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Microsoft Testing License-Free Windows Phone

What better way is there to saturate the market with your operating system than to offer it for free? Google figured out the benefits, and now it seems that Microsoft may be taking the same route with Windows Phone 8. Microsoft wants a bigger piece of the smartphone market pie, and insiders believe the path begins in India.

During Mobile World Congress 2014, Microsoft said that more phone makers will produce Windows Phone 8 devices in the coming months, including Lava and Karbonn in India. Sources claim that the Redmond company is currently in talks with local firms in India to produce affordable Windows Phone 8 devices. However, the company is only able to land deals if it waives the licensing fee.

The news is both shocking and expected, as rumors have circulated over the last several months that Microsoft was considering lifting the licensing fee for Windows Phone. Typically, the company charges between $23 and $30 USD per device, which adds up when you sell millions of phones. But Android has managed to overtake the market without costing device makers anything, and the only way to beat Google at its game, it seems, is to play by the same rules.

"For our planned Windows Phone handsets, we are not paying Microsoft a license fee. The company is obviously exploring new models for Windows Phone. It must have realized that the older model where it licensed the OS did not work out well, even with Nokia's support," a senior executive with an Indian phone company told TOI.

A separate executive acknowledged that the partnership is an experiment. "Windows Phone still doesn't have lot of appeal in the market but now that it doesn't have any license fee, it becomes easier for us to experiment with it," the executive said. As it stands now, Windows Phone has less than 10 percent of the market share in India, according to IDC.

Manasi Yadav, a senior market analyst at IDC, told TOI that local device makers are comfortable with Android. However, by making Windows Phone free, these device makers will feel more confident in experimenting with the Microsoft platform.

A number of new Windows Phone 8.1 devices will likely make a grand entrance next month during BUILD 2014. Microsoft is also expected to release Windows 8.1 Update 1, the LTE version of Surface 2, and possibly the Surface Mini.