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Microsoft to drop Windows license fees for select devices

Microsoft Corp. announced at the Build 2014 conference on Wednesday that it would waive licensing fees for special versions of Windows operating systems for select devices. Microsoft wants to enable partners to offer lower-cost systems in the highly competitive smartphone, tablet and PC categories.

Microsoft Windows will be available for 0 dollars to hardware partners for Windows Phones and tablets smaller than 9” in size. This offering also enables hardware partners to provide their customers a one-year subscription to Office 365. These steps are projected to help Microsoft’s partners to deliver the rich experience of Windows plus best-in-class hardware, software and services to consumers at affordable prices, thus better competing against Apple and Google.

The software giant also said that the Windows 8.1 update would support Intel’s Bay Trail cost reduced options, which enable devices with 1GB of memory and 16GB storage configurations that are popular on entry level tablets and notebooks/netbooks. In addition, Microsoft indicated that it was working with Intel’s and Qualcomm’s enablement programs that make it easy for their partners to develop new Windows devices quicker.

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Microsoft did not indicate how it plans to monetise its Windows and Office products on devices that come with “free” software.

Back in February it was reported that Microsoft planned to offer a free version of Windows called “Windows 8.1 with Bing.” The OS was expected to bundle key Microsoft apps and services, but not all of them. It was reported that Microsoft wanted to offer end-users an option to purchase additional capabilities that currently come for free with paid flavours of Windows. It was said that the Windows 8.1 with Bing would have minor differences from the fully-fledged Windows 8, but going forward the differences might get more substantial.

Although Windows operating systems are Microsoft’s bread and butter, the company has to compete against Apple and Google, who provide new version of their OSes for free to their customers and partners. For example, the latest version of Apple Mac OS X can be installed onto five-year old Macs, whereas those, who purchased Windows-based machines several years ago now have to pay for the Windows 8.

KitGuru Says: Without any doubts, free Windows is a major revolution for the whole industry. For hardware makers, this makes it easier to bring more compelling devices to market. For software developers, this means higher amount of potential customers. For end-users, it means lower prices and a broader range of devices. But how will Microsoft benefit from free Windows, unless it manages to invent and sell cloud services that the consumers will be eager to pay for? Looks like we need to watch this space…

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