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Microsoft backtracks on its promise of free Windows 10 for pirates

by Jacob Kleinman | March 20, 2015March 20, 2015 7:00 am EST

Windows 10 Hands-On-1

Earlier this week, Microsoft caught pretty much everyone by surprise with an interesting promise: Windows 10 would be available to everyone as a free upgrade—even people with pirated versions of its current operating system. Since then the company has changed its tune, backtracking a bit on those initial claims.

Here’s how Microsoft explained its upgrade policy in a recent statement to Ars Technica:

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.

Still confused? Us too, and Microsoft hasn’t offered a clear definition for exactly what it means by “non-genuine.” However, it sounds like the company could have a pretty clever plan to convert Windows pirates into paying customers.

Here’s how it might work. Anyone who upgrades to Windows 10 from pirated software will end up with an unsupported version of the new operating system. That could mean missing security features and restricted access to other Microsoft services. From there, getting the full Windows 10 experience may come at a price.

“We will provide a mechanism for non-genuine Windows 10 PC devices to ‘get genuine’ via the new Windows Store, whether they are upgraded versions of Windows or purchased,” Microsoft explained to VentureBeat. “We will have details on this as we get closer to launch.”

So basically, it sounds like the company will offer a limited version of its software for free, and then charge for the full version. It’s not a bad strategy, though there’s no guarantee the same pirates won’t just steal Windows 10 as well instead of playing Microsoft’s game.

Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...