The task would not be easy. "Microsoft has always had a harder time monetizing on the consumer side than it has on the enterprise side," Dawson said.
But a free Windows baseline could be Microsoft's solution to what Dawson saw as its most-pressing problem for 2015: Shifting the huge legacy installed base to its newest Windows 10, which will be the flagship for years and years to come, and hopefully will reinvigorate the PC market along the way.
"Windows 8 did not work out, and there's a massive base on older versions," Dawson said. "Windows 10 is intended to solve that strategic problem, so Microsoft will want to get as many people onto [Windows 10] as possible.
"But can they create a compelling product? And when it's compelling, can they charge for it?" Dawson asked. "They'll have to adopt more flexible business models, perhaps the freemium and premium models, or they face a much more fragmented future for Windows."
A Windows subscription, whether for services or for Turner's vague "add-ons" -- which may simply be code for beyond-the-basic features -- might keep the revenue stream flowing. As with Office 365, canceling a subscription would have dire consequences for those used to more than the elementals: The device would revert to a rock-bottom OS.
That didn't escape Miller. "With a subscription, you can't ever stop," he said.
Now that's creative.
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