Microsoft targets Chinese pirates with free upgrade to Windows 10

19 Mar 2015

Microsoft is taking a bold step in order to engage with the millions of software pirates in China, offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 for anyone currently using licensed or unlicensed Windows 7 or 8.

In an interview with Reuters, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson said: “We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10.”

It’s a whole new way of trying to engage with a market that is notoriously difficult to measure, and even harder to monetise.

Indeed many software companies have, at least partly, realised there is very little they can do to combat the trend of illegal downloads. However with this, Microsoft is thinking outside the box, with up to 75pc of all computer software not properly licensed in China.

“Steve Ballmer, former CEO, said Microsoft gets less revenue from China than it does the Netherlands,” said Paul Carsten, Reuters’ China technology correspondent.

“So by giving these guys free upgrades to Windows 10 in a legit version, basically brings these guys into the official ecosystem.”

Windows 10 will launch in 190 countries and 111 languages, in a bid to transcend across all devices, from PCs, to tablets and smartphones. It will include new biometric security features as well as focus on the burgeoning world of Internet of Things devices.

Apparently the company is working closely with Lenovo to get the product out to users this year, with Microsoft also targeting the mobile market, reaching an agreement with Xiaomi to trial Windows 10 smartphone interfaces and plans with Lenovo, too, in the offing.

“Anyone with a qualified device can upgrade to Windows 10, including those with pirated copies of Windows,” said Microsoft in a statement to The Verge. “We believe customers over time will realise the value of properly licensing Windows and we will make it easy for them to move to legitimate copies.”

*Update on April 7: Microsoft has sought to clarify the situation somewhat. It is backtracking a small bit on the plans to offer everyone the upgrade regardless of license. It now claims that if you do get the upgrade, having not had a legit license beforehand, you will still lack a legit licence with Windows 10.

“With Windows 10, although non-Genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license… If a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade.”

Internet piracy image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic