Windows 10 Starts Charging For Missing Features

Posted: August 6, 2015 in Opinion Piece

by Gordon Kelly via Forbes

Windows 10 splits opinions and it has split mine. I think Microsoft MSFT +0.43% nailed the core OS, but the policies around it are controlling and overly invasive. In short: great software, shame about the rules. And here’s another perfect example…

Now Windows 10 has launched, Microsoft is starting to fill in the blanks regarding features removed from Windows 7 and Windows 8 and it doesn’t make for pleasant reading. Why? Because behind this free upgrade are the first signs of where Microsoft will start charging users in future and it begins at the very bottom:

1. Solitaire

Yes, surprising as it might seem, Microsoft has announced it will actually charge users a monthly subscription to play Solitaire – a free staple of Windows releases since Windows 3.0 in 1990.

Having been stripped out of Windows 10, Solitare is now found in the Windows Store and it is a freemium download. This means it can be used for free, but is ad supported and in this case the ads are highly invasive with mandatory 30 second video slots playing over the screen between every game. If you want to switch that off you must pay Microsoft $1.49 per month or $9.99 per year.

Solitaire-paid

The good news is for that fee you do get an upgraded game with five variations, more card designs, daily challenges and tournaments. Still you would think those upgrades would be what the premium upgrade was for, not access to the basic game.

For those with conspiracy theories about Windows 10’s long term subscription ambitions, Solitaire (of all things) will only add more fuel to the fire.

2. Windows DVD Player

Along with Solitaire, another feature removed from Windows 7 and Windows 8 was the venerable Windows Media Center. WMC was long in the tooth, but beloved by those who still used it and in conjunction with its removal from Windows 10 the lack of even a basic DVD player in the new operating system was something of a mystery.

Not anymore. Microsoft has now announced the launch of ‘Windows DVD Player’. It is no WMC replacement and its full feature list is simply:
•Plays DVDs on your PC
•Simple controls for disc navigation

Windows DVD Player also won’t play Blu-ray discs nor DVDs from file backups, it is 100% optical discs only. All of which makes it pretty limited, but this is just the start.

Microsoft states Windows DVD Player will only be “free for a limited time” but doesn’t say how long this will be. Even the player’s FAQ simply says “The timing has not been finalized yet. It will end at or before the free Windows 10 upgrade offer.” Great.

DVD-Player

After that unspecified time Microsoft will charge a hefty $14.99 for Windows DVD Player, a ludicrous decision when far more powerful and accomplished players like VLC are free. What’s more, even if you grab Windows DVD Player for free now, you may have to pay for it later.

Digging further into the player’s FAO page, Microsoft states only upgraders from Windows 7 or Windows 8 will get it free and users who perform clean installations of Windows 10 will not. Furthermore if users ever need to reinstall Windows 10 (for example, due to problems) then Microsoft doesn’t count that as coming from Windows 7 or Windows 8 and again you lose free access to Windows DVD Player unless you first install Windows 7 or Windows 8 then upgrade to Windows 10.

Yes, this is bonkers. It also asks a bigger question: where is all this headed?

Windows As A Service

At this point it is important to state that Solitaire and Windows DVD Player alone cannot be held up as indisputable proof of an evil Microsoft master plan to trick users out of their money via a mass of tiny, expensive additions. That said both are clear indicators of how the company’s business model is evolving.

Having openly stated that ‘Windows as a service’ is the platform’s future, Microsoft is effectively taking a hit by giving Windows 10 away free on the gamble that it opens up the possibility of charging for add-ons. This can be as small as Solitaire and Windows DVD Player, but more importantly than the software in question this time (third party Solitaire apps and DVD players are everywhere) is how it sets the precedent for Microsoft to scale up to bigger features in future. Those features can be automatically pushed to users in trial form through Windows 10’s mandatory upgrades with fees to then keep them running.

device_laptop_mini_start_cortana

In itself this business model is nothing new, but it is new for Windows users and – quite understandably – many don’t like it.

Personally my belief is Microsoft is entitled to do whatever it wants to do and earn however it wants to earn and customers will vote with their feet. The trouble is in the run up to Windows 10 Microsoft has not been transparent with users so many are not clear on what they are signing up to or from where future costs may come. Microsoft is sitting back and letting ‘Free Windows 10’ do all the selling.

And that’s true: the core Windows 10 experience IS free. But when it comes to even the simplest of extras, what is increasingly clear is users are getting what they paid for.

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