No, of course 'Windows 12' won't require a subscription to use it

Windows 12 Concept
(Image credit: Windows Central)

This week, the rumor mill has been rife with activity over the possibility that "Windows 12" will be subscription based. Ever since we entered into the era of "Windows as a Service," rumors that the next version of Windows will be subscription based never fail to appear. 

Now, references to a subscription model were found in the latest Windows preview builds, suggesting that Microsoft is finally going to force users to pay a monthly subscription to use Windows, right? No. These references are almost definitely tied to the newly discovered "IoT Enterprise Subscription" edition of Windows 11, not the client version of Windows vNext.

With that said, I don't think it's unlikely that the next version of Windows will have some new capabilities that require a subscription to utilize, tied to your Microsoft account and services. The company is building deeper Windows 365 support into the next version of Windows, which the company already charges a monthly subscription for to access Windows 11 in the cloud.

Right now, Windows 365 is an enterprise service, but that won’t be the case forever. Microsoft is planning to launch Windows 365 for consumers in the future, which will allow anyone to subscribe to a Windows PC in the cloud for whatever computing needs they require.

Windows 365 will launch for consumers soon.  (Image credit: Windows Central)

When this happens, Microsoft will want that service to integrate neatly with the local Windows experience. Hybrid computing experiences are a key focus for the next versions of Windows, potentially allowing users to install apps either locally or to the cloud, which can then be streamed to any PC that you login with your Microsoft account on.

This will be key for Microsoft’s upcoming Chrome OS competitor product which I’m told will lean on Windows 365 for app support. There's also the new Microsoft Copilot, which is currently entirely dependent on the cloud to function. I do know that Microsoft will be pushing hybrid experiences across its entire portfolio over the next decade, including Windows, HoloLens, and Xbox.

I suspect some of these hybrid experiences that lean on the cloud will be subscription based, but not the entire OS. In fact, the local OS you run at home will never require a subscription to use. The reason for this? There’s just no feasible business model that doesn’t alienate most of the userbase. 

Apple doesn’t charge for macOS or iPadOS, and Google doesn’t charge for Chrome OS or Android. Windows would be an ugly outlier if Microsoft tried to charge a monthly fee for it, ultimately resulting in people turning their backs on Windows in favor of something more cost effective.

That doesn't mean there won't some features in the OS that require a subscription to use, but if you’re not interested in any of that, you’ll be able to use the next version of Windows on your PC at home just like you do with Windows 11, no monthly fee required.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads

  • dkstrauss
    Sorry Zac, but I disagree with the basis of your opinion - those "add-ons" are the wolves in sheep clothing that let them subscription Windows by proxy - particularly when they get around to monetizing Copilot in the consumer space. My bet is by this time next year the Microsoft 365 subscription will be bumped up and come in two flavors, with and without full Copilot.
  • eltoslightfoot
    As long as I get to keep my without co-pilot for no subscription, we are good. In fact, charge money for AI, that lets me keep it out of my system without having to do anything. :)
  • Peter_sjostrand
    Hello everyone
    I don't believe Win 12 will be pure subscription bebecause Microsoft will lose to many people switch to LINUX or mac.

    I belive it will be as today one version of Win12 for us desktop user's and there could be one "cloud" version of win 12.
    The gamer community will not accepting a pay subscription of win to get full access to win 12.

    Me personally i would switch to Linux that day windows gets subscription. its simple as that.

    Soon will all "poor/normal" people not own anything all will be on subscription and onl the very rich will own thing.
  • wojtek
    Previously it could have work but nowadays with proton the "pain resistance" may be lower to switch over to alternatives...

    For better or for worse we got accustomed to free OSs (on the one hand Linux and it's all flavors, including android, on the other hand macOS, which is tied to the hardware but free nonetheless)
  • TheFerrango
    Of course it won't -for now-.