Windows 10 Launching This Summer, Free Even For Pirates

Microsoft put a deadline on the release of Windows 10 for PCs at the WinHEC summit in China on Tuesday. The new operating system will launch in 190 different countries this summer and will be a free upgrade for everyone. That includes those that have pirated previous versions of the Windows OS.

The free upgrade to Windows 10 for owners of Windows 8 and Windows 7 PCs during the first year of release was previously known. The new statement that even pirated versions of the operating system are eligible is new, but it’s unclear if Microsoft is referring only to pirated copies in China or worldwide.

“We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10,” Microsoft’s Terry Myserson operating system chief told Reuters. He went on to say that Microsoft wishes to “re-engage” with Windows users in China, most of whom own “non-genuine” copies of the Windows OS.

Windows piracy in China has been a major concern for Microsoft over the year. Former CEO Steve Ballmer previously estimated in 2011 that only 10 percent of users in the country paid for their copy. Under new CEO Satya Nadella, the company now appears ready to embrace those that downloaded its operating system illegally in order to bring them into the potentially lucrative Windows 10 ecosystem.

Microsoft also announced a partnership with Chinese companies Tencent and Qihu 360 to give away Windows 10 free to their companies. Tencent is the Chinese publisher for the massively popular free-to-play PC game, League of Legends, which will also be featured in the Windows 10 Store. Clearly, Microsoft is intent on embracing the Chinese market instead of fighting it as it has done in the past.

This is all due to a change in the business model that Microsoft is pushing for Windows 10. Instead of charging for a license, the company will now bring in revenue through subscriptions for services like Skype and Office 365 plus transactions made in the online Windows Store. Getting the new operating system in the hands of as many people as possible will be crucial to the success of this new model, even if it means forgiving pirates.

Summer for 2015 officially ends on September 22. The current state of the Windows 10 technical preview suggests that Microsoft will spend the next few months cramming to get the operating system ready for release. Aside from squashing bugs, major consumer features like cross-play and streaming with the Xbox One have yet to be tested. On the business side, the newly announced “Windows Hello” biometric authentication will need a thorough amount of scrutiny before users begin using their face, iris, or fingerprint instead of a password to unlock their PC.

[Images via Microsoft, Chris Spanagoukis, Pirates of the Caribbean]