You will not be paying a yearly fee to keep Windows 10 running on your PC in 2016...or any year after that.
Blame it on Microsoft's "Borg" reputation, its historically cutthroat reputation, or just general distrust. Whatever the reason, users have been looking for a fine print "gotcha" ever since Microsoft announced Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1 users, as long as the upgrade is claimed in the first year after Windows 10's release. (The company will charge for upgrades after that.)
Suspicions about sneaky fees reached a fever pitch in May after a Microsoft executive said Windows 10 would be the "last version of Windows" as the operating system transitions to a "Windows as a service" model. The concern was that, just as Microsoft has done with Office 365, Windows users would suddenly be forking over a yearly fee to keep the OS running and receive updates.
Once a qualified Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it up to date for the supported lifetime of the device, keeping it more secure, and introducing new features and functionality over time for no additional charge.
It looks like you will keep on receiving Windows 10 updates for your PC for free. No funny business.
Why this matters: As Microsoft continues to find its way in a PC-plus world, the company is changing how it does business. One of the most significant changes was Office 365 for home users, which charges an annual fee for access to the Office suite. You can still buy the standalone "boxed" edition, but the company is encouraging people to become subscribers.
After Office 365, the idea that Windows would also require an annual fee seems at least vaguely plausible, but it appears those fears can be put to rest--at least if you're upgrading to Windows 10 from a previous version of Windows.
Or can they?
Okay, conspiracy theorists, you're right--there is still one hitch in Microsoft's fine print. What the heck does the company mean by "supported lifetime" of your device? Not lifetime, as in when your device kicks the bucket, but supported lifetime. Is that how Microsoft will get us in the end?
Not likely. Windows 10 is for everything from PCs to tablets and smartphones. "Supported lifetime" sounds like language specifically targeted at mobile devices, not PCs.
With Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft promised 36 months of support starting on the operating system's launch date, and Windows 10 phones will likely receive a similar promise. The "supported lifetime" clause certainly could be applied to PCs, but what would the criteria be? Three to five years of guaranteed support? The duration of the warranty? Will the OEMs decide?
We've asked Microsoft if it can clarify this for us, though representatives previously declined to explain the term further.
Regardless, even if your PC becomes "unsupported" I would be surprised to see Microsoft cut off functionality or deny you access to your PC. It simply wouldn't fly if users suddenly lost all their family photos due to corporate greed or had to pay to fire up Chrome or save a Word document.
Instead, your PC would likely end up similar to Windows XP computers now: lacking feature updates, security patches, and the ability to install the latest and greatest third-party software.
What's more, bilking PC users for payments where none existed before is the kind of attitude that would encourage users to turn to Macs--or even, dare I say it, ponder a switch to Linux.
Bottom line, PC fans: Learn to stop worrying and love the Windows 10.