Windows goes free for phones, tablets smaller than 9 inches

If you love it, set it free… and Microsoft is hoping that by setting Windows free it can encourage people (and device makers) to love its operating system. Starting April 2nd, 2014 Microsoft is offering Windows for free to smartphone and tablet makers designing products with 9 inch or smaller screens.

windows free

Sure, Google’s Android operating system is also free — but this move means that it now costs the same price (nothing) for a device maker to load Windows Phone, Windows RT, or Windows 8.1 software on a phone or tablet as it costs to load Android.

It’s already easy to find a Windows 8.1 tablet for $250 or less. Now that Microsoft is dropping the license fee for small tablet makers, don’t be surprised if prices fall even lower.

There are still more third-party apps available for Android, and Google’s open source operating system is easier for device makers to customize. But price may no longer be a differentiating factor.

Microsoft will also offer a free version of Windows for low-power “Internet of Things” devices soon.

  • William Haynes

    now Windows Phone OS/Windows 8.1 os is cheaper than android…
    Don’t forget that most android makers are paying out the wazoo in patient fees.. hell m$ makes billions on android a year alone

    • brian

      So MS is using android extortion fees to fund their product dumping on mobile. Cool eh?

      • Guest123

        Pretty much. MS is using their “Android Tax” to make their OS cheaper, and now dump their OS for free cause no one wants it however, I’m certain they won’t keep it free if they get a decent market share whereas Android will always be FREE and open sourced.

      • CyberGusa

        The term, free as in beer, applies to Android… Google uses Open Source code but Android is only really Quasi-Open…

        1) Google doesn’t allow anyone else to contribute to Android development… No one can touch it until each version gets final release and the license then allows any company to make whatever proprietary changes they want to it… So by the time it gets to users it can be a lot less open!

        2) Android devices deal heavily with closed drivers, Imagination Tech for example accounts for over 80% of all IPs for mobile GPUs and they only provide closed drivers… along with multiple other companies…

        3) There have always been closed source Google apps! Originally just a small group of apps that consisted mostly of clients for Google’s online services, like Gmail, Maps, Talk, and YouTube, but as Android gained market dominance Google has steadily increase its c over the public source code… Like while many of the closed apps may have AOSP equivalent, but as soon as the proprietary version was launched, all work on the AOSP version was stopped!

        So, just about any time Google rebrands an app or releases a new piece of
        Android onto the Play Store, it’s a sign that the source has been closed
        and the AOSP version is dead!

        4) Even if a company ever does manages to fork AOSP, clone the Google apps, and
        create a viable competitor to Google’s Android, it’s going to have a
        hard time getting anyone to build a device for it.

        Google’s control of the Google
        apps—mainly Gmail, Maps, Google Now, Hangouts, YouTube, and the Play
        Store gives them a strong influence on device makers. Since those are Android’s killer apps, and the big (and small)
        manufacturers want these apps on their phones, but since these apps are not
        open source, they need to be licensed from Google…

        When a company joins the Open Handset Allience (OHA) they become committed to Android—Google’s Android—and members are contractually prohibited from building non-Google approved devices.

        Acer was one of the companies that was bit by this, when they tried to build devices that ran Alibaba’s Aliyun OS in China, as soon as Google found out about it they told Acer to shut down the project or lose access to Google apps… Google even made a public blog post about it that they titled “The Benefits & Importance of Compatibility”

        So far, only the Amazon Kindle Fire has successfully forked…

        5) Another point of control is that the Google apps are all licensed as a
        single bundle. So if you want Gmail and Maps, you also need to take
        Google Play Services, Google+, and whatever else Google feels like
        adding to the package and Google uses this to in conjunction with a “compatibility” test that devices must go through before they’re approved for running Google Android…

        Apps like Skyhook for example, since they were a competing location service, was declared “incompatible.” because it would have meant Google would not have be able to collect location data from users of that app.

        6) Since Play Services is a closed source app owned by Google and licensed as
        part of the Google Apps package. Any feature you see move from “normal”
        Android to Google Play Services is also moving from open source to
        closed source. This app pulls off the neat trick of not only enticing
        users with exclusive, closed source features, but locking in third-party
        developers with Google’s proprietary APIs as well.

        Mind, relying on things like the Google Maps API means your app will not work on a non-Google-approved device!

        7) 90% of the Google APIs are also supported on iOS! Further limiting possible support for any AOSP fork…

        Get the picture yet?

      • wsabillon

        I’m not going to defend Google, even though I’m a regular user of their services, but also won’t side with a company known for being very anti free software, just because they give something for free (as in beer).

      • CyberGusa

        Except for Open Source advocates, companies in general aren’t for free anything except to leverage ways to give the company profit… one way or another…

        Everything from carriers giving contract discounts to supposedly free products that really just lock you into a given product ecosystem, are all just different ways for companies to better position themselves to make profits…

        Really, all companies need to make profit in order to stay in business… let alone grow and expand the company over time… There are just different ways to get that done, either directly or indirectly…

        Up till now MS business model has been directly but now they’re getting into services, cloud computing, etc. So, like Google they can start offering some things free but also like Google it’s really only to leverage the market to their advantage…

        So, you don’t have to support them but let’s not exaggerate their position and how they compare to other companies… MS is just anti-not making profit but that’s true of all companies… They’re all are just willing to make different compromises and use different methods to get there…

      • CyberGusa

        How do you think Google does it? They’re not working for free either! Google, just already has alternative revenue and giving Android free is just their way of getting more from their alternative revenue by getting more people locked into their services and providing usage data for directed ads, etc….

        Really, nothing is ever really free… companies need to make profit to exist and they all do it one way or another…

        Besides, is this any stranger than Google making multiple times more profits from iOS than Android?

  • Napoleon Lafontaine

    “Windows goes free for phones, tablets smaller than 9 inches”

    Free as in gratis, not free as in libre.

    Simple English fails to make the distinction clear.

    “Microsoft is hoping that by setting Windows free”

    NO! — Microsoft is not setting Windows free, it is just not charging dealers for the license on devices with screens less than 9 inches.

    Just how misleading are you trying to be in your article?

    • clkeagle

      You must be fun at parties.

    • Cmmdr Keen

      theyre letting windows be free from the constraints of high price by offering it for free

  • John Morris

    So it is free (small F) under certain conditions. The devil is going to be in those conditions. How much control will they exert over just how and when you can load it on a device? We already know Google exerts extreme, even borderline fascist, levels of control over supposedly ‘free’ Android. It is a safe bet Microsoft won’t be less controlling.

    To date there really isn’t a truly “Free Software” platform for phones or tablets. Yet.

  • KwertyFan

    There’s an old saying in marketing… if something is free, then YOU are the product.

    • toto

      Well, nobody want Windows on its phone, the price of the OS is not visible to the consumer, that even don’t know there is a license for the os…. so this will never change anything… Nobody will buy win8x devices (even professionals that are sticked to Windows prefer to use Windows 7.

  • PromoteCommonSense

    In 2000, when “free” linux first came to the public awareness, Microsoft compared it to communism and cancer. What does that make free Windows?

  • hakim

    “If you love it, set it free…”
    No, if you love it, let it die a dignified death. What WP has been doing for the last four years isn’t living.
    Seriously – 2-3% market share after four years. What’s the point?

    • Cmmdr Keen

      2-3% market share is a lot of moolah in 2014

  • Core23

    I wonder if companies who paid for device licences recently are asking for a refund?

  • RockyBob

    Hey! Does that mean I can load it in my iPad mini instead of iOS? ;-}

    • Gizmo

      Hey, does that mean Apple can load it on next generation iPads for free and call it a “dual boot” device?

  • RockyBob

    Oh wait. Who is MS, anyway?