You can see that Microsoft is really – really trying to get Windows 8.1 computers into our homes and offices.
Microsoft has this week announced a new low-cost version of Windows 8.1 that will be pre-loaded on new computers. The newest SKU (stock keeping unit) is simply called “Windows 8.1 with Bing” and according to Microsoft will allow its hardware partners to “build lower cost Windows devices.”
When I first heard rumors of this Bing-ified version of Windows 8.1 back in late February, it was being suggested that it would be made available for free. However, nothing in Microsoft’s announcement this week mentions anything about the new SKU being “free” to OEMs.
According to Microsoft, “Windows 8.1 with Bing” will look and perform exactly the same as all other versions of Windows 8.1 with Update 1. However, Bing will be mandatory as the default search engine in Internet Explorer (it is believed that OEMs can set their own default IE search engine from the factory, but this obviously won’t be the case with a subsidized version of Windows 8.1). However, customers will obviously have the ability to change their default search engine if they wish, which of course Microsoft is hoping the majority will not take the time to do.
Microsoft explained the reasoning behind providing OEMs with this new Bing-ified SKU:
More people—across consumer and commercial—will have access to an even broader selection of new devices with all the awesomeness that Windows 8.1 provides, and get Office too, all at a really affordable price. Additionally, as reach expands, the opportunity for developers and their apps also increases.
It is obvious that the only reason for doing this by Microsoft is to offer a less expensive version of Windows 8.1 for customers.
Microsoft is hoping to push more Windows 8.1 and at the same time increasing the usage of Bing, which ironically is actually a quite good search engine.
An honorable, out-of-the-box attempt by Microsoft if you ask me.