Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has an aggressive rollout plan for WIndows 10 designed to put the operating system on as many devices as it can in as short a time as possible. This is intended at least in part to rapidly move the debacle that was Windows 8 into the past.
While the company is giving free WIndows 10 upgrades to tens of millions of users, one group is being left out.
What: When Microsoft first announced that it would offer free upgrades for Windows 7 and 8 users to its new OS, it made a point of saying it would honor that offer even for unlicensed users. That meant people using pirated versions of the OS -- something they might not even be aware of -- would get the full upgrade for free, turning their illegal software into a fully legal copy.
However, Microsoft has now decided it will only provide the free upgrade to people using legal versions of its earlier operating systems, according to a blog post last week from Windows boss Terry Myerson. He explained how the upgrades will work.
"With Windows 10, we have extended an offer to our Genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers to upgrade to Windows 10 for free," Myerson wrote. "Once a customer upgrades, they will continue to receive ongoing Windows innovation and security updates for free, for the supported lifetime of that device."
So what: While it make sense for Microsoft to not reward people who stole its OS, at least some of those people were victims who bought a computer not knowing it had an illegal version of Windows. Giving those people a free upgrade made some sense as it at least pulled them into the proper Microsoft ecosystem and made future upgrades and/or expenditures possible. It also allowed the company to expand the user base for the new OS and earn some customer goodwill.
It's hard to see why Microsoft is changing course -- offering the free upgrade had little downside since the pirates had not paid in the first place. Yes, in many cases that would send a bad message, but I would argue this would represent a one-time amnesty that likely would have benefited the company.
Now what: While people running nongenuine versions of Windows will not get free upgrades, the company is still considering ways to bring them on board. Myerson gave these users a bit of an olive branch in his post, though he did not discuss specifics:
Microsoft and our OEM partners know that many consumers are unwitting victims of piracy, and with Windows 10, we would like all of our customers to move forward with us together. While our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to Non-Genuine Windows devices, and as we've always done, we will continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state. In addition, in partnership with some of our valued OEM partners, we are planning very attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers for their customers running one of their older devices in a Non-Genuine state. Please stay tuned to learn more from our partners on the specifics of their offers.
This is not as generous as essentially pardoning everyone with an illegal copy of Windows, but it could -- assuming the pricing is good -- bring people into the fold. Microsoft might not be completely opening its arms to pirates, but it does appear willing to negotiate.
That could be good news for consumers who were duped into buying illegal software and good for Windows 10.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. He unwittingly bought a laptop with a pirated version of Windows and has since had to pay for a real version. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.