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Will all future Windows Operating System Upgrades go from paid to Free?

I have always wondered as to why do the Mobile OS’s get the preferential treatment over their Desktop / Laptop counterparts. Ever since the Smart Phones were launched in the market, if the product underwent a Software Upgrade to a newer version, the update were always made available to the phones without making your pockets any lighter. This pattern were obviously subject to the phone hardware being able to deliver a good experience on the upgraded software or the Phone vendors deciding to push a generation into obsolescence. In stark contrast, the Computer owners have always had to pay extra towards getting their Computers upgraded to the latest and fastest OS.

Microsoft, primarily a Software Company made this practice popular when Computers were booming in every household and no one had any problems paying to get the latest Software Package. They have maintained the same practice for any other Software such as Microsoft Office upgrades. Interestingly, Apple has always viewed their services as a complete package that has produced optimised hardware to run their software and look at the market as a consumer for their Complete package and not their Software alone. To keep up with this policy, Apple have recently revised their policy of charging their customers for major OS cycle updates and have made them available free of Cost from OSX Mavericks onwards. This came as sweet news to the Mac users who jumped on OSX Mavericks as soon as they could download it. Apple can afford to do this since they already earn enough revenue from the Sale of the Hardware. This is bound to create massive pressure on Microsoft that earns their revenue purely from Software and might not feel right about releasing a product to the Customers and not make a Single Penny out of it. Some might argue that Microsoft has also made its OS Windows 8.1 available free of cost. But, one has to understand that the Windows 8.1 was an auxiliary update to Windows 8 in response to the major shortcomings and criticisms of Windows 8 and can be considered as a Windows 8 OS that feels just a little more complete. It is no major upgrade over Windows 8.

Apple gains a huge advantage here as the Customer now only has to spend on his Computer once to ensure that he is going to have the latest OS on his gadget until its End of Life. This provides them some brownie points in terms of the user having to decide the life of a product. On the other hand, any person buying a Windows Laptop or Desktop will have to keep in Mind that he will have to shell out more money again whenever the next Windows update hits the shelf. In such a case, he may choose not to update leading to a higher fragmentation in the Windows ecosystem.The fact that Windows 7 is still used on the highest number of PCs followed by Windows XP is a testimony to this issue of fragmentation that will force Microsoft to dedicate more resources to support more OS’s. The fact that Windows 8 runs on their Surface Pro tablets complicate the issue further as it would be almost unacceptable by customers to have to pay for an OS update on their tablets where it almost taken for granted that any compatible OS is always free on phones and tablets.

It has already been made clear by Microsoft during their previous earnings call by their CFO Peter Clein that they strive to make cheaper Windows tablets and one of the ways would be to make their next OS (possibly Windows 9) cheaper. In view of the above factors and the fact that Microsoft is also a part of the hardware market through their Surface products, it will be interesting to see if Microsoft decides to continue with their paid upgrade model or make them available free of cost to all the Windows 8ers or even the 7ers.

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