Windows 10 Signifies Microsoft’s Shift in Strategy

Windows 10 Signifies Microsoft’s Shift in Strategy

SEATTLE — Next week, when Microsoft releases Windows 10, the latest version of the company’s operating system, the software will offer a mix of the familiar and new to the people who run earlier versions of it on more than 1.5 billion computers and other devices.

There will be a virtual assistant in the software that keeps track of users’ schedules, and Microsoft will regularly trickle out updates with new features to its users over the Internet. And the Start menu, a fixture of Windows for decades, will make a formal reappearance.

But one of the biggest changes is the price. Microsoft will not charge customers to upgrade Windows on computers, a shift that shows how power dynamics in the tech industry have changed.

The decision to make free a product that once cost $50 to $100 is a sign of how charging consumers for software is going the way of the flip phone. Companies like Google have crept into Microsoft’s business with free software and services subsidized by its huge advertising business, while Apple in recent years has made upgrades to its applications and operating systems free, earning its money instead from hardware sales

Microsoft, whose core business is software, sought to buck this trend for as long as it could. But the inroads made by companies like Apple and Google have put intense pressure on Microsoft to find new ways to profit from some of its big moneymakers.

“It will confirm people’s expectations that you don’t pay for operating systems,” Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research, said of Windows 10. He added, referring to Microsoft’s devices: “They’re basically killing off their ability to monetize anything on the consumer side, aside from Xbox, Lumia phones and Surface.”

Already, the company has been giving away mobile versions of Office apps like Word and Excel, an effort to give the software some life in a category of devices where the company is weak. And it has made Windows free to companies that make smaller devices, mainly smartphones and tablets, to get more of them to use the software.

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