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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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