Microsoft pressured to offer Windows 10 upgrades at 75 percent off due to ransomware attacks
In the wake of highly virulent ransomware such as WannaCry and the more recent NotPetya, it is learnt that the Indian Government is hard-pressing Microsoft to offer a substantial one-time discount on Windows 10 licenses to enable millions of users in the country to upgrade to the latest OS. India's cybersecurity advisor to the Government, Gulshan Rai, has confirmed to Reuters that Microsoft India has agreed to the request 'in principle'. Mr. Rai estimates that the pricing could be,"less than a quarter of the current price" but declined to get into specifics. The Indian Government is looking at negotiating a one-time upgrade offer that would be applicable to the entire country.
The prompt action by the Indian Government has resulted in pushing for OS patches immediately in the wake of the WannaCry attack and has helped in largely restricting the effect of the NotPetya attack to just two of India's container port terminals. The Government has also been proactive in patching nearly 200,000 of the 240,000 ATMs still running on Windows XP but feels that security patches are only an interim solution and the problem can be effectively addressed by the new security models in current OS iterations.
Microsoft India has declined to comment on this development but the company could be caught between the devil and the deep sea. Incentivizing such a huge number of PC upgrades could possibly result in loss of billions in revenue, and, in all likelihood, other countries would also follow suit. This could cause a serious dent in Microsoft's coffers. But with the reluctance of end-users and enterprises alike to cough up for an OS upgrade, Microsoft also has the problem in dealing with security issues and supporting end-of-life software that could be have far reaching ramifications. There is also Microsoft's own vision of getting Windows 10 running on as many devices and form factors as possible.
Nearly 50 million computer users in India, including enterprises, are running on older versions of Windows: Windows 7 and Windows XP. Although many computers had a free upgrade offer to Windows 10 in 2015, that was largely restricted to consumers and specifically those running on Windows 7. Users of older versions of Windows had no option but to purchase a separate license for the Home edition which costs nearly Rs. 8000 (US$ 125) with the added cost of upgrading hardware, which is deemed steep for an extremely price conscious market like India. It remains to be seen how effectively Microsoft can deal with this issue keeping the best interests of all stakeholders in mind.