Free Windows 8 upgrades? Microsoft gets it wrong again

The rumor mill on the Internet has been buzzing lately again. Sites like The Verge or ZDNet report that Microsoft is considering giving away a special version of Windows 8 for free or at a low cost to increase the operating system's user base.

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According to those reports, the version would come with Bing integrated more tightly into the operating system, likely to make some of that money back from search.

As it stands now, the upgrade will only be made available to Windows 7 users, and not to Vista or XP users.

While I can appreciate Microsoft experimenting with new strategies to get the operating system out there, the idea of giving it away for free or at low cost to Windows 7 users is inherently flawed. Here is why.

First of all, Windows 7 is a great operating system, and users without touch-screen have little incentive to switch to Windows 8. While Microsoft has started to modify Windows 8 to make it attractive to desktop users, the company has not really delivered yet to entice users to make the switch to Windows 8.

It would make a whole lot of sense to offer that deal to Windows XP users on the other hand. While a part may not be able to run Windows 8 on their machines, those who can might take up Microsoft on that offer considering that their operating system is at the end of its life cycle.

windows 8.1

Microsoft's problem here is that the company made such an offer nearly impossible by not allowing XP users to upgrade to Windows 8.1 directly. While it is possible to install Windows 8.1 on XP or Vista machines, it is like a clean installation on those systems which means that nothing is migrated over unless users make custom backups prior to installing the new operating system.

And if users manage to get a copy of Windows 8 for the upgrade instead -- unlikely as Microsoft will most likely make available 8.1 or even a newer version -- then XP users can keep their personal files, while Vista users also their Windows settings on top of that.

If Microsoft could create a custom upgrade version of Windows 8.1 that would allow users of Windows XP to keep their files at the very least, and maybe even some Windows settings such as their personal desktop background, it would certainly entice some XP users to make the switch.

If the offer is only available for Windows 7 customers, XP users could buy a Windows 7 license and upgrade afterwards to Windows 8.x for free or low cost. Then again, most would probably stick with Windows 7 and not upgrade to Windows 8 unless they have a touch screen that they want better supported.

We do not know enough about this to understand how Microsoft plans to make money out of it. While a boost in user numbers may improve the overall perception of the operating system, it does not really help if Microsoft won't earn revenue from that.

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Responses to Free Windows 8 upgrades? Microsoft gets it wrong again

  1. Womble March 5, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    I'm not sure it's going to be about upgrades Martin. I suspect it has more to do with their desperation to get this onto more devices. They already have the desktop and even people like me that haven't moved off Win 7 yet will inevitably have to make the jump to something like Metro.

    Martin. How did you mix the taskbar with Modern Desktop like that? Is it an 8.1.1 feature? or did I completely miss the ball somewhere?

    • Martin Brinkmann March 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

      No it is added by a program. I do not run it anymore, but I think it was RetroUI. http://retroui.com/

    • Martin Brinkmann March 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

      Upgrades are not the prime motive, of course, but Microsoft could kill two birds with one stone if they would offer it to XP users.

  2. Dwight Stegall March 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I'm running Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. The only way I would change to Windows 8.1 is if they paid me. Several of my relatives bought new computers with 8.1 and it lags really bad in everything they do. Especially in games. I tried to warn them. But got nowhere.

    • Martin Brinkmann March 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      I cannot confirm that the OS lags. Playing some Steam games on it, and they all work fine. But they do work as fine on Windows 7.

    • Thomas March 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

      I am not sure what you mean by that. My computer is Windows 8.1 and it runs all games just as well as on Windows 7. On Windows 7 Battlefield 4 ran at 55 fps on high settings. On Windows 8.1 it was exactly the same. Perhaps your relatives just have bad computers.

  3. Steve D March 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Well if they didn't offer a paid option to upgrade to Windows 8 from XP they will definitely not offer a free one.

    Microsoft today doesn't like the subsidized model, where you offer something at little or no profit just to get users. We saw this with the unsubsidized Windows Phone models in a market where they don't even hold a competitive share, unlike Google which still subsidizes Nexus phones even if they today have the biggest share of smartphone users.

    Another thing to consider here when upgrading Windows XP machines to Windows 8 is hardware, XP were released in 2001, a lot of XP machines can't run Windows 8.

    I am sure in Microsoft executives minds Windows XP users are users that are gonna have to upgrade at some point and a lot of them are gonna stay with Windows.

    Microsoft still has wiggle room in the OS world, things are bad but not terminal, they still have a lot of money around and can afford to try out a new OS to recuperate the (marketshare) losses of Windows 8.

    In other words for what you suggest to happen it either needs some big changes in the boardroom, or Microsoft in crisis mode, they need another failed OS at least to get there.

    • Tim March 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

      "Well if they didn't offer a paid option to upgrade to Windows 8 from XP they will definitely not offer a free one"

      They did, when Windows 8 came out people could upgrade Windows 7, Vista or XP to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 (£24.99). Quite a bargain if you ask me, but I suspect many of the consumer XP users who didn't take advantage may not have been running legit versions in the first place.

      http://www.ghacks.net/2012/07/02/upgrade-windows-7-vista-or-xp-to-windows-8-pro-for-39-99/

  4. kalmly March 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Yep. They make a mistake considering Windows 8 an upgrade to anything.

  5. RG March 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Are we talking about installing 8 (or even 7) on computers build with XP era hardware? Even if "compatible" I would never recommend that. On the other hand MS finding ways to make people go and buy new pc with Windows 8... well that's their job.

  6. InterestedBystander March 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Most software companies occupy a radically changing marketplace, I think. The free software repositories have matured to the point where there is simply no way to charge for a lot of applications. Companies have to find ways to make a profit in other ways -- for example, the widely-used instructional package Moodle is free and open-source. But it's a large and complex set of databases and web applications, and some companies offer installation-and-support services to large users like universities. My understanding is that at least some of these service companies voluntarily kick a percentage of their profit back into the developers of the free software.

    Microsoft (and Apple) are trying to create walled-garden operating systems, and at the same time benefit from app development by independent programmers. I think this creates an unstable environment -- it becomes very attractive for both users and developers to either break the OS walls or to simply move outside them. In the next few months (probably) or years (possibly) Canonical will release stable versions of their open-source operating system for phones and tablets. (Currently the phone and tablet OSes are released in beta development versions.) Steam appears committed to a non-Windows gaming platform, and at least for now SteamOS is open-source -- meaning it can be picked up and forked by independent developers. That has the potential to break the walled-garden metaphor for gaming.

    I could be all starry-eyed and silly, but I think the times they are a-changing. Microsoft has to do business differently or be left behind. I think.... could be wrong. Time will tell.

  7. Maou March 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    I tried using windows 8 for gaming but it was too troublesome to run old games.

  8. YB March 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    Windows 8.1 is not as bad as this blogger makes it out to be. A shame that these so called tech geeks can't adapt to anything new. I understand the general public, but not people who are supposed to know how to use a computer.

    • InterestedBystander March 5, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

      @YB: Mmm, well, there was nothing said about 8.1 being bad. I tend to agree that for a desktop user without a touchscreen, Win 8 has no obvious benefit over Win 7. Of course this implies that the software in the Windows app store is of little value. As a side note, a few emulator programs will allow Windows users -- including Win 7 -- to run Android apps. It's doubtful that the considerable software structure necessary for Win 8 apps to run under Win 7 will appear anytime soon. And according to The Verge website (http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/12/5404098/microsoft-considering-android-apps-on-windows), Microsoft may actually set up an official Windows environment for Android apps. That creates an interesting dynamic, since the Android app store tends to sport more popular titles than the Windows store.

    • ilev March 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      Windows 8 is horrible (the jumping tiles side). No wonder that all VIP executives at Microsoft, even remotely connect to the disastrous OS , has either been kicked out from Microsoft (Ballmer, Tony Bates, Tami Reller, Jon DeVaan, Grant George...) or kicked to nowhere land as far as possible away from Windows projects (Julie Larson-Green & Jensen Harris, from hideous Ribbon, Michael Angiulo, Chris Jones, Antoine Leblond...)

    • sades March 6, 2014 at 5:18 am #

      Is this "can't adapt" shit narrative is still being thrown around?

      I'd soon "adapt" to Linux using Cinnamon than Win 8.

      If you're one of those turfers MS loves to hire, tell them that that kind of stunt will only do the opposite and enrage the "geek" instead.

  9. Ed March 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    I was just thinking this morning how MS charges OEM companies about $50 for a Windows license.

    MS makes most of their money on Windows thru OEMs.

    Why can't they extend this same pricing structure to the average user building or upgrading their own computers?

    I wouldn't think twice about installing Windows on new builds instead of Linux if their pricing for consumers was the same as their licensing to OEMs.

    • ilev March 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

      Rumor is Microsoft is going to charge OEMs $15 for Windows OS.

      • Ed March 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

        Yeah. $15 for any computer selling for $249 or less. I don't think there are many of those around. Don't know if that discount applies to tablets.

        I wish end users could get in on such discounts for our own custom builds.
        Wishful thinking, I guess :)

  10. Gregg DesElms March 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    FROM THE ARTICLE: While a boost in user numbers may improve the overall perception of the operating system, it does not really help if Microsoft won't earn revenue from that.

    MY RESPONSE: I agreed with everything until that sentence. I was reading an article about this possibly new free, feature-reduced, Bing-integrated (to the exclusion of Google, it seems) version just a day or two ago; and the headline of the article suggested that it was going to tell us what was in this free version...

    ...but the entire article was about the marketing strategy; and it talked about and looked at, from several different angles, Microsoft's market share, as well as which versions of Windows occupy the Windows marketplace; and it then analyzed all those numbers...

    ...my point is that the numbers -- specifically those that show Windows 8.x to be a bust -- is all anyone's talking about. So Microsoft, then, at this point, will do almost anything, I think, to get those numbers up. I think Microsoft thinks it will be worth it, indeed, if giving it away for a while will get that done.

    Of course, once again Microsoft's arrogance shows. It clearly believes that its OS is so superior that users will find a crippled version of it for free to be better than a free fully-functional version of Linux or Android or Chrome OS (or JoliCloud, or whatever). Now THAT's arrogance!

    __________________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
    Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

    • InterestedBystander March 6, 2014 at 12:31 am #

      Good post, Gregg. You might have read "No One Stays King Forever", Dan Lyons' blog post on the failure of walled garden operating systems as a business strategy, at http://blog.hubspot.com/opinion/2-lessons-apple-should-learn-from-microsoft .

      One of Lyons' main point is "Lock-in leads to disaster". It's a good read.

      • Gregg DesElms March 6, 2014 at 9:30 am #

        Indeed, InterestedBystander, that was a good read; and I think I read it back around the middle of February. The article I was talking about, though, was just a few days ago... a couple or three maybe. I might have been on PC World, or... gosh... I just can't remember, now. But the headline, seriously, made it sound like the article would explain what the free version will be like, but it was, to the last of it, about the numbers; and what a bust Win8 has been.

        That's actually been the theme of most articles for several months, now; and Microsoft just can't abide it; hence the reason I think it would happily forego revenues for a little while to give away Win8 (or at least a crippled version thereof) just to get the market penetration numbers up.

        YOU WROTE: One of Lyons' main point is "Lock-in leads to disaster".

        MY RESPONSE: Yes, but it was actually before that that I first choked. He wrote: "The gist of Gruber’s essay is that Microsoft’s redemption, if there is to be one, will involve its ability to become a leading provider of cloud services. That’s the next big thing, and that’s where Microsoft has advantages, in terms of technology and business experience, over everyone else."

        MY RESPONSE: First, "if there is to be one," indeed. But, second, that whole thing made me furrow my brow and say, aloud, "what?" The ship long-ago sailed on cloud services being "the next big thing." Everyone *EXCEPT* Microsoft, it seems, has understood that; and even the smallest of the players in it have shown that if Microsoft *DOES* have any "advantages, in terms of technology and business experience, over everyone else," it certainly hasn't made a whit of difference...

        ...in part because, as usual, Microsoft is late to the game. It's all proud of itself for introducing a Skype plug-in for Outlook the other day, when Google, with its Hangouts in GMAIL, is on at least its second generation of the equivalent (Google Talk being the first); and if you count Google Voice integration into GMAIL, then Hangouts is arguably -- or at leat peripherally -- its third.

        In a way, it's little different than Microsoft did back in 1994 when the worldwide web component of the Internet was finally released to the public, and Microsoft just shrugged it off as a passing fad. It took it more than a year to come-out with IE version 1; and in the company's profound arrogance, it actually believed it could set and establish its own standards. It took until IE version 4 for even the slightest hint of Microsoft's compliance with standards to show; and even then, the behemoth company was still playing catch-up with Netscape.

        Microsoft hasn't the slightest notion how to spot the place on the curve that is objectiively "ahead" of it; and the biggest reason is that it has set the curve for so long that it has no skills, whatsoever, for being fleet-of-foot and responsive to market pressures that it not only can't control, but which it didn't cause. This is uncharted territory for Microsoft; and if its new CEO doesn't start running the company like a hungry and aggressive start-up, instead of an imperious leader, its hoped-for redemption will elude it.

        __________________________________
        Gregg L. DesElms
        Napa, California USA
        gregg at greggdeselms dot com

        Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
        Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

  11. sades March 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    They need to PAY me to make me use Win 8.

    • Gregg DesElms March 6, 2014 at 1:43 am #

      Yeah, I know, @sades...

      ...we all say stuff like that; but, in the end, we'll either use it, or nothing at all. It's the way of things. Either that, or we hang-on to Win7 'til Win9's out and hope all of Win8's infirmities are fixed in Win9.

      The truth is that just as about a dozen registry hacks, and a couple of utilities, and some basic settings could turn Vista into, effectively Win7 (Win7 is, after all, little more than Vista, but fixed)...

      ...roughly the same thing can make Win8 -- especially Win8.1; and even MORE especially, the update to it that's allegedly coming -- quite livable. New computer buyers aren't going to have much of a choice, soon. Despite the numbers, DELL, for example, isn't replenishing Win7 stock. It's joining Microsoft in bygod forcing Win8 down people's throats (you'd think its decrease in sales would make it relent and put fresh Win7 stock into its warehouses; but, no, apparently not), and so anyone getting a brand new notebook or desktop or whatever from DELL will bygod get Win8.

      Yes, there's still some Win7 stock in most categories on the DELL site, but the Win7 stock with the best features is long gone. It's down to if you want a Win7 desktop replacement notebook that you saw on the DELL website before Christmas, for example, you now pretty much have to happen onto a refurbed or scratched/dented one and grab it before anyone else does: they're usually gone in from minutes to no more than hours. I recently saw the very 8GB RAM, quad-core I7, 1080p, 1TB drive (with spare second drive bay) Inspiron both 15R SE and 17R SE 64-bit Win7-Pro notebook that I had my eye on in late November, and again a little before Christmas (that's nowhere to be found in new stock, anymore) land in the DELL outlet store (one refurbed, one scratche), and then both disappeare, again, in about four minutes. No kidding.

      Of course, a person can get a Win8 model, do a bare-metal backup of the entire hard drive (both the regular Drive C: and the restoral Drive D:) and then purchase a full copy of Win7 and install it; then go to the DELL website and download all the Win7 drivers for the device and basically build your own. By so doing, you'd no longer have the Drive D: restoral partition (unless you'd like to manually build it, which can be done, but it's a royal pain), but who cares: you'll just get to allocate that 8GB or 12GB or whatever it is to drive C:. Then, once it's all installed and drivers installed, Windows updated, and service packs installed, and running and tested, you just make a bare metal backup of that so it can be restored if it's ever needed (in lieu of the restoral partition; either that or put said bare metal backup into the restoral partition, along with a copy of the restoral software)...

      ...and, voila!, you've got yourself a Win7 version of the machine DELL was trying to shove down your throat as Win8... and without all the bloatware. Then, later, if you ever need to restore the device to how it came from the factory with Win8 on it, you just restore from the bare metal backup you earlier made of that. At that point, you can then upgrade it to Win9 (if it's still running), or whatever by then makes the most sense.

      Yes, doing it that way will add... what... $140(US) or something like that (for Win7) to the overall price; but if you hate Win8 enough, it's a small price to pay.

      There's also a possibility that a restoral Win7 DVD set could be purchased for the Win7 version of the Win8 device; and that it could be restored that way, but you'd still need a Win7 key. Doing it that way, though, would restore the device to how the Win7 models came from the factory, with all the DELL drivers already there, but all the boatware, too.

      Doing it that way also kinda' goofs-up DELL's service numbering scheme, but a call to a support supervisor can get it all squared away.

      It's a pain, but it can be done...

      ...legally, I mean. If one's willing to do it illegally, then that's a whole 'nuther matter; and not one I'm willing to discuss here... or anywhere.

      [sigh] Oy. Win8. Can't live WITH it, can't KILL it. [shakes head in disgust]

      __________________________________
      Gregg L. DesElms
      Napa, California USA
      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

      Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
      Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

      • InterestedBystander March 6, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

        "...and, voila!, you've got yourself a Win7 version of the machine DELL was trying to shove down your throat as Win8..."

        Yes. Did that with a Lenovo desktop back in 2012, though I dispensed with the backup of Win 8. The machine dual-boots with Ubuntu, and I seldom use it as a Windows machine anymore. For my particular home computing needs, Linux does everything and Windows is nearly irrelevant. My other home machines are multi-boot, but all the OS are Linux variants.

        For users like myself, I'd say "Just step away from Microsoft. You can get off the Windows merry-go-round and the nausea will subside."

  12. Steve D March 5, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    Tim:
    "They did, when Windows 8 came out people could upgrade Windows 7, Vista or XP to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 (£24.99)"

    Upgrade while keeping your apps and settings settings, sorry I should have been more specific.

  13. Roderick March 6, 2014 at 12:25 am #

    Im actually pretty set on my windows computer. The only way i would upgrade is if i bought a new computer not a used one. I want windows 8 but not on my current hardware.

  14. Wayfarer March 6, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Upgrade from 7 to 8?? Now if they offered a cheap 'downgrade' from 8 to 7 I might be interested.

    I have Win7 / Ubuntu on my desktop, 8.1 on my laptop. I use Ubuntu as least as much as the other two put together. If I could afford it, I'd 'downgrade' the laptop to Win7 like a shot.

    I'd even settle for a version of 8 that did away with the whole bloated Metro side of the OS and give me some HD real estate back.

    • Gregg DesElms March 8, 2014 at 5:49 am #

      TO: Wayfarer

      Hmm. Sounds like the cheapest solution, then, is to put a 1TB hard drive into the laptop, so that however much of it the Metro interface uses won't be missed.

      SEE | http://bit.ly/1gZRPu8 (5400 RPM)
      SEE | http://bit.ly/1gZRYOd (7200 RPM)

      Of course, once you do that, you could just throw another $20 to $30 at it, and get a full Win7 SP1 Home Premium; or $50 to $70 for a copy of Win7 SP1 Pro.

      SEE | http://bit.ly/1gZSf3M

      I think I'd just get Win7 SP1 Pro and call it a day; but, hey... that's just me.

      But then, again, I'd want a 1TB 7200 RPM drive, too... so there's that. [grin]

      __________________________________
      Gregg L. DesElms
      Napa, California USA
      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

      Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
      Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

  15. Shea Bunge March 8, 2014 at 3:58 am #

    Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 gives you three options: preserve programs and user files, preserve only user files, or perform a clean install. Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8 gives you the latter two options, not only the clean install option.

    • Gregg DesElms March 8, 2014 at 5:57 am #

      TO: Shea Bunge

      I know it's just a personal preference, but I never try to preserve anything. I first make sure I have all the installers and serials and keys and codes; and I back-up all the data...

      ...and then I go from there with a wipe-the-drive and fresh-install of the new OS. It's actually cleaner, safer, less buggy. And really, by the time you deal with all the weirdness from trying to preserve and upgrade, it takes about the same amount of time. Plus, upgrading always leaves so much of the old OS on the drive (usually sitting in the very folder that you'd like the new copy of Windows to be in) that a whole lot more drive gets used-up. Plus, because of the non-standard directory structure, some software doesn't properly "find" the right version of Windows on installa, or during use. Seriously, it's just not worth it.

      Organize the installers; back-up data; start from scratch. Much cleaner. Much easier. And even though it's maybe not really faster, it's nevertheless worth it to not screw around with the other issues I've mentioned. I'd rather sit and mindlessly run through a bunch of installers, and a data restoral, then sit around and scratch my head and figure out why things aren't quite right.

      MY FURTHER ADVICE: Current XP users should not upgrade. They should get a new machine. With machines with Win7 pro on them under $500 -- sometimes even including mouse, keyboard and monitor -- it's just not worth it to put Win7 on an underpowered machine.

      Just my informed-by-pushing-40-years-in-IT opinion.

      __________________________________
      Gregg L. DesElms
      Napa, California USA
      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

      Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
      Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

      • Shea Bunge March 8, 2014 at 7:26 am #

        Sure, that makes perfect sense, and it is what I did with my old Win XP machine. However, I was just correcting Martin when he said that the only option available to Windows XP users upgrading to Windows 8 was to perform a clean install. But thanks for the good advice anyway.

      • Martin Brinkmann March 8, 2014 at 7:57 am #

        Shea, the only option to install Windows 8.1 right away is a clean install according to Microsoft if you use a DVD. Quote: "To upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows Vista or Windows XP, you'll need to install it from a Windows 8.1 DVD and perform a clean installation. This means you won't be able to keep any files, settings, or programs when you upgrade".

  16. Gregg DesElms March 8, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    SEAH BUNGE WROTE: Sure, that makes perfect sense, and it is what I did with my old Win XP machine. However, I was just correcting Martin when he said that the only option available to Windows XP users upgrading to Windows 8 was to perform a clean install. But thanks for the good advice anyway.

    MY RESPONSE: My bad. I should have been more clear. Yes, I knew you were just trying to make the options clear; and not that you were necessarily advocating for any of them. I was simply trying to make sure that anyone who read the choices would see the wisdom of the way I do it. I should, again, have been more clear.

    MARTIN BRINKMANN ADDED: Shea, the only option to install Windows 8.1 right away is a clean install according to Microsoft if you use a DVD. Quote: "To upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows Vista or Windows XP, you'll need to install it from a Windows 8.1 DVD and perform a clean installation. This means you won't be able to keep any files, settings, or programs when you upgrade".

    MY RESPONSE: And there you go. Even Microsoft knows which way is best. [grin]

    __________________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
    Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

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