Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Microsoft, do you want Windows 8 to be a success? Then give it away for free!

with 7 comments

Hey Microsoft, Apple are kicking your ass in tablets, you’re light years away from catching Google on the web, Windows Phone is an also-ran and open source software is on the march.

You need to do something unexpected, something that will kick folks in their pants, something that your hardware partners will love you for, something that uncomplicates consumer choice and gives them upgrades forever, something that will make you more competitive with free software.

In short, you need to give Windows 8 away to consumers for free!

Sound ridiculous? Hear me out OK. Most of the money you make from Windows today is from enterprises anyway so feel free to carry on selling your enterprise-y version of Windows (one with Group Policy, Active Directory domain logins, etc…) to them! For consumers though – they get a nice crapware-free version of Windows! It’ll be one version of Windows too – none of this Windows Starter Edition, Windows Home Edition, Windows Ultimate Edition yadda yadda yadda crap. In one fell swoop you kill Android on tablets, because why would your hardware partners bother to waste time shipping it? You get Windows Phones front and centre in folks’ faces too – cross-sell the hell outta that!

“How do we make money though?” you ask! Simple, you build products and services that people want and make Windows a loss-leader for them (just like you currently do with XBox). You make money from the app store. You make sure that the first live tiles someone sees when they log onto Windows are HOTMAIL, BING, MSN, SKYPE & XBOX. You make Azure and AdCenter an obvious choice for people building Windows 8 apps and services. You let content partners sell music and video through you, and you take your 5%. You carry on flogging gazillions of Sharepoint and Office 365 licenses. You provide a consumer version of Windows Intune. You make it braindead simple for people to buy Office. You’ll make a bucketload of cash and no-one hates you for it because you’re giving your core product away for free!

You never have to support legacy software for consumers again. Windows XP support still going on more than a decade after it comes out? Thing of the past!

Oh, and did I mention that all your Windows piracy woes disappear in a flash? Instead you can flog apps to those millions of chinese folk that currently use Windows for free anyway!

Seriously, give Windows 8 away to consumers. You may take a small hit in the short term but you’ll be reaping the benefits for years.

You’re welcome, by the way!

Written by Jamiet

November 9, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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7 Responses

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  1. I was thinking something similar just the other night! I didn’t quite go as far as giving the Windows 8 “home” version for free but that’s not as crazy an idea as it sounds. OEMs bundle it with most PCs for peanuts anyway. I wonder how much profit they do get from selling the Full Packaged version?

    I would definitely want to see only two versions of the final product i.e. home & enterprise. Even better, have one version which you by an “enterprise pack” for. They could even make it subscription only to really hook businesses in.

    I disagree with one part of your article regarding supporting legacy apps for consumers. I don’t think Microsoft were ever bothered with that, it’s more of a enterprise thing anyway.


    November 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

    • Thanks for the comment Thom. Good to see someone agreeing with me about this.
      I’m sure you’re right that the majority of consumers don’t have legacy support woes, but I suspect there are still some small enclaves somewhere.


      November 10, 2011 at 10:16 am

  2. I’d love to see that happen, but I suspect the competition might start crying to the DoJ and EC about anti-competitiveness again!

    Heck – Microsoft can’t even give away a free web browser (in Europe) without the EC forcing this “browser choice” nonsense on everyone. As if users were incapable of downloading and installing their own browser of choice.

    Imagine the fun MS would have trying to give away a whole free OS!


    November 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm

  3. Microsoft already does this with Office 2010, and Windows 7 Starter Edition is pretty close to the freebie version you’re describing, with Anytime Upgrade they’ve got a great incentive to ‘install now, pay later’ – I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Microsoft has been headed in this direction for some time now.

    Ali Robertson (@alirobe)

    November 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    • Hi Ali,
      Thanks for the comment.
      Yes, they’re heading in that direction but do you think they’ll do it? Do you think Windows will be totally free for consumers? I don’t. Clearly (from above) I think it *should* happen, but I don’t think it *will*.

      What do you mean by “Microsoft already does this with Office 2010”?



      November 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm

  4. This post represents a basic misunderstanding of Microsoft’s core business model. Windows and Windows Live division is the second most profitable division at Microsoft while Bing continues to lose nearly $1 billion per quarter since it’s launch. Do you really think Hotmail, Bing, MSN, & Skype can supplement the lost profits from giving away the most popular operating system in the world?


    November 10, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    • I am more than familiar with Microsoft’s current business model, your reply represents a basic understanding of the points I was making. This post was borne out of a belief and realisation that that business model is not sustainable. Windows market share is currently being eroded (slowly, but it is happening) as operating systems become commodotised; Microsoft themselves have aluded that their future is in delivering services, not products.

      “Do you really think Hotmail, Bing, MSN, & Skype can supplement the lost profits from giving away the most popular operating system in the world”
      No, and I didn’t say that they would. I listed a whole heap of things (which included Hotmail, Bing, Skype & MSN) that Microsoft would need to gain revenue from in order to make up for the shortfall although, having said that, I don’t think the shortfall would be particularly big. You will note that I said they should still sell to enterprises which is where a very very large proportion of the profits of their “second most profitable division” come from.

      Thanks for the comment, its a shame you posted it anonymously.


      November 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm

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