100% Pure Speculation – Windows “Blue” (“8.1”) Upgrade Will Require A New License

Earlier this week, I woke up on the sidewalk to discover that I had written a blog post called “100% Pure Speculation – Will Windows “Blue” (“8.1”) Upgrade Require A New License?”.  Guess what – I ate a dodgy smelling sausage roll this morning and I think I’m losing my grip on reality.  I’m going to paraphrase Exchange MVP, Tony Redmond, from a recent episode of RunAs Radio: I’m Irish and I have a constitutional right to argue with myself.

There is ample evidence to suggest that Microsoft will in fact charge for new versions of Windows that will go GA later this year.

Consider what has started to happen with “the new Office”.  Microsoft has started the shift to a subscription model under the Office 365 banner for office and consumer products.  They obviously prefer this because they get a predictable stream of revenue every month of every year, rather than a saw tooth purchase pattern when customers buy new versions every 3-10 years.

Microsoft gets some predictability with volume license leasing programs like Enterprise Agreements and Open Value Subscription, but lots of businesses elect for the alternatives such as Select and Open … and then they buy every 3-10 years. 

That can’t suit Microsoft; they have shareholders to keep happy and they can’t continue to invest billions in R&D and product development with customers opting to skip 2 or 3 versions at a time.

If Microsoft is switching to an annual release of Windows, then can they expect people to pay up every year if they want to stay current? 

I can’t imagine businesses being OK with major migrations.  But if the “8.1” and “8.2” releases are minor (like service/feature packs) then maybe deployment wouldn’t be painful.  And lots of volume licensees have Software Assurance to stay current and avail of many other benefits.

Microsoft would hardly be the first to charge for new annual versions.  Apple does it in the desktop space with MacOS.  Each point release costs a small amount of money and it seems to sell well.  This model also allows Apple to only support the last few years of the OS.  That keeps support costs down; another reason to make the change.  But this would have to be gradual because there are previously posted end of life statements going out beyond 2020!

VMware also does this in the server space through their support contract.  Get the support and you’re entitled to upgrades.  That seems to sit well with their customers. 

Oh – Windows Server 2003 R2 and its CALs required a new purchase.  The same was also true with Windows Server 2008 R2 (& CALs) and Windows 7.  And it was also done with ConfigMgr 2007 R2 and ConfigMgr 2007 R3 and their management licenses.


  • Microsoft has been trying for years to shift us to subscription licensing via SA with limited success
  • Microsoft has already started a new shift to annual & monthly subscriptions with Office
  • Competitors already sell business software for PCs and servers with a subscription style renewal or micropayment
  • Microsoft has a history of doing this with minor releases for desktop and server before
  • That sausage roll may have had hallucinogenic ingredients

So it would not surprise me if Microsoft charged for “Windows Server 2012 R2” and “Windows 8.1”. 

OK, a dragon is asking me if I want to retake the Iron Throne.  It’s time for me to wrap up.

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