Microsoft May Slash Windows 8.1 Licensing Fees to Battle Chromebooks

Paul Lilly

It worked for netbooks, can it also work for entry-level laptops?

Regardless of how power users feel about Chromebooks, they're selling, and they're selling well. In fact, a Samsung Chromebook model is the best selling laptop on Amazon, and out of the top 10 most popular notebooks (in terms of sales), Chromebooks account for half. That's certainly not the landscape Microsoft envisioned when it released Windows 8, and to counter the Chromebook movement, the company is reportedly planning to slash Windows 8.1 licensing fees by 70 percent .

There are multiple reports that Microsoft is going this route. One of them comes from Bloomberg , which claims to have heard about the cost-cutting measure from "people familiar with the program." According to those people, Microsoft will charge manufacturers $15 to license Windows 8.1 and pre-install it on laptops and devices that retail for less than $250.

The normal fee for OEMs to license Windows 8.1 is $50, though some of the larger players pay in the neighborhood of $30 once incentives are factored in, according to Bloomberg's sources. Those incentives largely have to do with marketing funds provided by Microsoft, which wouldn't apply to products that quality for the discounted license.

News and rumor site Digitimes is reporting the same figures based on chatter it's heard from sources within Taiwan's PC supply chain. However, will it be enough to spark sales? According to those sources, some PC players have been pushing Microsoft to offer free Windows Phone licenses for smartphones and free Windows 8.1 licenses for tablets to boost demand.

Microsoft's Tami Reller recently revealed that more than 200 million Windows 8/8.1 licenses have been sold since launching to the public in October 2012. That's a big number, though it doesn't compare all that well with Windows 7, which sold over 240 million licenses a year after it debuted.

In addition to lower licensing fees, Microsoft is getting ready to launch an update to Windows 8.1 that should make it more user friendly for desktop users.

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