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Rumor: Microsoft Mulls Free Windows OS

Microsoft is said to be experimenting with a free version of its Windows 8.1 OS for consumers to boost market share.
Posted at 10:45 AM, Mar 01, 2014

Microsoft is said to be testing the possibility of a free version of its Windows operating system.

The Verge's inside sources say Microsoft is dubbing the latest version of the OS "Windows 8.1 with Bing," which implies it would ship with a focus on Microsoft's Bing search engine.

And it could carry no cost for the consumer — but it's not clear if those consumers would be getting the whole Windows experience.

ZDNet explains the paid versions of Windows currently ship with software including OneDrive cloud storage, Bing apps, Xbox music streaming and even Microsoft's Office suite in some versions. It remains to be seen if or how Microsoft would monetize add-ons like these to offset revenues from its core OS.

One thing's almost certain, says a writer at TechCrunch: Microsoft can't currently afford to just stop charging for Windows across the board.

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"At the moment, it would be a financial catastrophe for the firm. OEM revenues totaled more than $5 billion in Microsoft’s most recent fiscal quarter."

But Microsoft does have good reason to want to boost adoption numbers, during a Windows 8 lifecycle that can so far be described as sluggish.

Yes, it's moved 200 million licenses, but took much longer to hit that milestone than Windows 7. (Via InformationWeek, Computerworld)

Combined, Windows 7 and XP still hold more than 75 percent of the market, according to numbers from Net Applications.

It's thought Microsoft would focus its "Free OS" campaign on that Windows 7 market segment, in an attempt to upgrade as many people as possible to the latest OS.

This news follows rumors of recent license pricing cuts, in which Microsoft is said to be considering cutting software costs for PC manufacturers by as much as 70 percent. (Via PC Magazine)

And last week news broke out of Mobile World Congress Microsoft could be looking to extend the same discounts to its mobile OS licenses. (Via SlashGear)

But free Windows 8.1 is, for the moment, also still a rumor. Microsoft reps didn't have any official comment on the story.