One of the most persistent questions I hear about Windows 10 involves what happens when the free upgrade offer ends. Is Microsoft going to start charging subscription fees? After a close look at the company's financials, I'm convinced the answer is an emphatic no.
We've had this advice drummed into our heads for years: If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
That guideline is usually correct, which probably explains why I continue to hear from skeptics convinced that Microsoft's free Windows 10 offer is a trap. Here's how the argument typically goes, as expressed in this actual excerpt from the comments to a recent post here:
Windows as a service, to me, means that they will eventually charge a subscription or something similar, to actually use your computer. [Microsoft] will make a very basic functionality free, but if you want to do anything of consequence, you will have to pay a subscription fee. That is the master plan, if MS can get away with it.
That sounds logical, if you believe that Microsoft is giving away something (a major upgrade) for which it could have collected revenue.
But that's the flaw in this argument. Windows upgrades have never been a major source of revenue for Microsoft, and the company's shift to the cloud has made that fact even more apparent. I wrote about this phenomenon last year, in "Microsoft's transition from traditional software to the cloud is picking up steam." Here's an updated version of the chart from that post, covering Microsoft's full fiscal year 2015, which ended a month before Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer began...