- References in the Windows Canary build indicate Microsoft is considering offering Windows 12 as a subscription service rather than a one-time purchase.
- This would transform how Windows is monetized, with users paying recurring fees to access Windows rather than buying lifetime licenses upfront.
- For consumers, subscriptions may lower the barrier to entry by avoiding a big upfront cost, but also risk frustrating users with constant charges.
In a potentially huge strategic shift, Microsoft is reportedly considering offering Windows 12 as a subscription service rather than a one-time purchase.
Indications from the Windows 12 Canary Channel
The clue to this prospective change comes from an INI configuration file discovered in the Windows Canary channel, which was initially spotted by the German website Deskmodder.
The entries are in German so here is an English-translated version of the subscription-related entries on the Canary side:
- Subscription Edition – (L_MsgSubscriptionEdition)
- Subscription Type – L_MsgSubscriptionType (as “Device-Based Subscription” or “User-Based Subscription”)
- And the subscription status – L_MsgSubscriptionStatus (Active, Inactive, Deactivated, Expired
This file contained references to a “Subscription Edition,” “Subscription Type,” and a “subscription status,” suggesting that Microsoft is actively considering a subscription-based approach for Windows 12.
The implications could be wide-ranging if Microsoft adopts subscriptions for Windows 12, expected in 2024. For consumers, it may lower the barrier to entry by avoiding a big upfront cost. But it also risks frustrating users who would constantly face charges to keep using Windows.
On the flip side, subscriptions could allow Microsoft to bake premium services like OneDrive storage or Office apps into Windows tiers. Different subscription levels may give access to additional features. This may attract users of Microsoft’s productivity suite.
For PC makers, bundled Windows 12 subscriptions could help lower hardware prices, with Microsoft taking a cut of ongoing user fees instead of one-time license revenue. However, subscriptions may complicate or limit installs on custom-built PCs.
There is also the question of whether Microsoft would offer a free, ad-supported version at the low end. While helping uptake, this could push ads deep into the Windows experience. That may annoy more premium subscribers.
Ultimately, subscriptions represent a major shift for Windows. It aligns with Microsoft’s broader push into services like Office 365 and cloud subscription models. But the change comes with many uncertainties, especially for a product as deeply entrenched as Windows. Microsoft will need to tread carefully if it wants to get this transition right.