Microsoft on Friday said Windows 10 beta testers will receive a free copy of the operating system's stable build next month then almost immediately tweaked its statement, again muddying the waters.
Gabriel Aul, the engineering general manager for Microsoft's operating system group, got the ball rolling Friday in a blog where he also pointed out several changes to the Windows Insider program, Microsoft's name for its Windows 10 preview regimen. The most newsworthy of Aul's statements was that Insider participants would receive Windows 10's final code, even if they didn't install the preview on a Windows 7 or 8.1 PC eligible for the one-year free upgrade.
"Windows Insiders running the Windows 10 Insider Preview (Home and Pro editions) with their registered MSA [Microsoft Account] connected to their PC will receive the final release build of Windows 10 starting on July 29," Aul said. "As long as you are running an Insider Preview build and connected with the MSA you used to register, you will receive the Windows 10 final release build."
In several tweets Friday, Aul expanded on the deal, which he had alluded to several months ago without spelling out details.
"Install [build] 10130, connect registered Insider MSA, upgrade to RTM [release to manufacturing], stays genuine," Aul said in one Twitter message on Friday when answering a reporter's question of, "So to be clear: install 10130, upgrade to RTM when available, and it'll stay genuine + activated with no money spent, forever?"
"Genuine" is Microsoft-speak for a legitimate, activated copy of its software. As of Sunday, build 10130 was the most recent of Windows 10; Microsoft released it on May 29.
The move as Aul outlined it would be unprecedented for the Redmond, Wash. company, which has historically turned a deaf ear to suggestions from public beta testers that they be rewarded for their work hunting down bugs with free software.
But while the decision evoked a more generous Microsoft, it was tempered by the reality that most customers running consumer- or business-grade editions of Windows 7 and 8.1 -- with the notable exception of Windows Enterprise, the for-volume-licensing-customers-only SKU (stock-keeping unit) -- will get a free copy of Windows 10 in any case.
The route to a free copy of Windows 10, Aul implied, would be of interest only to users who did not have a genuine-marked copy of Windows 7 Home Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate or Professional, or Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro.
Those users would include people who had PCs currently running an ineligible OS, such as Windows Vista or the even older Windows XP, or who want to equip a virtual machine (VM) with Windows 10 on a device running another edition of Windows or, say, a Mac armed with software like VMware's Fusion or the open-source VirtualBox.
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