Windows 8.1 for Free? It may just be so...

A few recent reports have stated that Microsoft is moving to cut the Windows 8.1 Operating System licensing fee for OEM's (Like US)  (and possibly also Windows Phone OS) by a considerable amount, with some  reports suggesting Microsoft go as far as licensing Windows Phone OS free of charge. 

The logic here would be that the establishment of a new monetization model for the company, where MS can charge an individual licensing fee for the certain apps in the future, such as Bing, Bing Maps and more. The challenge before them is that currently OneDrive; Bing Maps and other Bing apps; Xbox music streaming; Bing SmartSearch; and the core Office apps (for Windows RT users) all currently ship for free with Windows 8. And OneDrive, Bing, Xbox music streaming and Mobile Office all ship for free with Windows Phone 8.



A move like this would not be unprecedented. Google also did this, with Google Apps for those without business accounts. The challenge here is that in Google's case, there was a huge market for Google Apps, ironically enough, because of the extreme cost of Microsoft's offerings. For example, unless a user needs the advanced functions of MS Office like large Mail Merges or creating Indexes in your Word documents, Google Apps works beautifully. You get a full Office Suite with Google Apps for free for Individuals, $5/month for business users. For decades, Office was a minimum of $200 for the Software suits, and another $140 for the option to share your documents across multiple machines. Office 365 has improved that greatly, but it is still twice the cost of Google Apps. My point is, it remains to be seen, aside from Enterprise users, if anyone would be WILLING to pay for Microsoft's other services as standalone products. Of thousands of customers we have serviced, I can only think of a literal handful that use Bing, Bing Maps, OneDrive, Xbox Streaming Music, SmartSearch or any of their standalone services other than Windows and Office. 

There's a new SKU, or version, of the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1 operating system release that is known as "Windows 8.1 with Bing." Known Windows leaker WZor revealed the existence of this new SKU a week ago. Since then, many have been trying to guess what this thing is, given that Windows 8.1 already includes Bing SmartSearch by default. (Bing SmartSearch is the built-in version of Bing that searches a user's PC -- though not mail -- OneDrive and the Web from a single query.)

According to the indomitable Mary Jo Foley "This new SKU, from what my contacts are saying, is key to Microsoft's experimentation with monetization. I hear this SKU has only minor differences from the current Windows 8.1 SKUs, but that it may be a kind of placeholder for the future when consumer operating systems are, basically, free. I'm not sure if this SKU will offer OEMs and/or consumers new Bing-related incentives by the time Update 1 is made available this spring."