Microsoft is reportedly looking at a new way to get people to upgrade to its latest operating system: offer it for free or close to free. According to The Verge, Microsoft is toying with the idea of releasing “Windows 8.1 with Bing,” a version of the company’s flagship operating system that’s tightly bundled with Bing search and other services.

The idea would be to remove the price barrier in hopes of not only getting more people to use Microsoft’s latest software — but also to get people used to using the Bing ecosystem which includes search, maps, news, and much more.

Update: It turns out Windows 8.1 with Bing is a cheap version of Windows that will be available to device makers offering PCs for under $250. It’s basically Windows… but PC makers agree not to change the default search engine in Internet Explorer from Bing, and for that they get a discount. The software is only available to device makers, not end users.

Windows 8.1

During the 90s, it wasn’t so hard to get people to upgrade to a new version of Windows. Microsoft released updates every few years and they were typically demonstrably better than the prior version.

By the time Windows XP rolled around, the landscape was a bit different. Computers running XP had a habit of not crashing at least a few times a day, and Microsoft took more than 5 years to get around to releasing its successor, Windows Vista… which was not particularly well received.

So more than a decade after its launch, there are still plenty of people running Windows XP. Windows 7, meanwhile, was actually a pretty solid update and there are also plenty of folks who don’t feel the need to upgrade — especially given that many are unhappy about some of the changes Microsoft made starting with Windows 8, including the new Start Screen and touch-friendly user interface that you have to occasionally interact with whether you’re using a touchscreen device or not.

At a time when traditional PC sales are stagnant and smartphone and tablet sales are skyrocketing, it’s not surprising that Microsoft saw the need for a tablet-optimized operating system. What’s been a tough sell is the company’s decision to bundle it into the same OS as its laptop and desktop software.

Anyway, it’s not clear if giving away Windows 8.1 will do much to change things — but you can already pick up a Windows 8.1 device like the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet for extraordinarily low prices. By offering even cheaper options to users and device makers alike, it’s possible that Microsoft could make products running Windows very low-cost Android devices. Many Windows tablets and notebooks are already cheaper than Apple iPads.

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31 replies on “Report: Windows 8.1 with Bing could be a free or cheap upgrade for Windows 7”

  1. I’m sure somebody will figure out how to rip out that Bing garbage and block the ads.
    Microsoft suddenly wants to be a hybrid of crapple and greedle…

    I say burn that; use something else, anything other than these 3 at the first opportunity.

  2. This is just a pathetic attempt at trying to push more ads to users. M$ is desperately trying to emulate Google, but not doing so with any imagination. When I spotted ads in various MS metro apps — news, health, finance, weather — I uninstalled them all.

  3. Who gives a damn about MS services besides MS Services Group Employees? Nobody!

    Win7 will get security updates till 2020-01-14.

    Until then the rumored Win9 “back to the desktop, with aero & startmenu” edition will be out and actually worth a damn, or thanks to Valve with their SteamOS and its more useful sibling Steam-on-Linux the last bastion of Windows – Tripple A PC Gaming – will have fallen, and whatever MS is doing by then will irrelevant.

  4. How about letting those of us who have 8.1 to pay $15 to upgrade to win7?

    1. There are situations that MS does allow downgrading for Windows 8 Pro but mainly for companies…

      Mind, you also have to make sure the company that made your system supports drivers for Windows 7…

      Also, keep in mind there are things Windows 7 doesn’t support like Connected Standby, native support for some of the new emerging technology like 3D Printers, Windows 7 lacks many of the new features that Windows 8 made standard like being able to mount ISO and FHD files natives, including Hyper V as standard to make running VM easier, Enterprise edition gets new features like Windows To Go to give option to run Windows from a USB drive like you would with a Linux distro, server edition lets you optionally install/uninstall the GUI without needing to re-install, among many other benefits you’d be losing out on by going back to Windows 7…

      It makes more sense to just customize W8 to look like W7 and keep all those benefits and there are already free options to do that!

    1. It’s an option to get the upgrade without having to pay for it all directly but rather indirectly…

      Pretty much the same deal you get from Google, since Google makes money off both Android and Chrome through their online services and ad revenue…

      Nothing is really free for any of the mainstream OS options, it’s just a question of whether the company makes money directly from the OS purchase or indirectly through other means… or, like Carriers, with something like a contract deal that gives an initial discount but you wind up paying more by ensuring you use the services for a set length of time…

  5. Although I don’t love Windows 8, I think if they start offering $15 upgrades to consumers it will be a boon for Microsoft. They are competing with Apple who now gives free OS updates to all Mac users, and Google who gives Chrome OS away for nothing. Offering a cheap path to go from XP to 8.1 would be a very smart move considering sales of desktop PC’s are on the decline. Microsoft needs to stop those people with XP systems from going outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.

  6. My company is actually offering Windows 8 as the default option when issuing devices with touchscreens (ie. twisting type tablet PCs) and Windows 7 for everything else. For a device that has a touchscreen/active digitizer, Windows 8 is actually more usable when using a finger or active stylus. The Windows 8 desktop does have touch/stylus enhancements (both UI and under the hood processing) compared to Windows 7.

    1. I got one of the new Dell Venue Pro tablets with windows 8.1 and its actually awful to get anything done in comparison to my Samsung Android tablet. The onscreen keyboard fails to pop up when needed, touch is not or poorly recognized etc etc, just rough edge hell…

      Of course, I got it for certain windows software, but putting up with that half-arsed neither here nor there interface is pretty annoying.

      Windows 8.1 on the desktop is pretty much fine, once you install classic shell and the sidebar (win 7 gadget) libraries.

      1. You “get things done” on Android? You probably just hit the bad luck lottery since your experience is not prevalent among many buyers of the Venue 8 Pro.

        1. Someone responded to my Amazon review of the Venue Pro 8, and asked if I had gotten all the latest windows updates and Dell updates for it, and suggested it might improve the poor touch recognition of scroll bars and near the edges of its display.

          So I went and downloaded all that stuff and gave it another try: Some stuff actually did improve, but the almost dead zones at top and left edges of the unit are pretty much the same (likely a hardware issue?)

          And Windows still does some pretty stupid things. Its still impossible to scroll down inside a drop-down selection box with a lot of available choices, unless you hook up a Bluetooth keyboard or a mouse.

          Its also slow as a snail and the 2GB of RAM don’t do its operation any favors.

  7. Adding more flies (Bing) to an already steaming pile (Windows 8.x) doesn’t improve its aroma.

  8. The metro UI designer said metro is for “casuals” and the desktop is for power users.

    So with that in mind, why do they not release an update to address the needs of power users, since they are the ones who actually buy OS’s, and they are the ones in charge of company deployment add i that THEY are the influencers in their groups as the “tech” person.

    You can argue all you want about how metro and start screen aren’t bad, but it doesn’t actually matter.
    Even if it is a short adjustment, and even if there are 3rd party workarounds, no professional or “family” IT guy is going to willingly subject themselves to an influx of support calls simply to make “pretty tiles” happen.

    1. You do know that customization and work around is exactly what they do with alternatives like GNU/Linux?

      Sever market especially is rife with custom solutions that don’t need to be compatible with what another company is doing…

      While the BYOD to work is a major factor for some companies and for them it can be easier to integrate a system that is already compatible with what they already use in-house!

      Sure, it’s not for everyone but nothing is… while let’s see how the next Windows update works out… It’s coming out soon and it’ll be basically Windows 8.2 and will bring some more changes that promises to further appease those who’d rather work with traditional desktop…

      1. Neither GNU/Linus nor server markets != home users and basic office drones which are the big market. And while the IT person might not have an issue with Metro or whatever work around, that doesn’t mean they want to support it across their organization.

        I agree, we will have to wait and see, but Microsoft’s admittedly “race to the bottom” for UI/UX did them no favors with power users.

        1. Well, I doubt true power users really care because they would be customizing the OS regardless of which version it was…

          Windows has a long history of not satisfying everyone with its defaults, which is why people have been modifying it and 3rd party solutions have been around nearly as long as Windows itself…

          So it’s mainly those who are power workers, who feel they don’t have the time to be bothered with yet another new system that this hurt…

          But the market is changing and there is the opposite view that if they had done nothing then they would be in worse shape now…

          After all, there’s plenty of examples of companies that relied on their old strengths for too long and the market changed from under them…

          RIM (now Blackberry), Nokia, etc are examples of such companies that were once on top but because they didn’t change with the changing markets quickly fell to the bottom…

          So it remains to be seen if MS gambit was for the company’s long term benefit or detriment… but it was always a long term goal to begin with…

  9. MS is still not listening….I DO NOT WANT A TOUCH-BASED O/S….I might consider Win8 if they gave me the option of TURNING OFF the touch interface and tiles as part of the install. Right now, I will stick with Win7 on those machines that have it until EOL. On other machines have been switching to Linux (and have been recommending Linux to all my clients whose XP machines are about to be abandoned by MS).

    1. Problem is people hate change and they had too much change at one time when moving to win 8. I disliked 8 at first too. Now when I have to use 7 again my only thoughts are ” wow everything is so much harder and slower with the same hardware, I can’t believe I thought this was better a few months ago.” It’s just like anything else, people hated IOS7 too when it first came out but their fan base is afraid to admit things like that. Android is much more complex and not that user friendly but everyone is happy to deal with it since the price is right. So it really comes down to where the individual stands. Are you a follower (apple) and face it, you buy Iphones because that’s what everyone else has, if you tried something new you might just realize this. Apple = boring. Are you not the type to not mind a little challenge and benefit financially (android) or would you pay more and have something that works easily but is very different from everything else. BTW, if functions perfectly without touch.

  10. Microsoft may only have a few years left to fend off
    the encroaching tsunami of ARM-based devices, as the
    latter scale up in capability. MS reportedly dropped
    the Win 8 x86 OS price to $15 for device manufacturers,
    as long as the device sold for $250 or less. That was
    reportedly down from $50. Still, it’s hard to compete with
    free, as in Android.

    Already, many people are finding apps to be “good enough”
    for what they need to do. Time will tell if the heavyweight
    PC programs can be supplanted by more muscular apps.

    Pervasive wireless connectivity and always-on synchronization,
    along with dirt-cheap devices may yet make it cheap enough
    to just put a tablet dock, ifnot entire hybrid tablet in every
    location you frequent. Or else, you could conceivably carry
    all your data on your smartwatch, and simply sync your
    computing devices to it.

    1. All MS has to do is to offer to take over care of the SOC drivers, gpus, etc. The ARM ecosystem seems to love crappy closed source drivers. Would be a match made in hell.

    2. As a Linux user, ARM blows. Using Linux on ARM platforms is like using Linux on x86 in 1995.

      1. Power users will never have enough computing power.

        But for the vast majority (cell phones sell in the hundreds
        of millions a year, dwarfing PC shipments, and tablets are quickly catching up to PC shipment quantitiess), an ARM device may well be their only computing device, and all the computer they will need.

        If Mozilla succeeds with its $25 cell phone, and Google with
        its $50 one, power PC users may find their computers harder to find and increasingly more expensive.

        The first device type to sell over a billion units a year is likely to be an inexpensive, yet capable smartphone.

        1. Uh, no… you’re not getting it… Arm is a very hardware fragmented market that deals heavily with closed drivers for most devices…

          This is why GNU/Linux in general hasn’t had much success on ARM with only a few being open enough to make porting easy…

          Until that changes then GNU/Linux will still be a rare and often hard to get option for most ARM devices…

          Sure, Canonical can customize for a specific ARM SoC but it doesn’t mean you can just put it on any ARM device and always expect it to just work and even if it boots doesn’t mean everything is working as it should and things like hardware acceleration is often not easy to enable…

          While Ubuntu Touch is still a work in progress and we’ve yet to see how and if they fully intend to bring desktop support or if Ubuntu Touch would remain a separate branch to Ubuntu…

        1. If that were true, I certainly do not want to leave Windows 7. I have antivirus that allows me to remove ads from my computer.

  11. I love windows 7.
    As a pc gamer it gives me everything I want and nothing that I don’t.
    8.1 by comparison gives me no clear advantage technically and attempts to rope me into not only lame-as-can-be unnecessary bing services but also the unnecessary metro interface as well.
    I don’t need this clutter on a machine where performance is the rule.

  12. i didnt like win7 much but 8 is pretty much an abomination. I wonder how hard it would be to rip the garbage out of this version? looks like a foray into trying to become a services company for MS.

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