Microsoft should make 'its widely disliked Windows 8' a free upgrade, says analyst

Microsoft should make 'its widely disliked Windows 8' a free upgrade, says analyst

Summary: According to analyst firm IHS, Microsoft should copy Apple and make its latest Windows 8.1 operating system free to all Windows users.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Windows 8

The time has come for Microsoft to take "a page from Apple’s playbook" and offer existing Windows users a free upgrade, claims a new PC Dynamics brief from IHS.

"Apple’s new operating system, OS X Mavericks, is available at no cost to users," a statement to ZDNet from IHS reads. "In contrast, Microsoft is charging $120 for its widely disliked Windows 8, even though the upgrade is also free for a slightly reworked Windows 8.1."

With the release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple made the update free of charge to existing OS X users. Apple has previously charged $19.99 for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, and $29.99 for OS X 10.7 Lion.

Microsoft has made the Windows 8.1 update available for free to all Windows 8 users.

"With its aspirational products, Apple is already perceived to be an innovator in many ways, and offering free upgrades is yet another step for the trend-setting leader to strengthen its position," wrote Clifford Leimbach, a memory and storage analyst at IHS.

"Thus, a move like a free upgrade could well be the tipping point for vacillating fence-sitters, pulling them finally into the Apple camp. A Mac could become more appealing to this receptive segment of buyers, especially when free upgrades now — and for the future — are considered in the overall calculations of a new purchase. Factor in Apple’s vaunted ecosystem with its industry-dominant iTunes marketplace for apps, songs and videos, the allure to jump fences could prove irresistible."

The statement goes on to say that while "consumers may not be bolting from Microsoft," they're staying loyal to the Windows brand "not because of any love for the system" but "largely because there are no other alternatives to run to."

"With no viable alternatives, unhappy Windows users will simply hold onto their current version of Windows."

While there's no doubt that a free update to Windows 8/8.1 for all existing Windows users would generate a lot of buzz, and be welcome by those who purchased a computer over the past few years capable of running the operating system, there are a number of differences between the business models of Microsoft and Apple that IHS is overlooking.

The first is that Apple's primary business is selling products, a combination of hardware and software. Microsoft, on the other hand, is far more reliant on software sales than it is on tangible products. This makes it harder for it to offer software for free while at the same time keeping revenues flowing in.

Another factor to consider is support. With the release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple appears to have stopped supporting older versions of OS X, and is no longer issuing security patches for the platforms. While this is not a problem for people who can run the upgraded operating system, for people who can't – either because their hardware is too old, or because compatibility issues are keeping them on an earlier version on OS X – this is a real problem.

Compare this to Microsoft's Windows XP, whose users will continue to benefit from the protective umbrella of extended support until April 2014 despite the operating system having been first released 12 years ago.

Whenever anyone starts comparing Apple and Microsoft, or OS X and Windows, it invariably turns into an exercise in comparing apples and oranges. The two companies have a different business model, a different customer base, and a different approach to upgrades. Trying to get both companies to adopt a similar business model doesn't make sense. 

See also:

Topics: Microsoft, Windows 8

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  • Sorry...

    But my head hurts from reading just the first paragraph. So much fail in this article.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Agreed. I say MS should give away it's operating system

      around the same time Apple starts giving away their hardware.

      All this article states is that IHS appears to be commenting on something they apparently don't understand.
      • You both need to read the article

        Adrian does a nice job of dismissing IHS's ideas.
        Info Dave
        • I did read the article, Info Dave

          Which is why I criticized IHS and their analyst, not Adrian.
          • Sorry, I'm guilty of the same thing I accused you of

            You reputation proceeds you.
            Info Dave
          • Pat, I'd like to buy an 'r'

            Info Dave
      • Do not forget those that have purchased Windows 8 prior.

        They would need to be refunded their purchase of Windows 8, while the OEM's would also need to offer a rebate of some type to their customers to avoid a class action lawsuit, as we know they would come as they paid for that which is now being offered free of charge. Microsoft would then need to offer OEM's a rebate of some type.

        From that point in time, those with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 that have upgraded would have little incentive to upgrade to the next version of Windows, having an operating system only a few years removed, thus impacting future sales, also.

        I am a bit surprised that an analyst would release such a statement without having thought it through it's entirety.
        John Zern
        • Apple love.

          "I am a bit surprised that an analyst would release such a statement without having thought it through it's entirety."

          So many people have their noses up Apple's rear.
          • Why do Microsoft fan's not want Windows 8 to be free

            If beer were free, I bet no beer fan would complain. So why are not Microsoft fans the same way? Very strange bunch.
            Tim Jordan
          • I am OK with Windows not being free

            just like I'm OK with Mavericks being free.

            Apple does tend to be all about abandoning the old ASAP... and as long as I can get up to speed without shelling out all the time, that's OK with me.

            On the other hand, I have to support a lot of Windows installations. Microsoft is tireless about providing developer and support resources for old platforms. I can still get the .NET 1.1 redist, for instance.

            All this legacy support comes at a cost.

            To boot, Microsoft doesn't get that much from a PC sale... $40. That's not enough to fund endless upgrades.

            Now, Microsoft may have to look at this at some point and say, "maybe we'll get more Windows store revenue if we get everyone upgraded." That's a job for analysts on their Finance team. It would turn Windows into a kind of Pokki or Steam, I suppose.
          • Why do ABMers want Windows to be free?

            To answer your question: I don't care if Windows is free or not (though I'd prefer free). However I do realize the two companies business models are different. OS X was nothing but a rounding error to Apple as the Maintosh is really nothing more than a rounding error to them these days. However Windows is a primary pillar of Microsoft's revenue / profit. It would be foolish for the to just give that up.
          • The same reason

            You don't work for your employer for free. Making money off of your work is incentive to provide better versions of it for years to come.
          • Because it's not really true.

            And it's a kind of subtle misrepresentation that makes Apple sound better than they really are.

            Apple doesn't sell OSes - they sell hardware. If you want their OS, the ONLY legal way is to buy their hardware, which is, generally, significantly more expensive than equivalent PC systems running Windows.

            So when you get a 'free' OS from Apple you've actually paid for it up front by paying more for the hardware. And having to buy the hardware.

            Microsoft, on the other hand, until recently didn't sell their own hardware and unlike Apple, still has to support an insanely large and diverse customer base that is still using legacy OSes like Windows XP. Microsoft's hardware isn't even very highly prices - it's competitive with *other PC makers*, so they don't have enough spread there to pay for their OS work.

            When Apple starts giving away a version of OSX that works on any PC regardless of who makes it - that you can get off the shelf and install without Apple dictating anything other than perhaps basic CPU and Video card support - then you'll have a point.

            Until then, this is a strawman argument at its very best.
          • Microsoft now makes hardware so software should be free now

            Microsoft does make hardware as does Apple. There is no longer any difference between them, Microsoft is not selling it's hardware because you then have to pay for software to run it otherwise the hardware is useless. Microsoft gets you coming and going. Instead of being so greedy, Microsoft should give software out for free.
            Tim Jordan
          • MS does give its software away for free ...

            ... to those who've bought their hardware.

            Well, some of it anyway.

            Apple, by the way, did not give its update away for free to everyone. If you didn't have the preceding OS (was it Mountain Lion or Wet Poodle?) you didn't get Mavericks (or is it Outcasts?). Not much difference there between Apple and MS then. In this case, owners of 8.0 ended up with 8.1 for free.

            By the way, you appear to have an unnecessary apostrophe in your post (it's) that you might be able to sell to Info Dave for his future use; he appears to be in a buying stage at the moment. :-)
          • omg level 1 noobness

            how can you compare a company that supports its OS versions for over 10 years to one that treats you as a second class citizen if you don't run their latest betaware?
          • Depeds on the beer..

            I myself wouldn't drink Apple beer at any price. Not all beer is created equally.
            Mr. Special
          • Apple and Android are always up to date

            If you buy a computer with Android or from Apple, your software is updated to the latest version for free. With Windows phone one has to pay for each and every update. Apple and Android also extend this to the PC. Microsoft does not give anything out for free. Not even updates.
            Tim Jordan
          • Uh, not even updates?

            Tim, Tim, Tim. I was with you almost all the way, then we got to the first sentence.

            Apple has no history (beyond the current restrictive update of) of constantly upgrading (as opposed to updating, which almost every company does for free) its computer OS's. Or else I've been forking out money for no reason.

            I maintain two active desktop systems in my home office: A current PC and a current Mac. Upgrades for Mac have been more frequent, but less expensive than upgrades from Windows, so I figure they come out about even. Each upgrade has raised shrieks of distress from numerous users of either OS, but ultimately been found ... okay.

            I will gladly give Apple its due, or I wouldn't tolerate its presence here; but I give MS certainly no less. And I will point out that we have Office on the Mac because it is the best possible thing to have there. And all updates have been free.
          • yeh well MS is a software company

            not a charity.
            Apple is a hardware company. The software is a loss leader for them.