Microsoft Strikes Back: To Launch ‘Free’ Windows

In its first big move since appointing Satya Nadella as new CEO, Microsoft is launching a free or low-cost upgrade of Windows 8.1 with Bing, suggesting the company is mounting another counter-attack against its rival Google. Will this work? …


If there’s one factor which has been decisive in the tech wars of recent years, it is price. The wealth of apps and even the Chrome browser given away by Google for free or low cost have helped turn it into one of the biggest companies in the world, and the permissive licensing under which Android’s source code can be freely modified has helped it become the most popular operating system (OS) around for mobile devices.

In contrast, the higher prices traditionally associated with licensing Microsoft products have put it at risk of being left by the wayside. Even some workplaces are moving away from Windows in favour of cloud-based applications, not least Google Drive, while sales of Windows smartphones and tablets have not reached the heights of their competitors. But new reports suggest Microsoft is mounting yet another offensive against its rival.


A number of sources including ZDNet and The Verge have reported that Microsoft is currently testing Windows 8.1 with Bing, a version of the OS that will incorporate some of the company’s most popular apps and services. It appears to be part of a plan to release a low-cost or potentially free upgrade for users of Windows 7 in a bid to increase usage of its most recent OS and help push Microsoft’s cloud and app offerings.

There don’t seem to be many differences as yet between this new version and the existing Windows 8.1, which already comes bundled with many Bing-powered apps and even includes Bing SmartSearch – which searches the internet, cloud service OneDrive and the user’s PC at the same time – as a default. But it represents an important shift in the way Microsoft is trying to increase uptake of its products.


Windows with Bing 8.1 comes soon after it emerged that Microsoft may be planning to cut the prices it charges manufacturers to run Windows on their lower-end mobile devices – though admittedly, comparatively few Windows devices are available for less than the reported threshold device of $250 (£150). In fact, there have even been reports that Microsoft may be planning to make Windows Phone and Windows RT available to manufacturers for free.


How Microsoft plans to keep monetising its products as it changes its model remains unclear, but it seems that Bing is becoming ever more important as a platform in its bid to challenge Google.

The suggestion that it is moving towards greater accessibility and cheaper licensing indicates either that it’s taking a leaf out of Google’s book, or realising that Windows 8 is a harder sell than it had ever expected.


<Principal image courtesy Le Web/Some rights reserved>

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