Last week, the internet lost its mind when Microsoft suggested that Windows 10 would be free for anyone who pirated Windows 7 or Windows 8. This week, Microsoft confirmed that the operating system would only be free for those who legitimately purchased Windows 7 and 8.
The confusion was understandable. Microsoft isn’t going back on its word. Instead, it’s simply reiterating the fact that anyone who pirated Windows 7 or 8 will receive a free upgrade to Windows 10.
However, after upgrading to Windows 10, these users’ Windows licenses will remain invalid, which means that the invalid license will also transfer over. In other words, you’ll still need to pay for a Windows 10 license once you upgrade (or continue running Windows 10 in unlicensed mode).
Currently, Microsoft restricts certain features for non-genuine copies of Windows. Users can’t customize their install, for example. Microsoft might restrict features even further on Windows 10 if it decides to take anti-piracy measures seriously – something that it has never really done.
Like a good prison system, Microsoft wants to turn previous offenders into caring citizens. Microsoft plans to offer pirates an easy upgrade path.
Microsoft calls this “re-engaging” pirates and it’s going to be heavily marketed in pirate-heavy regions of the world – like China.
Obviously, the trick for Microsoft here will be fighting back against piracy without using anti-piracy measures that are so strong that they turn legal users away. Microsoft will try to walk the fine line between those two things.
Still, there are going to be people out there who refuse to ever pay for a full license of any Windows operating system. Microsoft is just going to have to learn to deal with that.
Meanwhile, there’s no word yet on how much Windows 10 will cost. However, contrary to what some originally believed, Microsoft is expected to charge a one-time license fee as opposed to a recurring subscription cost.
Of course, as you’ve probably already heard, Windows 10 will be a totally free upgrade for all current Windows 8, Windows Phone 8.1, and Windows 7 users (unless you’re a pirate).