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Windows 10, Windows-as-a-Service, Free or Not?

admin | 19 June 2018

Windows 10, Windows-as-a-Service, Free or Not?

Windows 10, or the new Windows-as-a-Service model is the familiar Windows you are used to. More than this, Windows 10 is the most powerful and functional Windows operating system ever released. Since Windows 10 became available on July 29th, 2015, there are a lot of rumours flying around just about every news source with an opinion of the new Windows 10 as-a-Service model. The main rumours surround the topic of what the as-a-Service model means for licensing and pricing.

The confusion and rumours come into play in that, traditionally, Windows has been purchased off the shelf, or in some style of licensing program from Microsoft. The style of the licensing program changed depending if you are a home user or part of a business of any size.

The background to these concerns is that Windows 10 is now version less, so subsequently the term Windows-as-a-service was coined. Thus, jumping to conclusions, some media sources instantly jumped to the conclusion that Windows 10 is not free, but a vehicle, or catalyst for Microsoft being able to charge consumers and businesses for updates.

I will show you in this Blog article, based on the evidence released by Microsoft that the new Windows 10 as-a-Service is free. More importantly, I will also explain how the as-a-Service part is going to make the new Windows 10 experience the best yet.

Windows 10, and the new version less experience does require a different way of thinking about things. If I said to you ‘today’ “What version of Windows are you running?” You may say “Windows 7” or “Windows 8.1”. Whereas if you are using Windows 10, you would also logically say, “I am on Windows 10” which is also true. However, this is where things will become a lot different in the coming year and beyond. Let me explain.

Considering security updates and how they work today with all operating systems prior to Windows 10, we have what we call ‘Patch Tuesday’. Patch Tuesday is whereby each month Microsoft releases Security Updates on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. With the new world of Windows 10, we will now also see new features, and enhancements rolled out in regular update cycles similar to Patch Tuesday. Terry Myerson from Microsoft, who is the Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, wrote a blog article recently and made a very interesting point regarding Windows 10:

With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We’ll deliver new features when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release. We think of Windows as a Service – in fact, one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest Internet services on the planet…And just like any Internet service, the idea of asking “What version are you on?” will cease to make sense

So the Windows-as-a-Service statement is relating to updating, not licensing or pricing. Continuing this line of thinking, the next logical question, which is the reason for my digression into the background story is, “How much will all this cost me?”

Terry Myerson has made the following points regarding the pricing:

  • From July 29, 2015 “We 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. *
  • 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.

So everyone is asking “What’s the catch?” as when anyone hears the term Windows-as-a-Service, or anything-as-a-Service we instantly go to a place of thought which goes like this:

  • Windows 10 is free for the first year
  • Hmmm, after the first year, does that mean the ‘as-a-Service‘ kicks in and this will cost me money ‘after’ the first 12-months? What am I subscribing to from a financial perspective?

Back to Terry Myerson’s Blog post as quoted above, he has stated that updates are for the lifetime of the specific device that is upgraded. That is, the free copy of Windows 10, or the license, is linked to the actual device you upgrade. Once that device goes kaput, the license will no longer be valid. In my simple understanding, we have basically been told there will be no additional fees for Windows 10 once upgraded (or purchased on a new PC if you don’t have a PC to upgrade). Thus, Free truly appears to be, Free. Happy Days!

So ‘as-a-Service’ simply means Microsoft is ‘not only’ planning on keeping Windows up-to-date with its regular Security updates. It means Microsoft will also now release new Windows features & enhancements with more frequent smaller updates. The new updates process is great news as what we are used to has traditionally being big, time-consuming and costly to deploy/rollout Service Packs.

Arguably, Microsoft could have used a more helpful definition of the new Windows 10 model, instead of using the phrase ‘as-a-Service’.

Regardless of the answer to that question, with all this in mind, you are most likely asking yourself: Why give away Windows 10 for free?

It helps if we think about the larger Cloud play with Office 365, Microsoft Azure and the familiar world of ‘App Stores’. If we look at the success of Apple, the success is not so much the devices they sell. The success has been the App Store where you can purchase Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books and just about anything else, App stores are where the device comes to life. It is an Eco-System you are subscribing into when purchasing the device, or the Operating System.

The money is in the App Stores for any large software vendor (another example is Amazon), and a feature of Windows 10 is that there will be a single App Store across all your Windows devices. So with that new understanding in mind, why not give away the interface into the Eco-System, or the app store, which is Windows 10! Windows 10 is what ‘enables’ the Microsoft store, this single place where people will visit daily and spend even more money, regularly. It is my guess that, this is most likely the primary thinking behind getting as many people onto Windows 10 as possible.

There is a lot of marketing surrounding Windows 10 and it being a unified platform across PC’s, Tablets, Phones, Xbox, etc. Over the coming months, we will see more and more marketing messages about the unified, ‘purchase once’ App store. We will learn and see how individuals and businesses will benefit from the many new features and capabilities. I feel that the new Eco-system is an exciting thought when you consider the future of your favourite apps in that the experience of using them will continually improve on your own multiple personal and work devices.

Overall, Windows 10 is a fantastic product, and at XCentral, we have been running Windows 10 for a long time as part of all the initial testing. Windows 10 has a multitude of new features, enhancements and security features that we believe will warrant the upgrade. In coming blog articles, I will cover off how the new updating will work, and also the top new features of Windows 10 that will benefit you, and your business.

Until then, if you have questions, or would like more information, please feel free to contact us for more information. If you would like to read the standard FAQ’s from Microsoft regarding Windows 10, you can read them here.

TRIVIA: Here is a fun fact:

Microsoft released Windows 10 on July 29th, 2015.

The build number was 10240.

The number may seem insignificant, but in IT:

  • There are 1024 bits in 1 byte, therefore, 10240 bits = 10 bytes
  • There are 1024 kilobytes in 1 megabyte, therefore, 10240 kilobytes = 10 megabytes
  • We could continue this on, but there you have it. Us Nerds are occasionally known to have some fun!

* ‘Free’ in the statement does sound all encompassing, however, some will miss out on the free upgrade offer, and those who miss out will be anyone running:

  • Windows 7 Enterprise (including Service Pack 1)
  • Windows 8 Enterprise (including Windows 8.1 update)
  • Windows RT
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows XP
  • Users running pirated copies of Windows (which you would expect right)