Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for software pirates, too

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When it comes to pirated versions of Windows, Microsoft is willing to forgive and forget.

Reuters reports that Microsoft plans to fight rampant Windows piracy in China by upgrading bootleg copies to Windows 10 starting this summer. “We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10,” Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft's operating systems unit, said.

Myerson made the comments to Reuters after speaking at a technology conference in Shenzhen, China, this week. This initially led to some confusion over whether the offer will extend to other countries, but Microsoft confirmed to The Verge that anyone with a qualified device will be eligible. "We believe customers over time will realize the value of properly licensing Windows and we will make it easy for them to move to legitimate copies," the company said.

Windows is widely pirated in China, and many users are still running Windows XP, prompting Microsoft to extend its security support there. Myerson told Reuters the piracy forgiveness plan was a way to “re-engage” with hundreds of millions of Windows users in China.

Further reading: How to install Windows 10 Technical preview: Everything you need to know

It's not crazy for Microsoft to upgrade bootleg copies of Windows elsewhere in the world. The company is already planning free upgrades for the consumer versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 during the first year after Windows 10 launches. The idea is establish a more unified Windows ecosystem, with a modern app store and cloud services like Cortana and OneDrive. Extending the upgrade offer to pirated versions would give Microsoft a larger potential user base for those services. A mass upgrade also ensures users are all using Windows 10's powerful new DirectX 12 technology, helping developers streamline software development.

The story behind the story: Microsoft's plan to forgive piracy in China may be more urgent than in other regions, as companies like Apple and Xiaomi are successfully establishing their own software and services in the country. If Microsoft doesn't want to be left out of the land grab, it needs legitimate users, even if they come at the expense of licensing revenue. Still, Microsoft's goals of establishing its own services are the same everywhere, so it makes sense for the company to make a push toward legit licenses worldwide.

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