Rumor: Microsoft May Offer Free Version of Windows 8.1 Bundled with Bing

Paul Lilly

Would you upgraded to Windows 8.1 if Microsoft gave the OS away for free?

There are some interesting things happening in Microsoft's world right now. The company has a new CEO in Satya Nadella , co-founder Bill Gates figures to devote more time as Nadella settles into his new role, and there's an update to Windows 8.1 on the horizon. Depending on what impact that update has on Windows 8.1, some big changes could be in store, including a free version of Windows 8.1 with Bing . Here's the scoop.

We've already heard rumors of Microsoft lowering its Windows 8.1 licensing fee by 75 percent to OEMs who install the OS on machines that retail for less than $250. Microsoft employed a similar strategy in the netbook era, though the Redmond outfit may be even more determined to move more copies of Windows 8.1 this time around since it's only sold 200 million licenses to date. Compared to Windows 7, that isn't all that impressive.

Now we're hearing chatter that Microsoft may offer a free version of Windows 8.1 called "Windows 8.1 with Bing." There are two separate reports, one from The Verge and one over at ZDNet . According to the former, Windows 8.1 with Bing would be offered as a free or low-cost upgrade for Windows 7 users, with Microsoft's goal being to increase its userbase.

Alternately, the Bing-powered version of Windows 8.1 could end up the hands of OEMs in place of discounted licenses. Both sites report there are likely to be some minor changes associated with the freebie SKU, though what exactly they changes would entail isn't yet known.

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