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Science & Technology

Microsoft Launches Windows 10 Free Of Charge

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

You won't be in debt if you want to upgrade to Microsoft's new operating system. Windows 10 is out today, and it's free. For the next year, people with an earlier version of Windows can just click to install. NPR's Aarti Shahani takes a look at why the company decided not to charge.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Windows 10 has some bugs, but according to reviews, it's pretty slick. For starters, it has a start button. Windows 8 was missing that. It's also got Cortana, the trustee personal assistant, so you can talk to your desktop, shout commands or ask questions like you do with your smart phone.

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JOE BELFIORE: Hey, Cortana. Will I need a coat tomorrow?

SHAHANI: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore at a Windows 10 demo earlier this year.

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CORTANA: You could probably go without one. The forecast for tomorrow shows rain with a high of 50 and a low of 48.

SHAHANI: Though, if it were my assistant, that would be coat weather. Windows 10 also comes with a new web browser, Microsoft Edge, and an Xbox app to stream games. As CEO Satya Nadella put it...

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SATYA NADELLA: We want to make Windows 10 the most loved release of Windows.

SHAHANI: And Windows needs a whole lot of love. Its market share has plummeted. According to Goldman Sachs, Microsoft operating systems were in 97 percent of all computing devices in 2000. But by 2012, that figure dropped to 20 percent. Smartphones took over. Goldman analysts call Windows a continued drag on the business. Not enough companies are lining up to buy it. But Frank Gillett, analyst with Forrester Research, disagrees.

FRANK GILLETT: You know, the financial analyst may be fretting about profit margins, but they may also not be understanding the importance of Windows as a vehicle for getting those relationships with customers.

SHAHANI: The company has stated it plans to get Windows 10 into 1 billion devices in a couple years. That's still not the scale of Apple's iOS or Google's Android, but it is a whole lot of Microsoft user accounts that can work in other operating systems. And, Gillette says, getting everyone on the same version of Windows serves another purpose.

GILLETT: That gives one large group of customers that's more attractive to developers.

SHAHANI: Microsoft needs developers who want to write ingenious, addictive, creative apps. Windows 10 is almost a mating call.

GILLETT: A mating call (laughter)?

SHAHANI: I said almost.

GILLETT: But there's certainly the idea of success together (laughter).

SHAHANI: Microsoft is holding celebrations in more than 110 of its stores around the world. Aarti Shahani, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.