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Microsoft Working on Free Version of Windows?

By - Source: ZDNet | B 42 comments

Could this be a "Starter Edition" of Windows 8.1?

Last week known Windows leaker WZor reported that there's a new SKU (version) of the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1 that's called "Windows 8.1 with Bing."

According to unnamed sources, this build is part of an experiment at Microsoft to see how the company can provide a free version of Windows 8.1 while simultaneously generating revenue from apps built into the platform such as Xbox Music and Video, OneDrive and Bing. Sources say this version has minor differences from the current full-blown Windows 8.1 SKUs.

Mary Jo Foley of ZDnet suggests that this new SKU is a stockholder for now. She also points to Office 2010 Starter Edition, which was a version of the popular suite with reduced functionality. Microsoft charged PC makers a mere $2 if they agreed to preload the Bing Bar and Windows Live Essentials on their machines. If not, Microsoft charged $5 for a copy of Starter Edition.

Based on that, Windows 8.1 with Bing could be a free "Starter Edition" that requires the user to pay a fee for the full-blown version. How limited this Starter Edition could be is unknown at  this point, but there's a good chance ads will be popping up all over the place, all courtesy of Bing. That's just speculation, of course.

Speaking of Bing, just this week Microsoft launched a Bing Rewards campaign focused on the company's OneDrive cloud storage service. For a limited time, all new and existing members of Bing Rewards will get 100 GB of free storage for one year when Bing users generate 100 credits. After the one year, users will be required to pay $50 per year. Windows 8.1 with Bing may be something along the same vein.

Then again, what if Microsoft is taking the Chrome OS route with Windows 8.1 with Bing? The name sounds very Internet-dependent, meaning apps could be cloud-based and the OS itself heavily focused on Internet Explorer 11 to keep the OS "lite."

The news arrives just two days after a report stating that Microsoft may cut the licensing fee for Windows Phone by up to 70 percent. "We're hearing Microsoft will drop the license fee quite a bit, as far as 70 percent, which will make their product more competitive in terms of price," said Infosonics CEO Joseph Ram.

We expect to get more details about Update 1 and the company's other Windows efforts, including the merging of Windows RT and Windows Phone, during the BUILD conference in April.

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  • 10 Hide
    Damon Palovaara , March 1, 2014 4:18 PM
    I can see a 2GB limit on RAM
  • 8 Hide
    InvalidError , March 1, 2014 4:21 PM
    Windows Starter Edition was so heavily crippled that I would not use it unless Microsoft PAID me to use it. I wonder in what dreadful ways M$ will be crippling this one.
  • 3 Hide
    jacobdrj , March 1, 2014 4:44 PM
    This is a move they should have made years ago: Even if crippled a FREE version that lets me run my apps while STAYING ON THE MOST CURRENT SECURE version of Windows is a win win for Microsoft and the CUSTOMER... I have a number of older computers around my house that would be very nice to be running Windows on them, so that I could run my existing software. However, these systems either have licenses to older OSs, like the soon to be desupported XP or the crippled Vista, and I am forced to run Linux. This makes me less apt to run Microsoft products in the first place, gets me more comfortable with Linux, and adds a level of frustration to the Windows/Microsoft experience. If I can install a current Windows OS on my older hardware, even a 'crippled' version of Windows, so long as it is crippled in a 'fair' way, that makes me less likely to jump ship and go with a different OS, it gives MS an opportunity for me to buy Metro Apps (where absolutely NONE existed before) and also a relatively happy customer no longer hiding installation media and activation keys in my safe in my own home! Google has it right: Free access to basic software and the OS, and software accounts owned by the consumer to access all purchased apps. Only professional OSs and professional software should be 'owned'.
  • -7 Hide
    unksol , March 1, 2014 4:48 PM
    well since you two didn't read..... and toms is a day late and dollar short as always ... Its windows with bing bloat. I.e. a crowd of crappy bing services. granted if you buy an OEM PC you'll have that away so....
  • -3 Hide
    JD88 , March 1, 2014 5:00 PM
    Any time there is a paid and free version of something, the free version is going to suffer as Microsoft needs to convince people that the existence of the paid version is necessary. If it is ad supported, they are going to have to explain the hypocrisy after all of the "Scroogled" nonsense and attacks on Chrome OS. My biggest concern is that this will be something like Windows RT in which we are shoehorned into only MS services on the desktop and apps from the metro app store. This way they could at least make money on the applications.

    Having said that, it's definitely a step in the right direction for MS in being able to compete with open source offerings. The days of charging for an operating system are quickly coming to an end as I've been pointing out on here for nearly a year now.
  • 0 Hide
    jimmysmitty , March 1, 2014 5:00 PM
    Quote:
    I can see a 2GB limit on RAM


    I don't see why they would limit it to 2GB. 4GB or 8GB, maybe but 2GB would be stupid.

    Right now both Windows 8.1 and 8.1Pro have the same limitation of 2048GB of system RAM.
  • -7 Hide
    rawoysters , March 1, 2014 5:06 PM
    I kow Microsoft, why don't you release an edition that doesn't include Bing. The Yahoo-Bing malware that keeps switching Google search to Bing is getting very old. I have had to deal with it twice in the last 2 weeks.
  • 3 Hide
    jerm1027 , March 1, 2014 5:30 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I can see a 2GB limit on RAM
    I don't see why they would limit it to 2GB. 4GB or 8GB, maybe but 2GB would be stupid.Right now both Windows 8.1 and 8.1Pro have the same limitation of 2048GB of system RAM.
    Look at Windows 7 Starter - it was limited to 2GB, 32bit, and lacked many basic features, such as the ability to customize the desktop, fast user-switching, etc. I get the feeling if MS did release a free/discounted edition of Windows, it would be similar to the "Starter" editions, which are pretty heavily gimped.
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , March 1, 2014 5:31 PM
    I think the best solution for Microsoft would be to have it a full featured Windows 8.1 Home edition that is limited strictly to the Modern Interface.
  • 5 Hide
    brandonjclark , March 1, 2014 5:58 PM
    Free means your wallpaper will be rotating ads.
  • 4 Hide
    tomfreak , March 1, 2014 6:50 PM
    Just sell the Retail windows 8.1 for $50. Sales would have increase from there.
  • -1 Hide
    alextheblue , March 1, 2014 8:33 PM
    Quote:
    Just sell the Retail windows 8.1 for $50. Sales would have increase from there.
    OEM versions have builder-friendly licenses now, so personally I'd be happy with $50 for OEM, and ~$80 for OEM Pro. But you know what, I don't buy an OS that often so really it's not a big deal. As a percentage of my PC hardware purchases, including upgrades? It's not much. I don't need the free version for my main machine myself.But it is potentially good news for those who are really cash strapped and/or have older boxes lying around that aren't sufficiently protected anymore. I think even a free version would be fine for a secondary box or a really budget build.
  • -3 Hide
    digiex , March 1, 2014 8:59 PM
    "but there's a good chance ads will be popping up all over the place, all courtesy of Bing."...but of course, M$ wouldn't be that dumb.
  • 0 Hide
    neieus , March 1, 2014 9:12 PM
    I have a hard time imagining M$ doing anything for free but then again I know at one time they were considering a low cost version of windows but it was only going to be released in 3rd world countries or something like that. If they do take a page out of Google's book I'm sure they will have ads in annoying place to generate the revenue they'd lose otherwise.
  • -4 Hide
    thebrickhouse , March 1, 2014 9:35 PM
    Didn't they cripple Windows with the Metro UI?*Here come the trolls to "thumbs down" my responce! LOL!No, seriously, Windows needed to let the marketplace decide whether or not the Metro UI would be adopted, and they failed. The reason I bring this up is because they are losing ground, and people are decisively deciding to switch away from Windows 8 to strictly mobile platforms, such as Android or iOS, and/or to more "power user friendly" desktop operating systems, like OSX, Ubuntu, etc... Microsoft would never consider a "Free Windows" if this wasn't the case.I liked Windows 7. I'm not just some Windows bashing troll on the internet. Even Ubuntu isn't perfect, but the fact remains, people don't need, or have to depend on Microsoft software anymore. Microsoft realizes this, and even if they offer a "crippled" version of their OS, maybe, in their minds, it offers them a way into the HDDs and SSDs of consumers who actually want their product. Just a thought...
  • 6 Hide
    Pinhedd , March 1, 2014 10:36 PM
    Quote:
    Didn't they cripple Windows with the Metro UI?*Here come the trolls to "thumbs down" my responce! LOL!No, seriously, Windows needed to let the marketplace decide whether or not the Metro UI would be adopted, and they failed. The reason I bring this up is because they are losing ground, and people are decisively deciding to switch away from Windows 8 to strictly mobile platforms, such as Android or iOS, and/or to more "power user friendly" desktop operating systems, like OSX, Ubuntu, etc... Microsoft would never consider a "Free Windows" if this wasn't the case.I liked Windows 7. I'm not just some Windows bashing troll on the internet. Even Ubuntu isn't perfect, but the fact remains, people don't need, or have to depend on Microsoft software anymore. Microsoft realizes this, and even if they offer a "crippled" version of their OS, maybe, in their minds, it offers them a way into the HDDs and SSDs of consumers who actually want their product. Just a thought...


    PCs are still outselling mobile platforms. PCs are a mature platform, tablets are smartphones are fairly new but they are reaching maturity fast. Recent statistics show that the mobile market growth rate is slowing down quite a bit. Within the next couple of years everyone who wants a mobile device will have one, sales will flatline, and the market will begin to contract a bit just like the PC market did.

    They're great little gadgets for mucking around. I love being able to browse the web on my phone in the comfort of my own bed, but I can't do any serious work on them. PCs will always dominate in the productivity department.
  • 1 Hide
    mstngs351 , March 1, 2014 11:57 PM
    Quote:
    I have a hard time imagining M$ doing anything for free but then again I know at one time they were considering a low cost version of windows but it was only going to be released in 3rd world countries or something like that. If they do take a page out of Google's book I'm sure they will have ads in annoying place to generate the revenue they'd lose otherwise.
    With no student discounts or anything I bought my copy of Win 7 for $80. I don't remember XP's cost but it wasn't much different. Considering how long I used XP and how long I will probably use 7, $80 is a fair price. I have to laugh at people when they pretend like it's rediculously priced. Especially when those same people spend $60 on a game they'll used MUCH less. Then there is the fact that they will spend $500-$800on multiple video cards that they will use on that same system.If I use Win 7 for just 4 years then I will have basically spent $20 a year on it. 5 years and it's $16...
  • 0 Hide
    Bloob , March 2, 2014 12:54 AM
    Quote:
    well since you two didn't read..... and toms is a day late and dollar short as always ... Its windows with bing bloat. I.e. a crowd of crappy bing services. granted if you buy an OEM PC you'll have that away so....
    I heard that too. Very Android-like approach, and why not, it seems to work.
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , March 2, 2014 2:50 AM
    that 2GB limitation is a pain.
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , March 2, 2014 3:36 AM
    Quote:
    PCs are still outselling mobile platforms.

    Smartphone sales passed PC sales back in 2010 while tablets crossed that milestone by a small margin in 2013. In Q4-2012, smartphone sales were already outnumbering PC sales at about 3:1.

    Smartphone and tablets together surpass PC sales by a wide margin.
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