Microsoft Working on Free Version of Windows?

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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  • Damon Palovaara
    I can see a 2GB limit on RAM
  • Other Comments
  • Damon Palovaara
    I can see a 2GB limit on RAM
  • InvalidError
    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.
  • jacobdrj
    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'.