"Not to overlook the experience of Windows 8, but this is a very mature technology, and so it's difficult to move the bar [with each new OS]," said Loverde.
IDC, Loverde added, has discounted new OS introductions for some time. "Our view is that upgrades have not juiced PC shipments for quite a while," he said. "It's much more of a progressive impact. Some OSes are well received, others are not."
Still, it's intriguing to put Microsoft's decision to give away Windows 10 upgrades in the context of the moment.
Knowing that PC shipments are in the doldrums -- worse than that, actually -- Microsoft could pull the trigger on the offer without risking a riot from OEMs. It's difficult, for instance, to imagine Microsoft going free in the climate it faced in 2009, the year it rolled out Windows 7, when PC shipments were preparing to jump by 14%.
"The environment is definitely different today," Loverde said.
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