Microsoft is reportedly experimenting with a free version of Windows 8.1 called ‘Windows 8.1 with Bing’.
The fee-less version of the OS will come bundled with key Microsoft apps and Bing services and will be offered as a ‘free or low cost upgrade’ to existing Windows 7 users, say sources familiar with the plans in conversation with The Verge.
But might the software giant go one step further and offer the Bing-based Windows build to PC makers for free?
According to those very same sources, yes.
Microsoft currently charge laptop and PC makers a licensing fee to ship Windows 8 on their devices. While this makes them money, it also creates a barrier to entry; using Windows is a less attractive proposition on low-end devices than something like Google’s Chrome OS, which is free for OEMs to use.
Google do not directly earn money from sales of devices loaded with Chrome OS.
A free Bing-loaded version of Windows would do two key things for Microsoft: a) it would help the software giant boost the stagnant share of its latest release, and b) help tie users into the Bing ecosystem (e.g., mail, maps, news, etc.) — a source of revenue.
‘Could a Bingbook rival Google’s Chromebook?’
Microsoft recently reduced licensing costs of Windows 8.1 for OEMs making devices retailing at less than $250 — a move many have attributed as a direct response to the explosion in popularity of Chromebooks.
Bingbooks On The Way?
So could a “Bingbook” work? Would it be a rival to Google’s Chromebooks?
The independent Microsoft news site Neowin recently posted screenshots purporting to be from an early build of the OS but, thus far, it bears little difference to the regular version of the OS. Given that Microsoft is said to be keen to retain the ‘paid for’ version of Windows 8.1, any ‘free’ version would need to slice off functionality or limit features involved to shore up a tiered model.
But limiting functionality would come at a cost: user confusion. People may buy a so-called Bingbook expecting a traditional Windows experience only to encounter limited functionality (a situation Windows RT underlines).
‘Microsoft is the company that also rubbished the iPhone and the iPad, before belatedly following suit…’
As the world’s most used browser and search engine the names ‘Chrome’ and ‘Google’ are brands that carry weight, and the ‘differentiator’ of Chrome OS versus a traditional laptop is more apparent.
It’s not yet clear whether so-called ‘Bingbooks’ will happen; sources have stressed that it’s a model the company are simply experimenting with.
It would be a strange turn-around given the amount of heat the company has extolled on the ‘always on’ Chromebooks of late. But then Microsoft is the company that also rubbished the iPhone and the iPad, before belatedly following suit years later.
Windows 8.1 with Bing could be the first step in admitting they’re wrong.