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Is Windows 10 Really 'Free'? – Consider Before Upgrading

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If you’re like me and running an older version of Windows, the promised Windows 10 free update that Microsoft promised for users on Windows 7 and 8 is seriously tempting. The update is official and planned by Microsoft, and simply requires a 3.8GB download and installation. However, each new OS comes with it’s own risks and rewards, and as a general rule of thumb all ‘free’ products should be taken with a grain of salt. This article is meant to keep you up with the latest information about Windows 10 and why it is important to look into the future of Microsoft as a company before you make any decisions to upgrade.

What does Windows 10 offer?

Compared to it’s predecessors, Windows 10 offers a significant decrease in OS startup time. For users who have clean and maintained disk drives, this should not make much difference, but if you are someone who faces a lot of clutter then Windows 10 can ultimately increase efficiency.

There’s also some new features to boost file management. Storage Spaces is a feature in Windows 10 that allows you to group multiple hard drives together to form a single logical drive. If you have more than one HDD on your computer, it can be a pain to look for files across multiple drives. Windows 10 can support multiple levels of drive redundancy and unlike a RAID it supports drives of different sizes.

Gamers will find that Windows 10 offers little to increase gaming performance with DirectX 12, however there are a few features that Microsoft have launched specifically for the Xbox. Aside from being able to access the XBOX Live account, another interesting feature is that you will be able to stream your Xbox One gameplay to a Windows 10 laptop and control your gaming device from another room. Although this does not free up the TV to be used for other purposes, it does allow you to play your XBOX in another location in your home without having to disturb others in the same living space (such as the bedroom).

Multi-monitor support is also available for people who like to work across different screens. Each screen can act as an individual virtual screen that can have different slideshows and backgrounds. Pictures can be spread across the entirety of the multiple screens, or Windows 10 users could opt to have their monitors chained together and have only one taskbar spread across them.

Additionally, notifications have now been grouped together to bring it all to one place on the desktop, emulating the success of OS’s such as Mac OSX. The design includes notifications from a variety of apps and an ability to check the history.

Looks good, but should I really upgrade?

 

It’s a fair question when compared to older systems such as Windows 7, there are clearly many beneficial upgrades. However, Microsoft has been known to make very effective use of fine-line print to push sales when people least expect it. Think about this way – the majority of the profits that Microsoft actually receive from Windows 10 are from corporations and new computer units that come pre-equipped with the software. They don’t actually make much money from a software upgrade, and even if they do it’s a miniscule part of their operations.

Providing people with a ‘free’ upgrade is a smart marketing move and strategically positions Windows 10 as a competitor against other popular operating systems. The problem fundamentally remains, that the product itself is free. When something is NOT free, we can more easily see the reasoning behind the logic. The company invests in creating a product, and expects a return by persuading the user to purchase the product and enjoy it’s benefits. However, similar to many methods of Internet Marketing, free products do not always stay free.

One suspicion that has been prevailing on the Internet recently of Microsoft’s move to make Windows 10 permanently free for Windows 7 and 8 users is that they will eventually start moving to a subscription based service. As illogical as this sounds, Windows is still the primary operating system of a myriad of home users around the world. How would they be able to compete, and why would anyway pay for such a service?

Take a look at Adobe. After many years of successfully building a brand, and having everyone use Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and their whole creative suite, people began to like the products enough to actually start to rely on them. This same principle applies to heavy-use operating systems, and Microsoft isn’t threatened by competition other than a select few rivals. Windows still remains the ‘original’ operating system that has a loyal fanbase, and dedicated contributors still invest in this company all over the world. Imagine now if Microsoft decided to place a subscription service – with enough quality, and enough feedback, they can effectively redefine their strategic position and increase fan base. The reality is, making the switch by investing to another OS that is incompatible for your daily needs (gaming on MAC OSX?) is a hindrance!

Now what about all the pirated copies, frustration with Windows 8, XP users who are pulling a lot of resources away from Microsoft’s development? Windows 10 seems like a very easy answer to all of that. By placing something free in front of the table as a solution to all these problems, Microsoft effectively takes all the negativity that is placed towards it’s products and uses Windows 10 as a rallying point in order to show itself in a new light. Why bother pirating when something is completely free anyway? This undoubtedly will convert many would-be-piraters to Microsoft’s legitimate marketing plan, and thus increase their userbase. Mind you, there is no guarantee that an upgrade would work for pirated copies, although it would be easy enough for someone to port the upgrade and install it on other operating systems with no real reprecussions (since it’s a free upgrade anyway).

The ultimate question is once Microsoft has millions of upgraded Windows 10 users locked-in to their new flagship, what happens next? The danger is the question of whether or not we will be able to trust Microsoft to hold true to it’s promises. Although Microsoft has generally proven to be a reputable company, it is always a risk to trust something that you do not fully have control over. Although the case is different for many non-profit organisations, Microsoft is a company that is operating based on profit. To see them release an OS that is ‘Free’ means that they will have to generate their income elsewhere, or else expect us to believe that they developed a system purely for the sake of innovation. While it could be true that Microsoft are simply looking to build a fanbase, it is worth noting that we do not truly know where Microsoft is going beyond Windows 10.

All that being said, the Windows 10 update is available, and there will be people who decide to upgrade regardless. For those who are more cautious about the upgrade, it is also acceptable to sit on older operating systems and watch how it unfolds. Microsoft has flunked before, and investing into a system that you depend upon without fully understanding it could be disastrous.

Opinions are welcome!