Jan 21, 2015 · 1 minute

It looks like Microsoft wants Stockholm syndrome to be the main sales driver for Windows 10.

The company has announced that the upgrade will be available to consumers for free -- at least for the first year, after which Windows 10 users will be asked to pay for the operating system. That seems like it's just long enough for Windows 10 users to forget that they never paid for the upgrade, while also convincing them that it's better to purchase the update than to downgrade.

I'm not sure that's the best way for Microsoft to convince consumers that it's really moved past Windows 8, the oft-criticized version of the software platform mocked since its release in 2012. It seems like the company's just hedging its bets and hoping its customers like free software enough to download Windows 10, use it for a while, and then decide to stick with it a year later.

And it's not like Microsoft is using Windows 10 to drive hardware sales like Apple does with its operating systems, either. (The latest version of Apple's desktop operating system, like all its mobile updates, is free to download.) The company still relies on software sales, licensing fees, and the like; its hardware products are interesting but are not, for the most part, selling well.

There seems to be a lot to like about Windows 10. Microsoft has finally decided to kill off Internet Explorer, it's brought a digital assistant to make basic computing tasks easier, and it looks like the company has managed to bridge Windows' past and its future. Despite some of the problems with those additions -- many seem like privacy nightmares -- they're all nifty.

It's too bad Microsoft is hedging its bets by offering it to consumers for free. Even if the company truly believes an extended trial is the best way for its users to become acquainted with Windows 10, and has nothing to do with Windows 8's botched launch, the decision reeks of desperation. That's more worrisome than anything else it could've done with this update.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]