The free upgrade offer, then, is a one-shot to get consumers and some small businesses onto Windows 10. What happens after that is unclear: Microsoft has declined to detail future plans -- not unusual for any technology company -- about how long customers will receive free support for the new OS and what happens when it eventually moves beyond 10.
Microsoft will thus continue to be the only major OS maker to try to make a buck from its consumer-grade software, and will keep bucking the trend towards free that was established in mobile -- a trend Microsoft joined last year by giving away its smartphone operating system to device manufacturers -- and expanded by Apple in 2013 when it took OS X free.
Analysts have repeatedly pointed out the difficulty any vendor, even Microsoft, faces in making money from an operating system in a world where OSes are handed out free, as is Google's Android, or packaged with proprietary hardware, as is Apple's iOS.
CEO Satya Nadella has significantly transformed many aspects of Microsoft's monetization -- the company now largely gives away its consumer productivity software on mobile and has a host of also-free services -- and he and other executives have repeatedly talked about how Windows' revenue strategy must, and will, change.
But he was either unwilling, or unable, to step into free wholeheartedly. That will continue to make Microsoft the odd-vendor-out.
Old habits, hard deaths.
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