Microsoft unveiled its new Windows 10 platform yesterday in events held in 13 cities across the world.
While the firm held similar events at 12 other global cities to unveil what it terms as its best Windows to-date, the venue of the Dubai event – Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower – perhaps best symbolises its ambitions for the platform.
“Today we’re launching Windows 10 in 190 countries. It is a free upgrade for those on Windows 7 and later platforms,” said Samer Abu Ltaif, Regional General Manager, Microsoft Gulf.
But why would a software maker give away its bread-and-butter product – the software – for free? After all, we don’t see hardware makers giving away free hardware upgrades… say, Apple giving away free iPhone 7 a year after you bought the iPhone 6.
There are an estimated 1.5 billion people on the Windows operating system worldwide. If, theoretically, Microsoft were to retail its latest OS at the same price as its previous version (Windows 8 retails for $119.99 at the Microsoft Store) to all those customers, it stands to make a staggering $179.9 billion (Dh661bn) in sales.
Accepted that not everyone would purchase it at the retail price as there will be special rates for enterprise and education institutional customers, in addition to the fact that not everyone will be on genuine, licensed copy. Also, a reasonable proportion might not upgrade at all at that price.
A good number to then use will perhaps be the 211 million-odd user base of Windows 8 and 8.1, who might want an upgrade. If Microsoft were to sell the new OS to just this group, it would still stand to rake in $25.3bn (Dh93bn) in sales – a much smaller amount, but still not to be sneezed at.
Why then is Microsoft doing so? Surely it isn’t following the footsteps of its philanthropic founder and donating Windows 10 for the greater good of mankind.
“I believe that what Windows 10 can provide to our eco-system – our partners and our users – is a great opportunity for Microsoft beyond a short-term thinking of what it means financially,” Samer explains to Emirates 24|7.
“We believe that we’re building an eco-system that is going to create a platform for innovation, for connectivity to a new set of devices, a new set of applications, opportunities for developers that are special and unique,” he notes.
But how will Microsoft leverage that for financial gains, we ask.
“We as Microsoft have a very large business,” he explains. “We are the largest software company on the planet. We believe that Windows 10 is an opportunity for us in order to reach out to customers in different segments, enable them to do more and achieve more by leveraging an array of products and solutions that we can offer,” he explains.
“Be it solutions from the cloud, be it other software that they can attach on the Windows platform, apps, productivity tools, etc. that will enable them to leverage the power of Windows 10 on everything that can be built on top of it,” Samer adds further.
“In addition to that, we are lighting up some of our hardware business, the likes of Surface, Surface Hub, our Xbox business… So, this is an incremental excitement to what has been made available by Microsoft in terms of innovation, he says.
Microsoft’s game plan is ambitious yet simple. It wants to use the Windows 10 platform to connect a host of devices – the PC, the laptop/tablet, the smartphone, the gaming console and even the car and home appliances (think Internet of Things) – seamlessly, garnering a lion’s share of the connected devices market.
“There are 1.5 billion users of the Windows OS around the globe,” he says. “Add to that the exciting developer opportunity that exists here – one platform, one operating system, one Store, one experience, and an array of devices – from the smallest sensors in the connected IoT devices all the way to tablets, PCs, smartphones, TVs, Xbox, holographic computing… There has never been any ecosystem that can deliver that comprehensive, holistic experience.”
That’s exactly why Microsoft has, starting yesterday, begun the free OS upgrade of those who registered with it and who have a Windows 7 or later OS.
The freemium model means that the software maker wants to get people into its ecosystem with the ‘free’ Windows 10 promise, and then ultimately convince them to buy its other products and services.
Like once you’re comfortable with the free Windows 10 upgrade and are, sometime later, in the market for a gaming console, would it make more sense for you to go for one that can stream live on your laptop and for which there’s already a built-in app in your browser?
Or, if you’re looking to purchase a virtual reality headset, wouldn’t you be tempted to go for the one that’s fully compatible with your laptop and smartphone?
“The fact that Windows has now become a service rather than a version released every two or three years is a fantastic journey,” he says.
“The 5 million people who tested the platform and offered their feedback have managed in many ways to influence us to bring the familiarity of Windows 7 with the excitement of Windows 8 and 8.1 Touch and apps and Store,” he maintains.
So even if Microsoft is giving up the opportunity of making $25bn or even more in sales from its hot new OS, it is after a much bigger share of your pocket. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.