Windows 8 and bundling: What a difference a decade makes

Microsoft is taking some emboldened steps toward bundling formerly separate apps and services in Windows 8.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

For the longest time, bundling was a dirty word among Microsoft execs. It probably still is, given the trouble the Redmondians got into just a decade ago or so with U.S. antitrust authorities over "bundling Internet Explorer" with Windows.

In the end, the Department of Justice did not overrule Microsoft's contention that its Internet Explorer browser was not a separate program, but a component of Windows. Now that the DOJ's court-stipulated oversight is done over Microsoft, a Windows PC monopolist accused abusing its monopoly power, it seems the Softies feel bolder about bundling up a bunch of previously separate programs and services with the coming Windows 8 release. Internet Explorer -- version 10 this time around -- is still part and parcel of Windows. But if you look at the Consumer Preview (beta) that Microsoft showed off on Februrary 29, a bunch of formerly separate elements are part of Windows, too.

"Consumer Preview includes a set of free, built-in apps, including Mail, Messaging, Photos, People, SkyDrive, Calendar. All part of the core user experience," a spokesperson confirmed.

Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott has a good explainer as to what each of these apps really is. Bottom line: Many of them are rebranded versions of things that up until now have been separately downloadable Windows Live services with similar names.

We still don't know exactly what Microsoft intends to do regarding Office 15 on its Windows 8 on ARM tablets. All Microsoft execs have said officially is they intend to "include" new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote with WOA tablets. That may mean they're bundled, as in preloaded, free-of-charge, but so far, I cannot get Microsoft officials to say that.

Whether the full versions of these apps are bundled or not, it's still interesting to see Microsoft doing what its competitors have felt free to do for a while now. Will this result in any new antitrust agitation? That will be interesting to watch. I am not hoping this happens, just to be clear... and maybe it can't and won't, given Microsoft isn't a monopolist in tablets. I like the integration of all my Microsoft apps and services in my Windows Phone and wouldn't mind seeing the same in Windows 8.

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