Microsoft is giving software pirates free copies of Windows 10

Pirates welcome here.
Pirates welcome here.
Image: AP/Elaine Thompson
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We already knew Microsoft would be giving free Windows 10 upgrades to Windows 8 and Windows 7 users. Now, the company has announced those upgrades will be extended even to those with illegal versions of the software—at least in China.

Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft’s operating systems division, first made the announcement today (March 18) at the WinHEC Conference in Shenzhen, China.

“We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10,” he told Reuters in an interview.

It’s not clear whether Microsoft will be offering the upgrades to software pirates everywhere or only in China. Myerson also did not say what constitutes a “qualified PC.” (Quartz has reached out to Microsoft to clarify these points and will update this post with any response.)

The move is intended to boost legitimate use of Microsoft’s software in China, where software piracy runs rampant. In 2011, then-CEO Steve Ballmer said that 90% of its Chinese customers used illegal software. According to the Verge, in some regions of the world Microsoft may be trying to avoid the problem of customers buying computers with pirated versions of Windows already installed, which has proven laborious for Microsoft and its customers to rectify after the fact.

Myerson told Reuters the goal was to “re-engage” with these millions of Chinese users, though he didn’t elaborate on a plan to do so beyond giving them free software.