In a sign that might indicate defeat, Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to its latest iteration of Windows OS, named Windows 10, even to those Chinese users who have been running bootlegged or pirated versions of Windows 7/8/8.1.
While it may be viewed as a truce, common sense or plain defeat to piracy, Microsoft's decision to upgrade all Windows users in China to Windows 10, even if they're using pirated versions of Windows, is a clear sign that the financial prospects of the operating system are dead. In other words, Microsoft has realized it is futile to "sell" an Operating System.
Needless to say, piracy is rampant in China. Interestingly, so is the usage of Microsoft Windows OS. While official statistics indicate more than three quarters of the Windows users in China used pirated Microsoft's software, real-time figures could be as high as 90 – 95 percent. However, it is unlikely that Microsoft will ever manage to sell them a copy of Windows. But, the Redmond-based company is trying to "re-engage" with those who aren't a part of Microsoft's family, officially.
Many argue piracy is what made Windows truly popular and Microsoft, a household name in China. Owing to the rampant piracy, local businesses heavily depend on Windows OS, but don't pay for the same. In fact, many years ago Microsoft's Bill Gates conceded that piracy was the gift that kept giving to Microsoft in China,
"It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not. Are you kidding? You can get the real thing, and you get the same price."It is self-explanatory. In a world aggressively embracing free and open-source software, Microsoft had an insurmountable problem: How to sell "pricey" in a country that wanted "free"?
Moreover, Google, with its advanced Android OS has shown the world that an excellent and productive Operating System can be free. Additionally, Google has also shown other companies that the real long-term profit lies in offering "Software as a Service" or SaaS at cheaper-rates that vary as per subscription.
By offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade to these people, Microsoft hopes to offer them such paid services later-on. As the world increasingly moves its productivity tools to the cloud, newer operating systems that optimally utilize such services will urge Chinese users to eventually pay to take advantage of the said services. At least, that's the idea.
[Image Credit | Cybershack]