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Why Is Windows 10 Free? "Free" lunch?

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Arthur, has been a freelance web-developer for about a decade now. Bachelor of Computer Science and Computational Math.

The Good Old Days

Not so long ago, to obtain a copy of Microsoft's Windows, we had to put around $200 on the table. If you refused to pay for serial number, sooner or later the system simply stopped working (of course, if you didn't have a steel hook instead of your arm, which was not appreciated anyways).

Current Situation

But nowadays, Microsoft gives away latest version of Windows for (kind of) free! When Windows 10 was just starting out, The Corporation allowed free upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8. And despite the fact that the campaign is over, anyone who wants to get Win10 up and running for free still can do this since official download is available for free.

Of course, you will be greeted by tiny restrictions such as "Activate your copy" alert on bottom right and changing wallpapers will be a bit of a headache but still, this is nothing compared to the "PROFIT".

Or is it?

Watermark in bottom right corner. Does not prevent the corner from mouse interaction.

Watermark in bottom right corner. Does not prevent the corner from mouse interaction.


Not really. If we look back at the history Windows OS family, we can see that users (mostly) don't have strong desire to switch to brand new version of operating system. So, IMO, one of the main reasons company is doing that is to engage as many users as possible and move them to new product. Moreover, Microsoft claims Windows 10 to be a latest major version hence it is more profitable for the company to have all the user base under the single wing.

OK, but how does Microsoft make money then?

You'd ask. They decided to take best practices from game developers, who release their products following Free-To-Play business model. Looking back, 4 years ago (2016) around 89 percent of people were using PC, when back then, in 1997, only 37 percent of users had personal computers in the first place.

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Such a big PC community allows Microsoft to partially earn its income via apps that are sold on Windows Store (new Microsoft's store introduced in Windows 8). The same way as Apple and Google do.

The Air We Breathe: Company's Ecosystem.

Let's take OneDrive cloud service as an example. OneDrive is a cloud storage created by Microsoft. Once user starts using this product (even on free plan) he most probably will be biased towards using M's products in future, since all products from Microsoft are parts of one whole ecosystem. Hence, XBox may be in favor (instead of PlayStation). "Microsoft Surface" tablets will become a go-to option instead of well-known iPad (which has proprietary Apple's cloud storage to be said). Creating whole digital ecosystem - one of the main goals of every digital company.

The Beauty Is In Details

Besides that, there are plenty of small things that allow Microsoft earn money with "free" Windows 10. For example, Bing - Microsoft's search engine - is now embedded into Start Menu thus leading to higher search traffic and user data collection for ads serving.

And talking about ads: OS shows you ads right in Windows interface (its own). This makes internal marketing possible, for example, you can see "Office 365" recommendations, which is a paid subscription option.

This solution is not considered an innovation. So called "Freemium" monetization model is actively taking its place under the sun. And as we can see, people seem to love it.

Bing inside Start Menu

Bing inside Start Menu

Though in theory you can physically use Windows 10 without providing Serial Number, it is important to obtain one in future and activate your copy to eliminate any legal consequences. Please read End User Agreement before using any software.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Arthur

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