With the PC market sputtering and users still sour on Windows 8, Microsoft should consider giving its latest OS out for free, say analysts.
According to IHS analyst Clifford Leimbach, a free update from Microsoft would help to win back the hearts and minds of consumers at a time when Microsoft finds itself in need of some goodwill from its customer base.
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Leimbach points to the example set by Apple, which released its OS X Mavericks operating system for free to users with newish-enough Mac computers. He said Microsoft could likewise make Windows 8 available gratis, and help to restore some consumer confidence.
"You have a PC market that is a little stagnant, and what are they doing to bring consumers back? You are not seeing a whole lot of innovation," Leimbach told The Reg.
"Then you have Apple who says we are going to give it to you for free, it is symbiotic to the way that the PC industry has been thinking."
Lest any Cupertino fanbois get idea that analysts see Microsoft ceding its stranglehold on the market, Leimbach notes that there is little chance of Apple making major inroads on market share as long as the company maintains its focus on high-end, high-margin products.
Indeed, he said that Microsoft should make a point of taking a short-term hit on Windows by giving away the software now while it still controls 90 per cent of the market for desktop operating systems. In doing so, Redmond could help to restore the confidence of its customers and encourage them to stick with Windows systems rather than opt for a switch to emerging platforms such as Google-powered tablets.
"Right now, I think Microsoft can take it without a lot of adverse effect," Leimbach opined, "but you have this amalgamation of all these things that people are seeing competitors do, it is slowly turning consumers off."
Such a pricing move would be the first step that Microsoft and other PC vendors will need to make in order to catch up with mobile vendors in the market and remake themselves in a new space which got off to a rough start with Windows 8. With PC sales shrinking as the Android and iOS platforms take advantage of lower hardware prices and shorter, contract-driven device upgrade cycles, traditional PC vendors are at a growing disadvantage.
"Anyone that is heavily in the PC space you can see stumbling after the tablet and smartphone market," said Leimbach.
"It took off a lot quicker than they thought and you see them running to play catch-up, they have to step up." ®