Windows 8.1 with Bing Coming Preloaded on Low-End Devices

A new Windows 8.1 edition with Bing will come preinstalled on lower-cost devices starting this fall, Microsoft announced on Friday.

Microsoft's hardware partners will begin announcing their new devices running Windows 8.1 with Bing in the weeks leading up to the Computex trade show on June 3. Devices running the new OS edition could start to appear on the market during the fall back-to-school period.

"While lead times will vary by partner and geography, we expect to start to see new devices for back to school/autumn timeframe in the northern hemisphere," a Microsoft spokesperson explained, via e-mail.

This Windows 8.1 edition will have Microsoft's Bing search engine preconfigured on Internet Explorer on the devices that ship, although users will have the ability to change the search service through their IE browser settings.

Reports that Microsoft was planning to release this Windows 8.1 with Bing product edition surfaced in March. It was thought at that time that the new edition would cost OEMs $15 versus the typical $50 license fee. However, Microsoft is just expanding its free edition offered to OEMs making smartphones to other form factors.

"This is the edition that is licensed in connection with the recently announced royalty-free option for small tablets," the spokesperson explained. "We will license this edition for other OEM form factors as well. OEMs will each determine which types of devices they want to bring to market with this edition of Windows."

On the Windows Phone 8.1 side, Microsoft had already provided that operating system at no cost to OEMs if those devices are less than nine inches. Lava and Karbonn are two OEMs currently making those lower-cost smartphones.

Devices with the Windows 8.1 with Bing edition will be offered only by Microsoft's hardware partners. Device manufacturers will have the option to sell the devices bundled with Microsoft Office or with a subscription to productivity suites offered through Office 365 services. The new edition will be available for both consumers and business buyers, according to the announcement.

Apparently, there are no market restrictions on where devices with the Windows 8.1 with Bing edition will be sold. Microsoft has been subject to antitrust litigation in the European Union for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. The Windows 8.1 with Bing edition might seem to pose a similar legal problem for Microsoft in EU markets, but that doesn't seem to be a consideration this time.

"Market availability and pricing for each device is up to the OEM," the Microsoft spokesperson stated. "Windows 8.1 with Bing is available in all the standard Windows languages."

Microsoft has been facing cost pressures from the Android OS, which was fostered by Google. The Linux-based Android OS is offered to OEMs with no royalty costs, although they reportedly must bundle certain Google apps with their devices as part of the deal. Microsoft has been losing this OS competition, and it's so far mostly responded on the legal front, threating lawsuits over purported Android intellectual property infringements. Now it seems Microsoft is also responding to that pressure by dropping licensing costs to OEMs.

With the proliferation of mobile devices and tablets, Windows no longer enjoys its 90 percent OS monopoly. Android has had lead in the market for several years and will continue to dominate the market in subsequent years, according to a Gartner estimate.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.