event was like an hour ago, with the release date several months from now. No one is rushing out to buy it at the stores right now. There's time for you to be less confused.

As opposed to what they've been doing until now..?

My interpretation is that Windows 10 will by the last 'version' of Windows, in other words, that there won't be a Windows 11. So, for as long as you own the device, Windows will be supported on it.

Sounds more like a year long trial period as you never seem to quite own the "free" copy.

Not exactly what loyal Windows 7 and 8 users would have wanted (a real free lifetime copy), but a genuine step in the right direction.

You never "own" software in the first place. But yes the license is perpetual for whichever device(s) you activate it on.

Probably they are changing business plan to take 25-30% of each app ever sold for the OS instead of just charging for the OS itself.

Finally, you do not have to port your app to all devices.

And hopefully you, as a user will be able to control how much access each app has to the computer.

Imagine buying a new smart-phone with lets say Android, then you install Windows 10 on it instead and everything just works.

The only problem I see is that they need to make the SDK easier for me to start making native apps instead of web apps. Especially the UI part.

Can someone explain why it would only be free for the first year? To spur adoption? It just seems like more trouble than it's worth to start charging people for it sometime in the future.

For 1 year from release it is free to migrate from 7/8 -> 10.

After 1 year from release you must pay to migrate from 7/8 -> 10.

Regardless of when you migrate, system upgrades are included for the lifetime of the device.

This is a push to get everyone onto the new platform and jumpstart the ecosystem.

A forcing function to get people to move to it quickly. Microsoft traditionally has had trouble in getting people to adopt new versions of their software (IE6 ring a bell? XP still has an 18% market share worldwide, despite being 13 years old). This will hopefully make people adopt it quicker.

Ever since Amazon Web Services nothing has ever been the same. Maybe one day we'll all go back to actually "owning" the software we buy instead of just timed licenses and logins.

You haven't owned software for a while, long before anyone every thought of AWS.

Remember XP having to be re-authorized if you changed too much hardware? It was before then too.

I wonder if they'll let the (vast number of) pirated versions of Windows 7/8 participate in the free upgrade program. It'd be an interesting change to the dynamic of Windows.

Especially in emerging world markets, where it's often impossible to buy a legitimate copy of Win 7/8 even when you want to.

I would be a bit surprised if they did. The $14.99 Win7 -> Win8 upgrade they offered for a while required validation of your old product key. Still, MS has changed quite a bit in the last few years, so it's hard to say.

I doubt it, but anyway if you pirated your Windows 7, you can pirate your Windows 10 too...

Clippy: I heard no one likes our phone OS, so we are going to put it on your desktop for FREE, arent you glad? Metro squares for everyone!

Actually, a lot of people who have an WP 8 phone do like the OS a lot.

I know I do at least.

I doubt the OS was ever an issue.

The issue was the lack of applications for the OS.

Or more importantly the lack of quality of the apps that do exist. As a part time WP8 user I've never really suffered from a lack of apps, but I often find that the apps that are there never live up to the quality and finish of equivalent apps on Android. Don't get me wrong, they're all fine and all get the job done, but never quite as nicely as on Android (or iOS).

The only exception where the Nokia Here navigation apps.

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