Is a free Windows 10 good for the channel?

Key buyers and members of the PCR Retail Advisory Board share their views
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Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be free for users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 for one year from launch. While it’s great news for consumers, what does it mean for retailers who may miss out on selling licences in that first year? Key buyers and members of the PCR Retail Advisory Board share their views…

Mike Barron, UK Channel Director, Synaxon:

“After the nightmare Microsoft has had with Windows 8, they had to do something special. By offering a free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8, it’s going to extend the life of machines, which will have an effect on the channel.

“That said, it doesn’t apply to enterprise editions so there are still sales to be had. 

“It will also pull people into the whole Microsoft ecosystem and make better use of its app store.”

Craig Hume, Director, Utopia Computers:

“I love it. I think it’s great. We’re already telling our customers that if you get a Windows 8 laptop from us, don’t worry, you’ll get Windows 10 for free. We normally see a dip in PC sales before an operating system comes out because people want to wait and see what the new OS is like, but with this we can tell our customers not to worry about that. Initially we thought we’d make less money without the sales of the software itself, but actually we can get the upgrade labour. So we can advertise to say ‘we’ll make sure all your pictures and documents move across to Windows 10, but there will be a charge for that’. So retailers have got quite a good opportunity with Windows 10.

“It seems it will be a licence that will live or die with an upgrade, and you’ll have 12 months to do that. We still get some customers who have bought a Windows 8 system and don’t like it, but we try and teach them how to use it. And come later in the year they will be able to upgrade it anyway.”


Steven Lightfoot Jnr, Partner, 
Pudsey Computers:

”My worry as a retailer is that software companies are starting to deal with customers direct, with little intention on supporting customers. Adobe has done this over the last few years, and I guess Apple

has done this for a long time, leaving retailers little opportunity to make margin.

“Although, with change comes opportunity, and I’m sure there will be the opportunity to create further support for end users, particularly small business and schools. I hope hardware vendors don’t follow suit, and restrict the sale of products through independent retail, like we have seen with the Microsoft Surface tablet.”

James Gorbold, Technical Marketing, Scan Computers:

“I think it’s a very exciting, interesting announcement from Microsoft. What we don’t know yet is what the long term implications may be. There is speculation that there may be some sort of subscription for Windows; Microsoft is making Windows free but they’re changing the funding model. Time will tell. You know Microsoft is sort of slowly teasing information about Windows 10 and I think we’ll probably get greater transparency closer to launch. 

“Windows 8 wasn’t exactly controversial but it was a less popular OS than windows 7. And in terms of the user interface, Windows 10 looks to be much more promising. It’s integrating parts of 7 and 8 very well, and the business model of having it free for that first year will certainly convince a lot of existing customers to take the plunge. 

“I think typically when there’s a new version of Windows there’s also a new version of DirectX. I would imagine that DirectX 12 will probably be Windows 10 only. So by making Windows 10 free, Microsoft will potentially massively open up how many people have DirectX 12, which, given that PC gaming is booming at the moment, is probably a good way for Microsoft to sort of try and keep that momentum going.”

Steve Ling, Executive Director, Overclockers UK:

“We don’t have a big upgrade market per se, so for us it’s mostly about selling licences with systems. So if people are going to think, ‘Oh I really don’t want Windows 8, I’ll wait until Windows 10 comes out then I’ll buy a PC’, then brilliant. If you can offer people that free upgrade promise from Microsoft, then it doesn’t stop the market from buying anything.

“We still include Windows 7 with quite a few systems. I think Windows 8 is probably more popular than 7 now; driving adoption of 10 is not a bad thing.”

CK, MD, YoYoTech:

“It’s about time Microsoft started doing something for free! But is it really for free? Nobody knows. I think we learnt more about it reading PCR’s article than we did from a Microsoft rep! There’s no concrete evidence around how it will work yet, and how SIs will work with it. 

“But I think if Microsoft wants to stay with the consumer market they will need to do things like this really, because they’re going to have further challenges next year with Google Android and Amazon. 

“With it being free, I also think it will help get rid of pirated copies. If you build yourself a basic £200 to £300 system, around 30 per cent of that goes towards Microsoft, so they need to do something [to help drive computer sales going forwards]. Bing also needs to be encouraged more and taught more to the end user. They should really call it Windows Search rather than Bing – Bing has confused people. So Microsoft do needs to do something to remain the number one choice for the consumer.”

Duncan Rutherford, Product Manager, Dabs.com:

“Any release of a new Windows product is exciting news for Dabs.com and BT as a reseller. In this instance where it’s free for one year for existing users, it does pose

a challenge for operating system sales, however it gives us the chance to sell hardware now that will be eligible for upgrade – while still having the chance to sell Windows 10 systems complete to customers upon release. 

“Thankfully there is a real buzz about Windows 10, thanks to the customer perception of it being the hybrid of the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8.”

Ben Miles, Buyer, Chillblast:

“We think Windows 10 being free to users of Windows 7 and 8.1 is a great move from Microsoft. This means there will not be such a major dip in system sales as they ready the launch of the new OS towards the end of this year. For system integrators like Chillblast, an OS launch creates a major lull in the market followed by a boom in sales, which can be tricky to prepare for in terms of production. 

“It will be interesting to see by which method Microsoft decides eligibility and upgrade mechanic for the upgrade – at the moment the precise details of how the upgrade will be delivered is quite patchy. Will it be for business as well as end users? Will eligible customers receive a licence that can be installed from scratch or is it strictly ‘upgrade’ only? We have requested details from Microsoft regarding this but at the moment Microsoft account managers don’t have access to the information. 

“One thing is for sure: Windows 10 is a fantastic product. If Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 were to come together and have a beautiful child, that progeny would be Windows 10. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a PC owner.”

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