Windows 10: How will the free upgrade affect retailers?

Microsoft quiet on what it means for its distribution, retail and reseller partners
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The main revelation from the Windows 10 event in late January was that an upgrade to the OS will be free for a year for Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 users.

Microsoft has promised that once a device has been upgraded to Windows 10, it will receive free updates throughout its lifetime – at no additional charge. 

The firm said in a statement: “We think of Windows as a service – one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest internet services on the planet.

“With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We’ll deliver new features when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release.”

But what does this mean for Microsoft’s distribution, retail and reseller partners? Will they lose a potential revenue stream in selling the Windows 10 licence, as many users will be able to upgrade for free?

Entatech’s Microsoft product specialist, Ellie Farley, told PCR: “This could be a concern. I think for system builders it will be okay as they will still be building machines, but it may have a big impact on retailers’ business.

“After upgrading within the first 12 months, Microsoft is giving full support for the lifetime of the device. We want to check the upgrade is not just free on devices pre-installed, but on the OEM side as well. I don’t know until I speak to Microsoft, but I think it will have a big impact on sales initially.”

Target Components’ ShopTalk business advisor John Coulter added: “It’s a great way to sell new systems, and equally a fantastic reason to assist existing customers who can get the upgrade.

“It’s a reason to contact customers and alert them that it should be avoided if you don’t like it (and isn’t it about time they had a computer health check).”

Microsoft consultant and OEM partner sales specialist Triston Brade told PCR: “Unfortunately I cannot offer you any official statements concerning the release of Windows 10.”

Windows 10 will run across all Windows devices. For example, actions a user makes on a PC will register on their mobile, thanks to the cloud.

The main new features of Windows 10 include cross-platform capabilities, allowing users to create, edit and share Office documents with other users and devices, built-in apps, content synching across devices through OneDrive, the ability to stream games from an Xbox One to a Windows 10 PC, and virtual assistant Cortana (the new Microsoft Office Paperclip?). 

A fresh web browser, codenamed Project Spartan, allows users to annotate directly onto a page either with a keyboard or a pen, before sharing it, plus it has a distraction-free reading mode and Cortana integration. 

Geoff Blaber from analyst CCS Insight, commented: “The tide could be slowly turning for Windows. The official unveiling of Windows 10 is a defining moment for Satya Nadella early in his tenure as CEO. Microsoft has re-evaluated its approach to software releases by adopting a web mentality that dovetails with its ‘cloud first, mobile first’ vision.

"This open approach is critical if Microsoft is to overcome the negative sentiment that has plagued Windows 8 since launch.”

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