Free Windows 8.1 upgrades: Right idea, wrong target

Last week, rumors started flying that Microsoft was going to make upgrades to a cut-down version of Windows 8.1 either free or very inexpensive for Windows 7 owners.

That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but the target is wrong. Here’s a great idea: Microsoft needs to be dangling the freebie in front of Windows XP owners.

And I think Microsoft ought to know this, seeing as they’ve got a friends-and-family ad campaign going on, trying to encourage people to encourage their less computer literate family members to upgrade from XP.

Let’s face it: Most of the people who were going to upgrade from Windows 7 to 8 or 8.1 already have. Not many holdouts are going to pay $40 or even $25 to upgrade. I’d be surprised if many of the Windows 7 owners would upgrade for free, frankly.

Given the opportunity to upgrade for a modest fee, some percentage of XP owners will jump, especially if they’re reminded that the last security update for it will come out a week before tax time. That’s not a long time from now. Most likely an even greater number would jump if it were free.

I think Windows 8.1 is pretty much a lost cause and it’s time for Microsoft to admit that it’s Vista 2.1, give it away as a tonic to XP, and hope they get it right with Windows 9.

Windows 7 proved that people will buy a Microsoft product, but Windows 8 and 8.1 proved they’ll no longer do it blindly.

As it stands, my recommendation to escape from XP is still to buy an off-lease refurb with Windows 7 on it.

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