If you’re willing to buy the new version of Windows within a year of it being released, you’ll get the whole operating system for free. It’s not the same as Apple’s tactic of offering OS upgrades that are always free, regardless of when you buy them, but it’s a start for Microsoft, which typically charges a lot for their OS upgrades. Microsof offers many different, “dumbed-down” versions of the OS for less money, but even those are expensive. Those cheaper versions of the OS still make Windows the most expensive consumer operating system, costing everyone but students at least $100 ($70 for students). For the full, un-crippled version of Windows 8, prepare to shell out $200. However, for one year after the release of Windows 10 (Microsoft famoously skipped 9), Microsoft will make the OS free. Pricing after that first year has not yet been announced.
Microsoft has a well known cycle with Windows. One version will be bad, the next wil be better. Windows 95 was awful, but 98 wasn’t bad. Windows ME was a bug ridden mess, but XP was stable. Windows Vista was universally hated, but Windows 7 was liked. Windows 8 wasn’t liked very much at all, so that means the next version, Windows
9 10, should be the “good one” (unless they skipped the good one by skipping 9). Users will be anxious to upgrade to eliminate their annoyances with Windows 8.
With the free pricing, even if it is only the promotional pricing for the first year, Microsoft will join Apple in making commercial OS upgrades for consumers completely free. Free upgrades are great for companies, because it means people are more likely to upgrade, take advantage of new security features, and potentially even desire new hardware. Users of both Windows 7 and Windows 8 will be able to take advantage of the free upgrade pricing. Microsoft had issues getting users to upgrade from XP, which was introduced back in 2001. The company’s hoping that free upgrades (and dropping the support for XP) will mean they don’t have to support legacy operating systems for over a decade, as they did with XP. Consumer disatisfaction of Windows 8 could also drive the company to make Windows 10 free, rather than see those unhappy users make the switch to Mac OS X or one of the distributions of Linux. Consumers always win when companies compete.