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Windows 10: What does it mean for the future of Microsoft?

Everyone loves a freebie and behind all the hoopla about Cortana and the arrival of the truly-revolutionary HoloLens, Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 and revealed that it will be available free - for the first year at least

Make no bones about it, Microsoft has seen what its competitors have done with their free OS offering and want a piece of that action with the Microsoft executive VP of operating systems confirming that Windows 10 is anything but a “one-time upgrade”. Customers that download it will get free upgrades on their free-for-the-first-year OS and, by Microsoft’s own admission, this is Windows-as-a-service.

What about after the first year though?

Microsoft failed to elaborate on how much it plans to charge those Windows 7, 8.1, and Phone 8.1 users after a year of them using Windows 10 has passed. Others don’t levy charges on their customers for new OS versions or have a subscription built in and the way Microsoft prices its OS after the initial year will have a massive bearing on how successful the OS ends up being.

The top brass at Microsoft will presumably be looking at Windows 10’s first year as make-or-break in terms of whether it can choose to charge a lot or a little. If customers take it for the first year and then leave in their droves shortly afterwards it could be catastrophic and make the poor performance of Windows 8 seem small fry in comparison. There is also the fact that a positive customer experience on Windows 10 will directly translate into Office 365 adoption going skywards, which is one of the products Microsoft does, and will continue to, charge a fee for.

Lost in the back somewhere was the news that Microsoft will also be bringing its new OS onto the Xbox One and binning the current Windows 8 Live Tile inspired interface that controls its video games console. This will extend to video game streaming of any game from an Xbox One to a Windows 10 device and some gamers might already be thinking could they one day charge for Windows 10 on Xbox One as well? Definitely but it’s almost certain the Windows 10 subscription would be instead of one for Xbox Live and another part of the “one Windows to rule them all” philosophy.

In creating this new Windows-as-a-service culture it is catapulting itself into a future that isn't completely unknown, but will take a lot of getting used to for a company that has for so long relied upon Windows licenses to see it through.