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Windows 10 is a slick and smart operating system. I’ve been working with the Technical Preview (TP) since it came out in October 2014 and I’m a huge fan. I share the enthusiasm with all of you who anticipate the free Windows 10 upgrade Windows 10: The Dream Of A Cross-Device Operating System Is Becoming Reality & It's Free Windows 10: The Dream Of A Cross-Device Operating System Is Becoming Reality & It's Free Microsoft is boldly stepping into the future with innovative software and hardware. Windows as a service and mobility of experience were the major keywords from the recent Windows 10 briefing. Most importantly, Windows 10 will... Read More . And I would hate for your expectations to be disappointed.

Let’s examine Microsoft’s motivation to offer a free upgrade and what it could mean for you.

Why a Free Windows 10 Upgrade?

Hypothesis 1: To Make People Happy

If people or security were the main concern, Microsoft would also offer the free upgrade to users of Windows XP Windows XP: What's Happening To It Now? Windows XP: What's Happening To It Now? Windows XP may be dead, but it's not yet gone. Over 27% of computers connected to the Internet still run Windows XP. Here's exactly what "end of support" means for Windows XP systems. Read More , Windows Vista, or pirated versions of Windows, provided their systems could handle Windows 10.

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Seriously, Microsoft isn’t some kind of do-gooder! A for-profit company will never give away something for free, unless they expect it to create some kind of revenue. If they did that, they would risk losing the confidence of their investors, their market value would drop, and they’d create a huge loss for themselves. If investors don’t trust Microsoft will produce hard cash profits, they will take their money elsewhere, like they did earlier this year.

Hypothesis 2: To Increase Microsoft’s Brand Value

Microsoft has changed since Satya Nadella took over the lead from Steve Ballmer. The Windows Insider program 3 Easy Ways To Install Windows 10 Technical Preview 3 Easy Ways To Install Windows 10 Technical Preview You can try Windows 10 Technical Preview for free and help Microsoft polish its new flagship operating system. Before you install it, make sure you choose the best method for your needs. Read More , a chance for users to test the TP and provide feedback, is a remarkable operation. What has stood out the most to me is how Microsoft is showing up as a team. People like Joe Belfiore, Terry Myerson, and Gabe Aul have become the face and voice of Microsoft, fostering communication and being very approachable.

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Microsoft Way

Microsoft is going with the times, maybe even leading the way, and they are certainly trying to become more likable as a company. There’s nothing wrong with that. Being liked alone, however, won’t keep them afloat. Then why are they doing all this? Probably because it’s a more fulfilling way of doing business and definitely because being liked and trusted today is a prerequisite for staying in business. It’s the basis on which they can sell you more upgrades and services. This brings us to the next hypothesis…

Hypothesis 3: To Increase Microsoft’s Consumer Base

This hypothesis is based on the idea that Windows 10 will indirectly create revenue for Microsoft by serving as a platform to sell advanced features and services. In this case, more users translate into more potential customers and greater potential for revenue.

Pessimists have been speculating that Windows 10 itself could be turned into a subscription mode Subscribe to Windows 10? Microsoft Evaluates Alternative Payment Models For Their Products Subscribe to Windows 10? Microsoft Evaluates Alternative Payment Models For Their Products In the summer, it was rumored that Windows 10 might be free. Recently, Microsoft's Kevin Turner made comments about monetising Windows differently and that services would be involved. Microsoft is changing its business model. Read More l. Frankly, unless they offered a free basic version, that would be suicide for Microsoft. It’s entirely possible, of course, that certain features, extensions, or software packages will only be available if you pay, such as they already do with the Office 365 subscription An Introduction to Office 365 -- Should You Buy Into the New Office Business Model? An Introduction to Office 365 -- Should You Buy Into the New Office Business Model? Office 365 is a subscription based package that offers access to the latest desktop Office suite, Office Online, cloud storage, and premium mobile apps. Does Office 365 provide enough value to be worth the money? Read More . New features like Cortana or a OneDrive backup service could also present attractive products, turning Windows 10 into a sales platform. To me this is the most likely scenario and we will explore this type of Software as a Service model in more detail in an upcoming article.

Meanwhile, let’s read the signs.

Consequences for Consumers

Windows Will Continue to Come in Different Flavors

Last week, Microsoft introduced Windows 10 editions and they sound very familiar. We will see a Home, Mobile, and Pro edition, as well as editions for Enterprise and Education. The splitting up into different editions indicates that Microsoft will continue to sell separate Windows 10 licenses, rather than internal upgrades for advanced operating system features.

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If you’re currently running Windows 7, 8.1, or Windows Phone 8.1, the upgrade to the equivalent Windows 10 edition How to Upgrade to Windows 10 via Windows Update How to Upgrade to Windows 10 via Windows Update Windows 10 is offered as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. When you're ready to upgrade, you can use Windows Update and keep all your installed programs and settings intact. Read More will be free. What you’re gaining is a state of the art operating system with exciting new features. What you’re losing, however, is freedom.

Windows Update Will Differ Between Windows 10 Editions

Windows 10 will offer three routes for receiving updates: Current Branch (CB), Current Branch for Business (CBB), and Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB). CB automatically updates devices with zero choice on the user side. CBB will permit users to delay or even reject updates. LTSB is relevant for Enterprise users only. Windows 10 Home users will be subject to CB, while users of the Pro version will be able to choose between the CB and CBB update route.

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Ironically, more expensive versions of Windows will allow you to disable features, rather than unlocking them. It seems like Microsoft knows its audience all too well.

Free Windows 10 Will Restrict Update Freedoms

Now here is the catch with the free upgrade. Mary Jo Foley reports that people who make use of the free upgrade option will be committed to the CB way of receiving updates and thus won’t be able to opt out of new features. If you’re a Windows 10 enthusiast, that probably won’t disturb you. You might even opt in to receive updates before anyone else, through the Windows Insider program, which Microsoft will continue.

Windows Insider Featured Image

If you’re more skeptical, however, you might come to the conclusion that by forcing free upgraders into a zero choice Windows Update Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More model, Microsoft is increasing its tester base. While new features will still pass through internal tests and the scrutiny of Windows Insiders, you will inevitably receive them, whether you like or not, even if they cause issues.

Now imagine Microsoft decided to promote their own services through ads, implemented via Windows Update, like they have done for the Windows 10 Upgrade notification in Windows 7 and 8. Or what if they strike a deal with an app developer and pre-install software with Windows 10 You Probably Won't Read This Article In Full, Because Smartphones [Tech News Digest] You Probably Won't Read This Article In Full, Because Smartphones [Tech News Digest] Smartphones are bad OK, Candy Crush comes to Windows 10, Reddit finally tackles harassment, Rdio Select lowers prices, and the trippiest 3D music video you're ever likely to see. Read More that you have no use for, like they will be doing for the Candy Crush Saga. Wouldn’t you then like to opt out of updates?

A Brave New Windows

Ads on Windows 10 is of course a worst case scenario and if Microsoft truly values its customers, they won’t abuse them like that, not even those who received a free upgrade. They will, however, need to make money and by making Windows 10 an attractive operating system Microsoft is laying the groundwork. By pushing out new features that potentially tie into cashable services, they could turn Windows 10 into a profitable sales platform.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering whether we’re soon going to see rooted Windows 10 versions or registry hacks to remove and opt out of undesired feature updates.

Your turn! What concerns you more – the price tag or the lack of freedom?

Image Credits: Milking of a Cow Via Shutterstock

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