Microsoft's 'Free' Windows 10 Upgrade May Cost You

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What's New in Windows 10

By Karla Bowsher

Microsoft has yet to detail its plans for converting the Windows operating system into a free service. But that hasn't stopped critics from speculating about whether the arrangement will be as good -- or as cheap -- as it sounds.

In late January, the company announced that "a free upgrade for Windows 10 will be made available to customers running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 who upgrade in the first year after launch."

As Microsoft's executive vice president of operating systems, Terry Myerson, explained in a blog post:

This is more than a one-time upgrade: Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device -- at no cost. With Windows 10, the experience will evolve. ... We'll deliver new features when they're ready, not waiting for the next major release.

Part of the continued speculation among critics revolves around the definition of the phrase "the supported lifetime of the device," which remains unclear.

Microsoft's chief operating officer, B. Kevin Turner, said during the annual Credit Suisse Technology Conference in December that the company would announce the details of the Windows 10 business model over the spring and summer.

CBS MoneyWatch speculates on two reasons that Microsoft would give away the operating system that has traditionally constituted one of the company's main revenue streams:

One is that it can't afford not to give it away. Google has made some serious inroads into Microsoft's business...

Second, Microsoft has an end-run strategy: make money through additional services.

When asked during the tech conference whether Microsoft would start losing money on Windows, Turner replied:

Yes, let me -- that's not any conversations that we've had. The thing about it is, though, we've got to monetize it differently. And there are services involved. There are additional opportunities for us to bring additional services to the product and do it in a creative way...

Those "services," which also remain unclear, have also sparked speculation.

CBS reports that Microsoft will rely on app sales for revenue after the launch of Windows 10, which "will run re-worked Android and iOS apps, which means there is a massive potential number of software packages that developers might like to have available on the many computers that will likely run the new Windows version."

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