Windows One to offer hope to XP holdouts

April Fool Eleventh hour U-turn from "cuddlier" Microsoft seeking to rebuild trust.

Microsoft has performed its most amazing U-turn yet. Today’s turnaround will see the creation of the Windows One brand: a cloudy subscription entitling the user to perpetual support for any version of Windows from Windows XP onward, so long as the bill is paid, of course.

Relenting under what is being described as “unremitting pressure” from customers and governments alike, Microsoft has committed to an unprecedented licensing change within the next week. At $65 US per system per year, the cost of the subscription equates roughly to the cost of a retail copy of Windows Professional spread out over three years. The move is part of a series of “rapid culture changes” initiated by new CEO Satya Nadella.

After careful review of Microsoft’s competitive position and long term strategy, Nadella has decided that the issue Microsoft most urgently needs to address is the evaporation of customer trust. Customer trust in Microsoft evaporated occurred under his predecessor Steve Ballmer’s tenure, and Nadella has had no success so far in rebuilding it.

Microsoft does not hold a monopoly in many of the markets it is seeking to dominate. Microsoft has powerful competitors for its server technologies and ranges from a virtually irrelevant also-ran in the mobile space to a distant second in the cloud space.

“Microsoft is changing gears and re-focusing on customer choice” said Nadella. He continued: “the Windows One subscription is an olive branch to existing Windows XP customers”, allowing them to stick with the aging operating system for as long as they like.

Nadella hopes that this “olive branch” can convince customers that Microsoft has changed under his leadership. He is determined to show that Microsoft is aiming to strengthen bonds with partners, developers and customers. It remains to be seen if this gesture can truly begin reversing the alienation the past decade has wrought.

Nadella further attempted to cement his role as our cuddlier, friendlier Redmondian overlord by hinting that that Windows 9 will “incorporate end user feedback”. By giving users a choice of user interfaces without compromise – which is all they actually wanted in the first place – Microsoft hopes that users will choose to migrate away from XP voluntarily.

“We have to compete on merit,” said Nadella, “even if the competitor in question is ourselves.”

The Windows One licensing move marks a shocking climbdown from the ongoing support costs Microsoft has traditionally demanded from customers. Those seeking to maintain out of support versions of Windows XP had been asked to sign costly agreements with high volumes of desktops creating a crippling floor cost that few organizations had the resources to meet.

Prior to the Windows One announcement, Windows XP support for the next three years was slated to cost $200 per desktop for the first year, $400 per desktop for the second year, and $800 per desktop for the third year. By moving to a $65 per year subscription cost Microsoft will be walking away from millions in income, but it stands to potentially make billions by providing people a product they actually want to buy.

A spokesperson for Microsoft said “the date of this announcement was very important. Microsoft’s ability to drive change in such a short time frame will prove its commitment to being responsive to its customers in the future.”

With only a week before XP end of life, Microsoft doesn’t have much time to make it happen.