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Windows 10 passes 20 percent share in the U.S.

Gregg Keizer | March 28, 2016
Free upgrade offer lasts another four months; then Microsoft will have to decide whether to keep giving 10 away or call the deal done.

"If they extend [the free deal] past July, they might as well as extend it forever," Miller said Friday. "The longer Windows 10 is free, the harder it becomes to end it. Microsoft is cognizant of that."

Miller pointed out that, while Microsoft pledged to give away Windows 10 upgrades to consumers running "Home" versions of Windows 7 and 8.1, and to businesses that rely on the "Professional" or "Pro" versions of those operating systems, it has continued to charge computer makers for licenses, and just as importantly, has not removed the price tag from "Enterprise," the SKU (stock-keeping unit) aimed at corporations.

Prolonging the free upgrade, whether to a later deadline -- which would raise questions about the likelihood of another extension -- or making Windows 10 upgrades free forever for a subset of the market -- would put the paid/not-paid contrast into even starker relief, stressing Microsoft's relationships with its OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners and enterprise customers. Those are the firm's bread and butter for Windows revenue.

One side effect: Even slower sales for PC manufacturers, which have been affected by the deal, as consumers and small businesses simply hold on to older systems rather than buy new devices.

Microsoft certainly has adoption as Job No. 1 for Windows 10, said Miller. "The end of all this, the most important piece for Microsoft, is adoption of the Universal Windows Platform," Miller acknowledged even as he said there were other considerations Microsoft had to keep in mind. "If OEMs are still paying for licenses, extending the free upgrade is a very odd and very concerning precedent."


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