Windows 10 upgrade arrives this summer – even for pirated copies

A Microsoft representative shows a Windows smartphone with Windows 10 operating system at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover March 14, 2015.

A Microsoft representative shows a Windows smartphone with Windows 10 operating system at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover March 14, 2015.  (REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen)

A free Windows 10 upgrade will arrive this summer, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Operating Systems group, wrote in a blog post this week.

And that includes pirated copies

That’s because Microsoft is trying to penetrate the Chinese consumer market, which is rife with illegal copies of the operating system.

However, there’s a big qualifier. That does not mean that pirated copies will be rendered “genuine” with the upgrade, though a path to “get genuine” will be provided, according to a statement to from a Microsoft spokesman.

“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,” the spokesman wrote in an email.

So, how will holders of non-genuine copies upgrade to a genuine version?

“We will provide a mechanism for non-genuine Windows10 PC devices to ‘get genuine’ via the new Windows Store, whether they are upgraded versions of Windows or purchased. We will have details on this as we get closer to launch,” the spokesman added.

And the Microsoft spokesman added that “use of pirated software, including Non-Genuine Windows, results in a higher risk of malware, fraud (identity theft, credit card theft, etc), public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions.”

Needless to say, providing a free upgrade for pirated copies but with a stern warning about the potential instability of the software is certain to cause some confusion until Microsoft offers more details.

“That is a bit confusing, given that they’re giving it away,” said Bob O’Donnell, Founder and Chief Analyst at Technalysis Research, a consulting and marketing research firm based in Foster City, CA.  “I figured this was their way of bringing all users into the family, so to speak,” he said.

Myerson addressed more than just pirated Windows.

Windows 10 will also include a feature called Windows Hello that will allow access to your devices through biometric authentication using your face, iris or fingerprint to unlock your device. Microsoft wrote that it’s “significantly safer than traditional passwords” and that the company is “working closely with our hardware partners to deliver Windows Hello-capable devices that will ship with Windows 10.”

Myerson also added that Lenovo will build Windows phones, to be available in mid-year 2015 via China Mobile. Lenovo will also offer Windows 10 upgrade services at 2,500 service centers and select retail stores in China.

And there will be a new version of Windows for IoT (Internet of Things) devices, according to Myerson. That includes a wide range of devices such as ATMs and ultrasound machines, Microsoft said. IoT generally refers to any “smart” device, such as smart thermostats, health monitoring devices, and car sensors.

Other changes coming to Windows 10 to keep in mind:

--Windows 10 will unify Windows across all Windows devices, including PCs, phones, Xbox One, and the new HoloLens smart glasses.

--The end of the Explorer browser and the introduction of a new browser, currently called Project Spartan

--The Cortana virtual assistant, similar to Apple’s Siri, will be coming to Windows on the desktop. Cortana is already available on Windows Phone.

--New Desktop: Maybe most importantly for hard-core Windows users will be changes to the interface. Microsoft is designing Windows 10 so there is a less jarring transition (if the user so chooses) between the traditional desktop and the touch-friendly (referred to sometimes as the “Modern” interface).   This includes changes to the Start menu and changes to allow Modern apps to run within Windows on the desktop.

--The free upgrade to Windows 10 will be for the "hundreds of millions of customers" running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 for the first year after it is released.