Partners Decry Lack Of Notification On Windows 10 Free Upgrade

Microsoft's surprise offer of a free upgrade to Windows 10 for existing customers left some partners wondering why they weren't given any advance notification.

During the Wednesday launch of its new operating system, Windows 10, the Redmond, Wash.-based company revealed the free upgrade for customers currently running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, set to take place the first year after the system goes to market.

Many partners and analysts praised Windows 10 as a "turnaround" for Microsoft, but CRN spoke to several partners who were not comfortable with the level of notification they were given about the free upgrade.

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Joe Balsarotti, president of Software To Go, a St. Peters, Mo.-based Microsoft partner, said he received no information about the free upgrade or new system prior to Wednesday's announcement. Balsarotti pointed to the upgrade as a clever move to win back the loyalty of existing users who may have been disillusioned by Windows 8. But, he said, partners should have received some sort of advance notice of the free upgrade, especially with the potential loss of revenue it may cause solution providers.

"It's interesting that Microsoft would try this," he said. "They irritated a lot of people with Windows 8. It may smooth things over with some people who really don't like 8 and give them an alternative. I think they're floating a trial balloon, and I can't say that's a bad move. But if no one pays and it's provided for free, some customers might see it as having no value. And if I'm not making money on it, I'm not going to sell it. … I'm in a business to make a profit."

The free upgrade will be offered for the first year after Windows 10 goes to market, which, according to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group, will be later in the year.

"This is more than a one-time upgrade," wrote Myerson in a Windows Blog post after the launch event. "Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device -- at no cost. With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We’ll deliver new features when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release."

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company "cannot comment on its partner relationships and disclosures."
CRN for comment.

Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Ontario-based Xylotek Solutions, a Microsoft partner, said the upgrade was a "great incentive for users," both corporate and consumer, but noted that the upgrades presented both significant challenges and opportunities for solution providers.

"The biggest costs are always the labor activities around what will likely need to be a full rip-and-replace exercise for most corporate folks, given so many still run Windows 7 and older operating systems on much of their client infrastructure," he said. "Free to the end user, at least in acquisition costs, means lost revenue for Microsoft partners in the product space, though it presents an opportunity for more service revenue in project work, which frankly is the more successful business model for a VAR in today's landscape anyway."

NEXT: Partners Still Applaud Windows 10 'Turnaround'

Bob Nitrio, CEO of Ranvest Associates, an Orangevale, Calif.-based small-business Microsoft partner, said he received no notice about the new software or free upgrade, but noted that was probably part of Microsoft's strategy.

"Frankly, we've seen minimal information from Microsoft about what they were planning … we tend to learn about that through leaks and rumors," he said. "We would have liked to know that this was on the agenda, but the fact that they surprised everyone with it may have been their intent. It hasn't been something where they've reached out to partners and said, 'What would you like to see in the next version?' Even though that's always been our experience, it still gets frustrating. Big companies take very little information and partner feedback, if any at all. That's unfortunately the case."

Aside from the lack of notification, however, Nitrio said he is excited that Microsoft seems to have made a "turnaround" in their operating system.

"If they're now trying to make amends and show the marketplace that they're taking the steps to get it right and make it an enjoyable experience then, to me, that's a turnaround," he said. "I'm excited to see it because I think Microsoft has been really proactive in trying to get this version of Windows right. Every OS version should take users to a place where [the system] performs better and is easier for them. I'm sure Microsoft had that in mind for this version."