The Amazon Prime-ification of Windows, and Everything Else, Is Coming

Microsoft has been pushing Office 365, the $100-per-year Microsoft Office subscription, for years now. But the Windows Fall Creators update goes further. For the first time, non-Office Windows features will live behind the Office 365 paywall.

As WithinRafael points out on Twitter, and Brad Sams points out on Thurrot.com, the Fall Creators Update brings new 3D video effects to the Photos app. Most of the effects work for everyone, but click some of them and you’ll see a popup like this:

You need an Office 365 account to use this feature that’s completely unrelated to Office. Simply buying Office 2016 isn’t enough: you need the subscription.

It’s arguably not a huge deal: the majority of effects are available to everyone, and if we’re honest, relatively few people were likely to use these effects in the first place.

You could call it a benefit of Office 365, which already includes things like 60 minutes of Skype calls and 1TB of OneDrive storage space. Still, it’s a precedent: in the future, some visible Windows features will seemingly only work for 365 subscribers.

Call it the Amazon-Prime-ification of Windows.

Amazon Prime: No One Uses Everything

Amazon Prime is a lot of things. It launched primarily as a way for repeat customers to save on shipping, but has since bundled streaming media, unlimited file storage, audiobooks, ad-free streaming on Twitch, and access to exclusive discounts into its membership.

You could argue that any one of these benefits are potentially worth the $100 per year price tag: streaming video rival Netflix alone costs $11 a month, and streaming music rival Spotify charges $10 a month for streaming music. There’s a lot of value in the bundle, and it’s safe to say relatively few users take advantage of everything.

Estimates show around 80 million people pay for Amazon Prime, all paying at least $100 a year—this means Amazon makes $8 billion annually from Prime customers before they even order anything.

Reminding Users to Pay Up

It’s easy to imagine Microsoft looking at their Seattle neighbor Amazon and wanting in on the action. After all, PC sales aren’t what they used to be, and Windows Phone is completely dead at this point. Subscription review could go a long way.

And Microsoft does have a pretty decent bundle going. There’s Office itself, obviously, but also the 1TB of cloud storage space. Dropbox charges $10 a month for that alone, meaning 365 is already a decent deal for storage alone.

But Amazon didn’t build their bundle through value alone: they were also really annoying about it. If you browse Amazon, you’re regularly reminded how great Amazon Prime is. Try to buy some Halloween decorations, and you’ll see the free shipping button for Amazon Prime users. Try to buy Dr. Who episodes, and you’ll be told it’s free to stream for Amazon Prime users. In this way, Amazon itself serves as an ad for Amazon Prime.

Microsoft doesn’t have a massive web store to promote their bundle with, but they do have Windows. It’s not hard to imagine popups like that prompting at least a few new customers, and it’s not like everyone else will just stop using Windows because of it.

It’s Not Just Microsoft

Prime-ification isn’t just a Microsoft thing. YouTube users regularly see ads for YouTube Red, which removes ads from YouTube, along with access to some premium videos, for $10 a month. Subscribers also get access to Google Music, a service that previously cost $10 a month on its own.

Even Apple is kind of embracing this all-in-one-subscription approach. iTunes users see constant promotions for Apple Music, which in addition to music offers access to TV shows like Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps. Both of those shows suck, but still.

Every tech company sees the value in recurring subscriptions, and are going to leverage their existing platforms to try to get people on board. Microsoft isn’t unique here, but pushing their bundle inside their flagship operating system, which costs $150 retail, might rub people the wrong way. It will be interesting to see if more popups show up in future “free” updates.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey

Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.