Market share, particularly of the latest version of the OS, I think will count for more than it has done in the past. They can’t afford another XP hanger on. By taking cash out of the equation, there will be reduced barriers to upgrade, providing the system isn’t too old anyway. Even my XP era laptop with its 2 GB of ram and single core Pentium M runs Win7 ok for example, although it isn’t 64 bit capable. Not worth the update if I have to pay any more than a token sum for it, but gets interesting as the price lowers. On a similar note, I have several desktops with older Windows OSes on it I wouldn’t mind upgrading, but not even at OEM licence costs.
I certainly think Vista era hardware should be able to run Win8 no worse, and that could also apply to Win9. That way they could increase the share of Win9 more rapidly. A bigger ask perhaps, but they will need to monetise the desktop to recover what they lose on the up front licence fees. So perhaps that’ll be the start of more integration of subscription based services? Give you enough “free” stuff to get going, but charge you as you need/use more? Hmm… freemium business model anyone?
I think the bigger conflict is attempting desktop/mobile convergence. MS tried too hard to integrate them in Win8, which annoyed their tradition core desktop user. Too far, too soon, but understandable as a way to get more traction in the mobile space which they neglected for far too long. I still think touch on the desktop would be a value add feature if done right. That is, in addition to the keyboard and mouse, not instead of.
Is it me, or has MS turned into the “old” Apple? When they just to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks, never mind past consistency. And not doing a great job of it.