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Microsoft is not going to make you pay an annual fee for Windows. Period.
Hi, everyone. Leo Notenboom here and I wanted to talk about this persistent rumor that simply will not go away about Microsoft potentially starting to charge an annual fee for users of Windows.
It’s not going to happen, and I want to explain to you how it came to be; why I feel that way; how Microsoft has made the problem worse, and basically, what you should do. The short version on that is – nothing. Keep on keeping on.
So, one of the things that’s happened is that a lot of what I believe are (I end up classifying them as trolls and Microsoft haters) have latched on to this concept, this rumor, that Microsoft is supposedly going to start charging an annual subscription fee for Windows at some point in the future.
Like I said, and I’ll say it several times today, it’s not going to happen. There’s no proof that anything like that is actually in the cards. There have been a lot of words associated with it, a lot of miscommunication. Microsoft has been fairly consistently poor about their messaging and their approach to getting Windows 10 out, and this is another case of that.
Here’s what happened: Back a couple of years ago, now or a year and a half, almost, when Windows 10 was initially released or announced, somewhere in there, a Microsoft person used the phrase, “software as a service”. Now, what they meant by that, I believe is how software is delivered to the user. We all use services all the time online and elsewhere.
Some of them get paid by a subscription fee; some do not. Now what’s confusing about this, of course, is that the software as a service model that they’re talking about with Windows really boils down to, well, delivering your updates and your major updates online by downloads. It’s an online service; they’re slowly switching it to be an online service.
The confusing part, of course, is that isn’t that what Windows has kind of sort of always been or at least has been for the past five or 10 years? All of your updates, and even your major updates like service packs, have been coming down via your online, your internet connection. So that’s a little confusing to begin with.
Microsoft is moving more in that direction to deliver more and more updates, more and more continuous updates, more and more stability and improvements through the online update mechanism, and that’s really all they were talking about; that’s really all they meant to imply.
Unfortunately, many people took this “software as a service” statement as some kind of implication that Microsoft was planning on charging a recurring fee, like every month or every year because so many other online services do exactly that. Microsoft isn’t going to do that. Not for the consumer market; that’s not something they ever stated they were going to do; there are no, zero, data points that says they have any plans to do that at any time. Now, of course, Microsoft, in classic Microsoft style, when it comes to communication around Windows 10, they made it worse because rather than saying, “No, we’re never, ever going to do this”, what they said is, “We currently have no plans or we have no current plans”, however they intended to word it.
That, from a corporate perspective, actually makes a lot of sense, because you never or ever want to close a door, make a final decision that says we’re never, ever going to do this. Now, I’ll actually describe a scenario where they could end up doing this, and it still isn’t the end of the world, but clearly, Microsoft doesn’t want to close that door.
Of course, the fact that they weren’t willing to actually say, “Absolutely no, not ever” meant that everybody (the trolls and the haters) immediately came out and said, “Oh my gosh! They’re waffling! They’ve got plans they’re not telling us about!” Again – not the case. I really think that’s an overreaction. I really do think Microsoft has no plans to do this, and I certainly believe that they have no plans to require it.
Now, that’s where things get a little bit interesting, because again, and the reason that it’s come up yet again, is that in the last couple of weeks, Microsoft announced that Enterprise customers have the ability to license Windows as a subscription with an annual fee. And of course, once again, everybody said, “Oh my god, this is what’s coming! Microsoft is doing this for the Enterprise. They’re going to force us to do it at the consumer level.”
Again, there’s no data that says they are, and in fact, this whole Enterprise scenario, it’s nothing new. Large companies have always been able to pay an ongoing maintenance or subscription fee for additional or advanced support of whatever version of Windows they happened to be running in the past. That had no impact on the consumer-pricing model; it had no impact on consumer deliverables; it’s just what big companies are able to do.
Sometimes they need that kind of additional support. It costs Microsoft more money to provide it so they charge an annual fee. That’s all that really is. Like I said, it has no implication for the consumer market. And when you think about it, requiring an annual subscription would just be really, really bad for Microsoft’s business. Why? Look at the panic just the rumor seems to cause. Everybody’s afraid that Microsoft’s going to force you to pay an annual fee.
Not gonna happen, but the fact that people react to it so strongly already is a good sign to Microsoft this is not something that they really want to require.
Now, I keep circling around this word, “require” because there actually is a very interesting scenario around the subscription model in the consumer market that Microsoft has already done and actually been doing now for a couple of years.
That is Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is available as an annual subscription. For something like a $100 a year, you get Microsoft Office (pretty much all of it) on up to something like five different computers, including both Macs and PCs. My take – pretty good deal. It’s what I do but you can still get the standalone-packaged product if that’s what you want. In other words, the subscription model exists; it might be a better deal financially depending on your situation but in no way is it required.
You can still buy the same packaged product (you may have to download), but it’s still the standalone-packaged product that you were able to buy even before the subscription model was even discussed. If Microsoft ever does go down a subscription path with Windows itself, that would be my guess on where they’ve headed, where they would be headed, but again, there have been no indications that they would ever do this.
It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a business perspective. It’s the Windows ecosystem that many people keep saying where Microsoft really makes their money. They have the opportunity to really get Windows out around the planet, and putting barriers in the way, like an annual subscription, would just be counterproductive to those ends.
So, ultimately, I really believe that’s not going to happen. This whole concept of fear mongering around Windows subscriptions is really doing everybody a disservice and I use the word “fear-mongering” on purpose. So much so, that with the exception of comments on this article, as long as they are done respectfully, of course, I’m actually considering taking the stance that fear-mongering, continuing to promote this rumor, this unfounded rumor – that Microsoft has plans to charge a subscription fee for Windows – I’m going to start treating it as trolling because that’s really all that I can see that it is.
There’s no data that says it’s going to happen; it’s just causing fear and panic in the industry. There’s no point. So, with all that being said, am I overreacting? Am I underreacting? Should I be more concerned about this whole subscription model thing than I am? It honestly, it doesn’t worry me one bit.
There enough other things, I know, to be concerned about, upset about if you care to about Windows 10. This doesn’t have to be one of them. So let me know what you think. As always, here’s a link to this video posted on askleo.com. This is where the comments are all read, they’re all moderated.
We keep the trolls out. Like I said, I will certainly, happily entertain a respectful discussion on the topic, but like I said elsewhere, I’m probably going to start treating the concerns about this being a subscription model coming down the pike, some kind of evil, hidden agenda on Microsoft’s part, I’m just going to consider it trolling elsewhere and we’ll take it from there.
So as always, I hope to see you again next week with another video. Until then, I’m Leo Notebook for askleo.com. You know the drill by now: Have fun, stay safe, and of course, don’t forget to back up. Take care, everyone.
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32 comments on “Charging an Annual Subscription for Windows? Nope.”
Leo’s comments make sense; however, never say never with Microsoft. Who would have thought that they would ever download and install software on people’s computers without asking their permission? But until Microsoft actually does something to go down the subscription road, there’s not much we can do. So let’s move on to some other discussion.
Leo, talking to you this way via comments. I live in Mexico and have only a 3G dongle for internet connection. All sites that are video or audio are not available to me. I have been a fan of your Ask Leo site for years, but find it often to contain video or audio which for low bandwidth users makes it off limits.
Not sure what I can do as there are no providers here in the boonies of Mexico. Just sayin’. Mike Gaskin
Understood. That’s one reason within a day or two of posting videos I add the transcript.
Leo, another decisive reason for your transcripts is that they are a magnificient help for foreigners like me. Very grateful. Thank you!
I just prefer the transcript. I can read faster than you can talk and I can scan the article if I desire.
I’m with you David I never look at the video or audio I’d much rather read the transcript
I’m with H David and Leslie Courcha, I almost never listen or watch. I work in a quiet environment with out access to the headphone jack. Thanks for the (almost always) prompt transcripts.
That’s funny – even before I got to the comments, I was planning on remarking on this very same thing! Thank you for the transcripts, Leo – I also will almost always avoid video (data restrictions and browser settings – not to mention, time) – I really appreciate the courtesy.
Please don’t label all Christians in line with your beliefs. I, and millions of others, would never enforce this particular rule of yours on another person.
I’m sorry you’re offended, but I see no blasphemy here, and I certainly can’t promise that something won’t offend you in the future. If you are truly that sensitive and easily offended my honest advice is to step away from the internet completely. I mean that with no disrespect whatsoever, it’s a purely pragmatic statement: the internet is full of words and ideas and concepts that we don’t agree with. If seeing those words, ideas, or concepts is too painful, then you’ll be a much, much happier person not exposing yourself to it.
“That, from a corporate perspective, actually makes a lot of sense because you never or ever want to close a door, make a final decision that says we’re never, ever going to do this.” – Exactly. No company would ever close a door like that. Google has not categorically stated that Chrome OS and Android will never be subscription-based; Apple has not categorically stated that OS X and iOS will never be subscription-based; and, of course, Microsoft has not categorically stated that Windows will never be subscription-based. However, the fact that these companies have not completely ruled subscriptions out does not mean they’re actively considering transitioning to subscription-based models. All it means is that they’re keeping the door open.
It surprised me that you have taken such an absolute stance, in your title especially, Leo. Do you really feel THAT strongly? Especially since Microsoft has not ruled it out themselves. And since articles like this can be found:
I know it’s more and more common for online writers to use exaggeration to grab readers’ attention in their effort to compete for readership, especially in titles, but it’s not the highest or most truthful form of writing.
I’ve followed your articles for so long because they’re not like that; they’ve always been better.
I stand by my statements.
That Microsoft might someday choose to offer a subscription model is not at all the same as requiring it. I talked about this in the video explicitly. The rumor mill is full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt around it supposedly becoming a requirement and people being forced to move to a periodic subscription. That’s just not going to happen.
The trademark thing is, in my opinion, only mildly interesting and more of a red herring. Companies grab trademarks for protection all the time, regardless of their future plans. It’s simply good business (particularly when you’re as big a target as Microsoft).
There is no “blasphemy” involved. What I see here is, as with many “Christians”, your attempt to force others to abide by your religious beliefs and your attempt to force others to conduct their lives as you would demand. Personally, as one raised in a Catholic home and having attended Catholic schools, I firmly believe that the sooner organized religions no longer exist the better off the world will be, considering the fact that the vast majority of violence, hatred, racism, bigotry and intolerance, both past and present, is connected with organized religions.
I am not sorry you are offended. On the contrary, your attitude and the attitudes of others like you offends me.
Leo, great narrative. I, also, cannot see MS Windows ever being a subscription based service. To do so would push users to other operating systems that would still offer them for free. And that is what the consumers want. Free. Subscription based services do have their place (ie Spotify, Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom, etc), but not for an operating system.
Subscriptions are great for people who always need to have the latest and greatest. Office 365 for $100 per year for 5 licenses is actually a good deal. But not for everyone. I’m the kind of person who likes to hang on to what I’ve got and use it as long as I can. I don’t see a reason to upgrade just because there’s a new version. For writing that letter for Christmas, what different does it make which version of Word I have. I’m the guy who bought MS Office 4.3. I installed it in Windows 3.1; I then installed it in Windows 98; I then installed it in Windows XP; and if this laptop had not come with Office Starter, I probably would have tried to install it in Windows 7. If it didn’t work, I would have switched to Open Office. That $400 purchase in 1993, while a lot at the time, lasted about 18 years ($22 per year). A subscription does not make sense for me.
As long as software creators are aware and respect users like me, there’s no problem if they want to add a subscription model, like Microsoft did with Office.
so, instead of For g**s sake maybe we should all go back to FFS ?????????
This ‘religeon’ thingy is getting ridiculous
1) msn charges what some call a monthly or yearly fee for use in their initial sales price for all their stuff
they know they would lose customers if they made a biggie so instead they merely incorporate the usage
fees in the initial sales price, same as banks do, same as brokers do, same as foreign currency exchange
do, they sometimes call it a spread but is paid in advance and thus they dont lose customers and get to
use that extra as offsets on other freebies
As a very interested follower of business and politics (Trump, notwithstanding) I pay close attention, not only to what is (and is not) being said, but the actual wording. The most emphatic statement Microsoft has made, to my knowledge, is “there are no plans to charge a subscription fee for Windows.” Please note the not so subtle difference between that statement and “there will never be a subscription fee for Windows”. Microsoft could change their plans a year or two from now and still claim they didn’t lie, technically.
I addressed that in the video. Yes, they used weasel-words. So? They’d be corporately irresponsible if they didn’t. And it has little to nothing to do with requiring a subscription.
This has been the Worldwide Year of the Troll, Leo.
Every aspect of life has had some aspect of it lately.
I don’t even have to describe what I’m talking about and I won’t. as I would be trolling about trolling. ;-p
–channeling my good buddy Gilligan as I write this.
Let’s say I have been using Windows 10 for two or three years. Suddenly Microsoft want me to pay a subscription. I tell ’em no. How are they going to collect it? Will I be banned from future upgrades? Will they take me and millions of others to court? You only have to look at the likely and unlikely scenarios to realize what nonsense these rumours are.
Good stuff Leo
Well I’m going to suggest a more modern form of blasphemy; what’s the objection to subscription? I try to operate my PC’s economically to fulfil my needs. I kept a stable version of Millennium until that seemed unsustainable, I ran XP until Leo told me not to! (I still miss it). I now run W7 on my main PC and Vista on my reserve laptop, when support ends I will phase them out. (I have a download of the free W10 but have yet to test it).
This is my point, I paid about £70 for W7, W10 is advertised in the UK for around £80. If, at a conservative estimate, those systems are good for around 5 years that is an annual cost of not more than £16.
As a consumer I would be happy to pay MS up to £20/annum to ensure that I have the latest and most secure operating system. I can see advantages to a subscription system; fixed, and therefore predictable, annual costs, the comfort of knowing that you have the latest OS, no large bills when an OS goes out of support.
I am no natural fan of Microsoft, in common with many others I resented the attempt to force W10 on us even it was good for us (like school milk) but if I’m going to use a MS OS it would suit me better to pay for that privilege by a modest annual subscription than by finding lump-sums every few years.
So I don’t really understand the objection to the subscription model; for most users I suspect it would offer a better way to pay for an operating system that was always up to date.
“What’s the objection to subscription?” – Indeed. While I don’t believe that Microsoft has any plans whatsoever to make Windows 10 subscription-based, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if the company did decide to go that route. What I find interesting about this brouhaha is that Microsoft’s licensing strategy is now near-identical to that of Apple and Google’s – and yet you don’t see people getting their panties all ruffled over the possibility that either of those companies may start to charge for OS X or Chrome OS.
It’s quite possible that Microsoft or Apple or Google could decide to implement subscriptions at some point down the road, or to go back to pay-to-play upgrades – and they’d be perfectly entitled to do so. Times change, and business strategies change. But it’s pretty clear that charges are not in their current plans and so people shouldn’t be getting their knickers knotted over it.
Most people objecting to the subscription model haven’t done the math (the Office subscription is substantially cheaper than buying the product outright), or they’re just concerned that they’re establishing a long-term billing relationship with a company that they fundamentally don’t trust. In particular they’re concerned that the Windows 10 free upgrade was some kind of trojan horse that would force them pay something in the future. I can understand not trusting Microsoft, but the concept of forcing people to pay a subscription just doesn’t make sense no matter how you look at it.
“The Office subscription is substantially cheaper than buying the product outright.” – Maybe, maybe not. It really depends on your situation and upgrade habits. Home & Student may work out to be considerably cheaper than 365 subscription if a) you’ll only be installing Office on a single device and/or b) you don’t need to upgrade each time a new version is released.
I must be missing something. I have read Microsoft’s statements about “Windows as a service” but do not understand exactly what that means. If Windows 10 is the “last Windows” (didn’t Microsoft say that, or something very similar?), then what’s next? I can remember purchasing retail copies of Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows 7, and finally Windows 8, which was eventually upgraded to Windows 8.1 and finally Windows 10. I imagine that technology will change in the next 3-5 years in a way that will require an operating system at least a bit different from Windows 10, which I now have on my four computers. So, what can I expect? Is Microsoft going to keep updating my copies of Windows 10 to keep up with advancing technology in such a way that I will not have to purchase another copy of Windows (except, maybe, on a new computer)?
Incidentally, I have never been anything but quite the opposite of a Microsoft hater. I have used their products for many years at both home and work and love them!
“Is Microsoft going to keep updating my copies of Windows 10 to keep up with advancing technology in such a way that I will not have to purchase another copy of Windows (except, maybe, on a new computer)?” – Yup, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Microsoft will keep updating Windows 10. The only time you’re supposed to need to purchase it is when you get a new computer (or, now, upgrade an existing one that didn’t take advantage of the free upgrade).
I agree with Leo on this matter. Let’s not forget that the revenue from upgrade copies of Windows was slim at best (I don’t think it came to more than 15% of the Windows license revenues overall) and the bulk of the money comes from the OEM licenses paid by the PC makers to Microsoft. So in effect we are paying for Windows when we buy a new computer. It’s hidden in the retail price, but it’s there. What are the cash cows so to speak, are Office, and Windows in the enterprise space. And yes, Office as a service is something I like, it also means I always have the latest version, plus 60 minutes of Skype to telephone per month as well as a Terabyte of OneDrive storage. I’ve seen cloud storage of that capacity costing about the same as Office 365 per year, so it’s almost as if I get the full Office suite for free so it’s a good deal for me.
Leo, after reading most of these comments (and others like them posted elsewhere) I can’t help wonder why you “keep keeping on” after all.
I used to keep a saying posted by my desk that helped me to stay on the treadmill: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure-which is: “Try to please everybody.’” (Herbert Baynard Swope)
The overwhelming majority of us are thankful that you have developed such a useful and high quality website.
Leo, new related scam. Got a call that my Windows subscription expired–emergency notice!! Call this number to renew.
I do hate these people.