Microsoft's new tack for cheap tablets: Windows 8.1 with Bing

Microsoft's new tack for cheap tablets: Windows 8.1 with Bing

Summary: Microsoft looks to be ready to trade OEMs a cheaper version of Windows 8.1 in exchange for shipping new devices with Bing preloaded as the default search engine.


More details about the mysterious "Windows 8.1 with Bing" SKU that Microsoft is readying have begun to emerge.

Credit: Supersite for Windows

 As I blogged recently, Windows 8.1 with Bing is one piece of Microsoft's experimentation with how to monetize Windows. Microsoft already has thrown a lot of software and services in for free with Windows 8, so it needs to find ways to make money in a world where the pressure to drop OS licensing fees is increasing.

Windows leaker WZor revealed last month that there was some kind of new Windows 8.1 with Bing SKU in the works. It is expected be added to the SKU line-up alongside the Windows 8.1 Update 1 release, which Microsoft just released to manufacturing earlier this week.

Newly leaked Windows 8.1 documentation revealed that the new Windows 8.1 with Bing SKU is targeted at new low-cost Windows devices, Neowin reported on March 5.

Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott also is reporting that the Windows 8.1 with Bing SKU will be focused on low-end devices, and, as Neowin noted, will set Bing as the default search engine. Users who purchase the devices with this SKU will be able to switch the default search engine from Bing if they want. The SKU is Windows 8.1 Core (both 32-bit or 64-bit, Intel-only) with Bing set as the default search engine.

Though some thought Microsoft might make this new SKU available to OEMs for free, Thurrott said he is hearing this is not the case. Instead, it will be a low-cost SKU, priced lower than Windows 8.1 is typically sold.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 is designed to make Windows 8.1 more palatable to users who use a mouse, and not just touch. It also will slim down Windows 8.1 so that it works well on cheaper, smaller tablets.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Tablets


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Sounds like a pretty smart move

    Though it would be interesting to know how much it actually costs for any of the SKUs that OEMs pay.
    • Can't be much

      It can't be too much, after all, no major manufacturer has made any kind of large scale shift to a free OS
      luke mayson
      • Huh? There are 175 Million tablets out there running a free OS.

        And maybe 10 Million (being very generous here) running not-for-free Windows.
        terry flores
        • free

          Googles android isn't free, there are license fees they all are paying now days...

          M$ makes billions a year alone
          • Why the "M$"?

            if Microsoft's patents were not valid, do you think they would be getting billions? They are a for profit corporations protecting their patents. My company has design patents and we also license other's design patents.

            No one is afraid to take MS to court so the patents must be valid for still being paid off for this long.
            Rann Xeroxx
          • Yes, for one simple reason

            It is often cheaper to pay $15 per unit, than to spend hundreds of millions defending yourself from years of ongoing suits. It's the old IBM tactic, if 1 patent doesn't stick, keep hammering them, till they break.
            I hate trolls also
          • RE: Why the "M$"?

            I hear that the license fees are paid by smaller companies who don't have the money to fight it in court. Samsung, Motorola and Google has never paid Microsoft any licensing fees. Not did Microsoft ever ask. Microsoft just lost a license case in Germany for lacking an inventive step. Fear and intimidation not inventiveness is how Microsoft makes their money.
            Tim Jordan
          • Not true

            Samsung have been paying Android related patent license fees to Microsoft since 2011. They certainly have the resources and will to fight in the courts if the patents were disputable.

          • Err

            "Samsung, Motorola and Google has never paid Microsoft any licensing fees". You sure about that? I'd like to see an article somewhere. Unlike Google, Samsung [and to a lesser extent Motorola (which one?)] aren't as dumb as Google.
            And then there is this:
        • No non-trivial OS is completely free

          There is no cost for Android, just as there is no per-unit cost specifically to Apple for iOS or Microsoft when they sell a Surface device.

          However, there is per-unit cost in licensing free for every one of these, based on the various patented technologies used (anything in the OS, MPEG CODECs, wireless, etc). It's pretty much going to be different for every company, based on their licensing agreements, cross licenses with other patent holders, etc.

          And other fees, too. Microsoft charges for Windows certifications. Google requires certification for Android, though they don't do this themselves, it's done through approved 3rd parties. Those are once-per-device charges, but may show up as part of the per-unit charge, particularly in this age of making a new device every 6-12 months.
        • Errr.....

          $15 won't make much of a difference. Two tablets. Both with the same hardware but one costs $15 more and has a different OS. Most would think about the benefits of each.
          Remember the netbooks last decade? The Windows version was about $15 more than the Linux version but 80% of netbooks that were returned to the store was returned because of Linux on it.
    • Smart Move?

      When users can actually change the default search engine the second they boot up?
      I wouldn't call that clever.

      What do you think the Bing lifetime will be on these device? Hint : not long.
      • just what makes you think that?

        i did an experiment a few months back, set bing as the default search engine in all browsers on all my home computers and tablets. guess what, no one even noticed
        • Reply "just what makes you think that?"

          "Hello", eh? You're right on there. The default is important. It does translate to business if the customer isn't offended, or even likes it. The problem with metro is that it offended. It was a cheap marketing scheme of second rate (cr)apps literally shoved down the throat of loyal customers. If there had been an immediately apparent easy way to turn it off and return to the Start Menu etc., Windows 8.x would be much loved. Yes, I know there is an easy way - Start8 (and similar), but these are not immediately apparent .. ergo Windows 8 is hate.
          Time Agora
          • not really

            Most people I know that hated 8 and decided to use it and give it a chance went through a few stages over time. 1.) Hate it I feel like I am my mom trying to use a computer 2.) I don't really hate it anymore 3.) there are a lot of little things that have made me really like this OS. The metro screen is just one part of whats new in 8 and if you really don't like it there are plenty of 3rd party tools to bring the start menu back. Android does not have a start menu it just has a wall of icons ala windows 3.11 and I hear no one complaining about that
        • Its the same with the browser

          The reason so many people in the world use IE as their browser was because it was the default. Same with Safari as Chrome on Mac is a better browser for the most part yet people just use what's default as good enough.
          Rann Xeroxx
      • Reality is that, most users don't bother to change their default settings

        and their default software, unless it becomes annoying. Bing is not annoying, just as Google search is not annoying.

        The bigger part of the deal that you fail to realize is that, with Windows 8.1 update coming soon, Bing will have the Cortana search system, which most people might find useful, so, those people will be keeping Bing in place.
        • ....

          Actually if you have used both goole and Bing you know Bing is beyond annoying with all of its bloat and its awful search results. I still don't know anyonw who uses Bing after they try it. I have had to set google to default on hundreds of machines as people just find Bing to be useless and very annoying.
          • Bing vs Google

            I used to use Google. I was dissatisfied with the search results, and switched to Bing. I found what I wanted, and I haven't switched back.
          • Dissatisified? That is strange.

            My experience was that Bing did not measure up. I have used it and would never recommend it to anyone. That is just unfathomable to me.