Pirates get Windows 10 for free! Pirates don’t get Windows 10 for free! Arrr! But seriously, why would Microsoft give away Windows 10 for free?
These questions, and many more, have been buzzing around lately, thanks to a plethora of recent reports that indicate Microsoft is planning to allow just about anyone to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. And, no, this doesn’t appear to be a grand misunderstanding on pundits’ parts. This news came straight from Microsoft itself.
“We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of operating systems, in an interview with Reuters.
However, there now appears to be some confusion as to what kind of a Windows 10 experience unlicensed upgraders will be able to get.
According Ars Technica, Microsoft representatives have indicated that those with pirated copies of previous Windows versions will be able to upgrade to Windows 10, but the Windows 10 they get will be considered an “unofficial” version.
“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,” Microsoft said in a statement.
This clarification may have come following chatter by some folks that it would make sense to install an unlicensed version of Windows now, just to get (previously presumed to be) bona fide Windows 10 later.
As for what having a non-genuine version of Windows 10 will mean, Microsoft didn’t clarify. It seems likely there will be some kind of restrictions in place for those who end up with non-legit Windows 10, but it’s complete speculation at this point as to what, exactly, Microsoft might be considering.
Perhaps the upgrade itself will only allow a person to tap into a “lite” version of Windows 10—one that contains basic functionality, but doesn’t allow a person to do everything he or she would want without that genuine activation in place. Perhaps some kind of “annoyance factor” will come into play, similar to how non-genuine copies of Windows 8, for example, annoy you into paying for a real copy via constant reminders, your desktop background turning black, or an inability to access non-critical updates.
Perhaps Microsoft might even cut you off from access to the Window Store or the Xbox Video Store—preventing you from downloading games, apps, or accessing any kind of media that you’ve otherwise purchased through Microsoft (less likely as Redmond probably wouldn’t want to turn away customers).
All that said, many think that Microsoft’s decision to offer free upgrades to Windows 10, limited or otherwise, is a move to get more people hooked into the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft might be willing to take a hit on OS upgrade costs if it can lock more people into using Windows for all their apps, games, and media needs.