Microsoft officially makes Windows free for devices under 9 inches

While some previous rumors stated that Microsoft would cut the price of Windows for smartphones and tablet OEMs by as much as 75 percent, the company has officially announced during its BUILD 2014 keynote address today that the price of Windows will actually be free for OEMs to put in smaller devices.

The parameters are that hardware makers who create smartphones and tablets that are smaller than 9 inches will get to install Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows 8.1 for free. That means all Windows Phone OEM makers will get the OS for zero, as will PC makers who create tablets that are similar to Dell Venue Pro 8. Tablets that are larger than 9 inches won't be eligible for the free Windows 8.1 OS.

This move by Microsoft is clearly designed to get Windows installed in more devices, similar to how Google makes Android free for use in third party smartphones and tablets. It remains to be seen if there will be any additional conditions to this deal, such as licensing Microsoft apps like Skype and Bing for use in those smaller hardware products, but this will likely be a "win-win" for both Microsoft and device makers.

Microsoft also announced that Windows will also be free for small "Internet of things' devices similar to the ones that the company revealed earlier this morning 

Image via Dell

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft bringing Start menu back in future Windows 8.1 update

Next Story

Nokia Lumia 930 announced at BUILD

99 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

The move makes lots of sense, since 80% of the WP phones are made by Nokia. As of next month, income form WP devices would drop significantly, since Nokia will be part of Microsoft. They make more money from Android licenses anyway, so they might as well give it for free and stir up the pot a little bit. Having Nadella at the helm will keep the upgrades coming at a steady pace, so it is all good!!!

It is a game changer. Now one of the most important block for the adoption of the system has been removed. Android still will be the king for the foresable future, but perhaps the percentage will change. Next step. Some minimal kind of personalization of the UI for the OEM (for example a fixed set of vendor apps in the apps list moved to the top)

Hopefully Dell fixes the issues that the Venue Pro 8 is having. I get very pissed off with mine. The touch screen isn't on point, and I have to tap the same location to do something multiple times, and currently if you have a bluetooth keyboard and bluetooth mouse, it'll bog down your WiFi making it unusable then it will disconnect from bluetooth and wifi, so you have to restart the tablet.

Android won't die because it doesn't have limitations or minimum standards. Why do you think so many of those terrible tablets and netbooks have it on there?

The only thing this is meant to do is make Microsoft a more appealing candidate for high end devices and as a result, increase the userbase and app catalog. Samsung will keep Android viable for as long as possible because they can shovel as much tripe on their devices as they want (and whatever device they want) without a peep from Google.

You can use a WP8 device with specs from two years ago and it will still perform as if it was a low end phone that just came out this year. If you try and use a two year old top tier Android device, it's going to show its age. Don't even bother if it was mid-range or low end when it came out.

I must say, I'm surprised. There's a lot of good news about Microsoft lately. They're finally bringing out the big guns.

Further confirmation that Windows-8's UI focus was for tablets all along. Laptop and desktops users...hopefully, Windows-9.

You are really focussing rather hard on tablets, aren't you? What about those that aren't necessarily pointing-device-centered? Banishing the Start menu was a massive plus for us, because it didn't get in the way any more. YOu sound like one of those hyperfringe conservatives that liberals complain are out to stifle the minority vote - except that you want to stifle those that aren't pointing-device-centered (not JUST touch-screen users and tablet users). For you, it is all about pointing devices, and everyone else can go hang.

I'm not quite equating "free" to "supported". I'd love to see Microsoft assist the third party community in getting Windows Phone 8.1 on .... say Galaxy S3, S4, S5 and HTC One.

Great! I'm sensing another deluge of cheap-as-dirt netbooks rolling in at just under the 9" screen size. Bring it!

Under 9 inches? Okay...then...PUT THIS IN CARS ALREADY.

The metro UI is brilliant for in-vehicle computers. It's all about making content accessible, convenient, and not visually overwhelming.

A live tile home screen in a car console is sex.

I doubt. I dont think MS was paying itself for running their own OS on their own device. Surface is a quality high end product and I don't expect it to come that cheap tbh.

This, I mean this fee waver and Universal app should have been done last year with windows 8 announcement. but I guess better late than never. very glad that Microsoft is getting back on track with taking right steps after another.

People seem to be focussing on 'the death of android'. This could have seriously ramifications for the iPad Mini as well

Lack of demand for Windows tablets strikes me as being unlikely to be down just to price, as even in high end markets Apple royally stuff them in sales numbers. I would be surprised if shaving a few bucks off the price is enough to send sales of Windows tabs skyrocketing.

Also, those cheap devices will have to best very popular tabs like the Nexus 7, something I can't see happening quite yet.

Javik said,
snip

There are already low end/cheap WP devices that run great that are not selling. So I dont think pricing has anything to do with it. Maybe a little, but not enough to concern anyone.

What would that be?

People don't buy Apple products because they want to save a few pennies, they're already paying premium for the device.

CuddleVendor said,
What would that be?

People don't buy Apple products because they want to save a few pennies, they're already paying premium for the device.

You really think that Iphones are "Premium" ?

Interesting to see how this pans out. I felt the smaller tables, like the venue and the recent acer were competitively priced as it is, if they can come down further all the better

Osiris said,
Interesting to see how this pans out. I felt the smaller tables, like the venue and the recent acer were competitively priced as it is, if they can come down further all the better

They can't come down too much because we don't know what they cost to make at this point. I think a full 8" x86 tablet like the dell for $250 is a very good price already. If people expect to get quality devices at $99 then that's just not going to happen even with Windows being free for OEMs.

Well, scratch that, maybe if OEMs make even smaller tablets, 6" that aren't phablets, then maybe.

It's why I referred specifically to the Venue Pro 8 - which is directly impacted by this move. The Venue Pro 8 - like the big-brother Venue Pro 11 - runs full-tilt Windows 8.1 - not RT. For that reason, along with the price, it will displace Android tablets and phablets where desktop-file-format (or application) compatibility is either desired or a must. Part of the demand for iOS and Android is about apps (especially if you have friends/relatives in either OS already), and I haven't said otherwise, ever. However, if you aren't driven by what other tablet users are running, or you have needs that obviate such crowd-following, then the Venue Pro 8 deserves consideration on its own merits.

I think the news is a bit incorrect. From what I remember only Windows is free for devices less than 9" and not Windows Phone. Somebody please recheck this.

StandingInAlley said,
I think the news is a bit incorrect. From what I remember only Windows is free for devices less than 9" and not Windows Phone. Somebody please recheck this.


Phones and Tablets with screens less than 9"

Fee (as in none). Fi. Fo. FUM!

He's awake!

Remember - the biggest advantage Android has had (in terms of smartphones and smaller tablets/phablets) has been price; that advantage is now gone. Android has one advantage left - inertia.

android is now at a disadvantage, even if google removes the fees for google services. oems still have to pay patent fees to Microsoft and apple. android is officially more expensive than windows for small tablets(where the majority of android tablets sell). that's gonna hurt.

Why? This is just cheaper for the OEMs and prices will most likely be the same for consumers to buy a device. Price wasnt an issue for people buying a WP device. There are several OEMs making them now. They just have not been selling.

Not buying the "death knell of Android" bit either, it's entrenched very well now, but certainly will give OEM's a hella lot more incentive to produce them now.. one reason Android "stuck" is that are soooo many of the things, good or otherwise. Not going to theoretically be a bajillion models versus a few anymore.

Max Norris said,
Not buying the "death knell of Android" bit either, it's entrenched very well now, but certainly will give OEM's a hella lot more incentive to produce them now.. one reason Android "stuck" is that are soooo many of the things, good or otherwise. Not going to theoretically be a bajillion models versus a few anymore.
You have to admit. OEM's are not software vendors. The idea that they can customize it is great until you have to hire and manage a team to do just that. The reason Windows was so popular with OEMs is it just worked on hardware.

Apps being equal, Android will seem very unlikely to be popular. Make the cost 0 for OEMs to toss Windows on their devices and that really hits home. All the cost of "making it work" goes out the window.

Look at everything Samsung had to invest to show a commercial of an Android tablet having a snap view... or sending an e-mail while in video conf. Their cost of having that commercial using Windows 8? $0.

I doubt Android will die, but I do think with the proper prodding from MS (read: patents) it will be cheaper for OEMs to push out Windows devices versus Android devices. Even tho OEMs pay $0 for Android, they pay MS patent royalties and Google for their services, play store access, etc. MS is now by far cheaper (giving a nod to Huawei) to produce devices for that Android. From a business standpoint, it makes more sense to put a device where you spend less internal resources to support, pay no or reduced patent royalties for and have a more modern look.

As much as I like Ballmer, Nadella is leveraging MS's assets way WAY better than Ballmer ever could. Nadella understand the upfront money is chicken feed to the long term money. Well played Mr. Nadella.

jamdown said,
Even tho OEMs pay $0 for Android
If it uses the Google Play store etc... I'm pretty certain there are fees and an approval process.

to use google services on android there is a licencing fee they need to pay google, the os is free but to have all the services google supply is not.

Good deal. And about time. Shall see how the OEMs react to this. If there still is slow adoption, then price wasnt a factor.

techbeck said,
Good deal. And about time. Shall see how the OEMs react to this. If there still is slow adoption, then price wasnt a factor.

I think they OEMs knew already which is why they've added more besides Nokia to the WP mix. They just added another 2 today from what they had posted at MWC. We'll see if they come through and push out new phones but they showed two new phones in development as well.

good call.. these devices are going to use the apps more then a laptop or 11 inch tablet that will use more desktop applications.. they can make the money on app sales as they get more market share.

side note: what if someone releases a 5 inch windows 8 tablet but has phone capabilities(eg. 3g support)?

I did. Microsoft makes more money from Bing and the Windows Store than it does for charging OEMs, while its phones and tablets are struggling to gain market share. I also think it's likely that Microsoft will drop the price of Windows towards the $40 introductory offer that was available for Windows 8, as users are finding less incentive to upgrade with each release.

DomZ said,
Not that I doubt you - but do you have a source for this?

Sorry, I should have said that Microsoft likely makes more from Bing and the Windows Store. Microsoft hasn't released any official numbers. It was only charging OEMs $15 per licence anyway and in-app purchases and search ads quickly add up. Considering that Google pays Firefox $1bn for making it the default search engine there's clearly a lot of money involved.

Android isnt going anywhere. Market share will even out more, but Android is here to stay. There will still also be lots that Win8 cannot do and Android can.

I agree. Windows is so much better for tablets than Android. Once all the popular apps are available there's really no reason to use Android.

10" devices won't get the OS for free but 10" tablets are usually more expensive. I believe previously Windows + Office was $30 for 10" tablets which is still reasonable.

techbeck said,
Android isnt going anywhere. Market share will even out more, but Android is here to stay. There will still also be lots that Win8 cannot do and Android can.

Not for too long. Once the apps are available then Windows 8 is just better than Android. Really what does Android do that Windows 8 doesn't? But there's a ton that Windows 8 can do that Android can't.

Plus it gets updates from Microsoft not from your device manufacture which is pretty great.

Plus it gets updates from Microsoft not from your device manufacture which is pretty great.

Only the tech savvy care about the updates. Most people dont and has not been a problem with Android. If it was a major issues for people, people would have switched already.

Like I said, Marketshare will even out possibly but Android is not going anywhere.

techbeck said,
Android isnt going anywhere. Market share will even out more, but Android is here to stay. There will still also be lots that Win8 cannot do and Android can.

Once they catch up a little more with the apps there will be zero reason to pick Android over Windows. Add to that full blown Office suite, Outlook, etc and Android will have very little to offer

mrp04 said,

Not for too long. Once the apps are available then Windows 8 is just better than Android. Really what does Android do that Windows 8 doesn't? But there's a ton that Windows 8 can do that Android can't.

Plus it gets updates from Microsoft not from your device manufacture which is pretty great.

Microsoft aren't about to write everybody's drivers for them. If you're installing updates on new devices you're still going to need OEMs to create drivers before upgrades can be made.

techbeck said,
There will still also be lots that Win8 cannot do and Android can.

I know a couple things Android can do that Windows can't.

- Run slowly on high end hardware
- Drain battery
- Give headaches to developers

The unspoken hope or belief here is that OEMs will pass on the "savings" to the end user. That will remain to be seen.

PmRd said,

I know a couple things Android can do that Windows can't.

- Run slowly on high end hardware
- Drain battery
- Give headaches to developers

Yawn. I guess you never heard of the Moto X or Moto G...or KitKat for that matter. Or the fact that Android devices have been getting great battery life for a while now.

Or did I mistake your comment and you are trolling?

techbeck said,
Android isnt going anywhere. Market share will even out more, but Android is here to stay. There will still also be lots that Win8 cannot do and Android can.
I agree that it won't be gone. However, I'm sorry, but MS can make an OS do as much of not more than Android. I think that's seriously underestimating MS's ability when it comes to creating and supporting platforms.

MrHumpty said,
However, I'm sorry, but MS can make an OS do as much of not more than Android.

Can, but will they? MS has controlled WP so much and limits what people can do. Android, not so much.

I hope WP does do better as recent news articles shown that competition actually works. Will just make Android and Apple provide more or do more to keep/get customers.

techbeck said,
Only the tech savvy care about the updates. Most people dont and has not been a problem with Android. If it was a major issues for people, people would have switched already.
Said like someone who believed each year was the user of linux over the past 20 years.

People do care if they are updated. In fact elops shot across androids bow about low end devices getting updated was a huge point.

MrHumpty said,
Said like someone who believed each year was the user of linux over the past 20 years.

Never commented on anything like that.

People do care if they are updated. In fact elops shot across androids bow about low end devices getting updated was a huge point.

The only people who care is the competition. The competition has tried to use this as a point to get consumers away from Android for years. The majority of the users do not care as long as what they use works. If people cared so much, then Android wouldnt be where it is now and 27 percent of Windows users wouldnt still be using XP.

Obry said,
Once they catch up a little more with the apps there will be zero reason to pick Android over Windows. Add to that full blown Office suite, Outlook, etc and Android will have very little to offer

So, that means iOS will die soon then as well. This will just give people more options is all, which is a good thing.

techbeck said,
Never commented on anything like that.
Yet that comment rings so true.
The only people who care is the competition. The competition has tried to use this as a point to get consumers away from Android for years. The majority of the users do not care as long as what they use works. If people cared so much, then Android wouldnt be where it is now and 27 percent of Windows users wouldnt still be using XP.
When users see others with *features* they don't and can't have you are mis-reading their decision. In order to have those features they have to wait until a contract is up or fork out serious cash. They are "happy with what they have" due to the cost.

With XP they are happy with what they have because they would have to fork out money, migrate apps, migrate settings.

With this new windows Migration is irrelevant. As are settings. You can in place upgrade it w/ease... we'll see how long that lasts of course. You toss a $20/30 cost in upgrading your current device people will *want* it.

Honestly, with Android they *can't* upgrade their tablets. They have to fork over $200-500 for the new hardware. Let them spend $500 on a windows device they upgrade each time MS tosses out updates... they will care. And those with windows devices will have friends with android devices and will be envied.

As far as low end phones. They don't care because it's what they know. If someone can spend $150 on a phone and see one that will be sold and forgotten about vs one that will be kept up to the latest software... guess which one they are choosing.

Your assumption that people don't care about x y or z in a new situation based of their decisions in a previous situation is silly.

PmRd said,
RIP Android

This won't end Android. The cost of Windows wasn't the major problem for Windows Phone/Tablet. The major problem is the walled garden approach of Windows on mobile. Microsoft can't beat Android while trying to make the OS a multiplatform version of iOS.

If Microsoft wants to win mobile they need to give OEMs the ability to modify the OS so they can have competitive differentiators. Us power users hate the custom UIs that they OEMs shove on Android, but they need to differentiate... Samsung doesn't want to promote LG phones...

Honestly, with Android they *can't* upgrade their tablets. They have to fork over $200-500 for the new hardware.

huh? That depends on the OEM. There are several androids that have been getting updates.


Your assumption that people don't care about x y or z in a new situation based of their decisions in a previous situation is silly.

A normal user wont be able to even tell you what version of the OS they have. Call it silly all you want, but it is true. Same way with people using Windows XP and Windows 7. Many dont know what they have installed even tho it stares them in the face everytime they start Windows. All most know is what works and what doesnt work. You ask people, do you have an Android...no, I have a Samsung. Do you have WP? No, I have a Lumia.

PmRd said,
RIP Android

That is not going to happen. Android will keep growing stronger. WP will be keep lagging at far distance 3rd position.

PmRd said,
RIP Android
That's more than a little hyperbolic... The only thing that has changed about Windows is the price, people still aren't buying the devices and it's not because of the retail sticker. Obviously the Surface isn't beholden to MS's OS price, this'll change nothing about its sales either.

Not so fast. <9'' 16:9 devices are very bad for web browsing. So only if there will 4:3 Windows devices. 8,99'' 4:3 2048x1536 or 3072x2304 would be an interesting thing.

coth said,
Not so fast. <9'' 16:9 devices are very bad for web browsing. So only if there will 4:3 Windows devices. 8,99'' 4:3 2048x1536 or 3072x2304 would be an interesting thing.
I'm curious, why?

Firstly, I use a Dell Venue 8 Pro for web browsing often. Enjoy the hell outta that.

Secondly, ReadingView.

I just don't understand why 4:3 is considered better. It's silly.

PmRd said,

I know a couple things Android can do that Windows can't.

- Run slowly on high end hardware
- Drain battery
- Give headaches to developers

- Have to restart phone everyday
- Data mining
- Buggy apps force closing apps

PmRd said,
RIP Android

If you think price is the main deciding factor why people use Android, it isn't.

They use it because they don't want to use Windows.

CuddleVendor said,

If you think price is the main deciding factor why people use Android, it isn't.

They use it because they don't want to use Windows.

ROFL.

You guys are so closed minded. This won't make the phones cheaper for the consumers but it will make them cheaper for OEMs to produce and encourage them to make more. So instead of seeing 10 android phones and 1 windows phone at your cell phone shop you'll be seeing 5 androids and 5 windows phones.

PmRd said,
You guys are so closed minded. This won't make the phones cheaper for the consumers but it will make them cheaper for OEMs to produce and encourage them to make more. So instead of seeing 10 android phones and 1 windows phone at your cell phone shop you'll be seeing 5 androids and 5 windows phones.

OEMs are already stating that WP doesnt have big enough marketshare/attention so is why they are not even looking at it now. OEM pricing has little to do with this.

wingliston said,

- Have to restart phone everyday
- Data mining
- Buggy apps force closing apps

Restart the phone everyday? Sounds an isolated inncodent or you never used an Android device the past 3yrs.

Data mining....just for ads but paranoid people will think more.

Apps force closing? That is on all platforms and really have not had to many issues on Android. And if there is, issues like this are fixed MUCH faster than any other platform since you dont have to go through an approval process. I had an issue with an app, emailed the dev, and within an hour a new version was posted addressing the issue.

Edited by techbeck, Apr 2 2014, 10:24pm :

techbeck said,

OEMs are already stating that WP doesnt have big enough marketshare/attention so is why they are not even looking at it now. OEM pricing has little to do with this.

I'd like to see the source of that bullcrap or did you just make that up caus it does sound like it

If OEMs had to pay around 50$ to use Windows Phone on their device it's more than a good reason to avoid it.

PmRd said,

I'd like to see the source of that bullcrap or did you just make that up caus it does sound like it

If OEMs had to pay around 50$ to use Windows Phone on their device it's more than a good reason to avoid it.

And I like to see proof tht Andoid is dead like you stated.

Some OEMs not going WP because of is low marketshare has been talked about on Neowin a few different times. Not my fault you missed it but not surprised since you appear to be out of touch with what is going on with android as well. Also things that have been discussed on Neowin several times.

And MS already gave a pretty good price cut to some OEMs and that didnt help sales any. So again, price is a little fator in this but I could be wrong and if I am, i will be the first to admit it.

Edited by techbeck, Apr 2 2014, 10:28pm :

Auditor said,

That is not going to happen. Android will keep growing stronger. WP will be keep lagging at far distance 3rd position.

you sounded like you're from Evil Empire ;)

techbeck said,

Yawn. I guess you never heard of the Moto X or Moto G...or KitKat for that matter. Or the fact that Android devices have been getting great battery life for a while now.

Or did I mistake your comment and you are trolling?


I know what you talking about and you're right, after kitkat android has got a lot better. However, that's exactly the android's problem because most of android users using older android 2.x. and 2.x is absolutely crap. even highend devices like galaxy series lag behind all updates. I have nexus 5 and its uptodate, have no issue with it. apart from buggy apps. but many users are using gs2 or other devices that runs older android. the problem of android which will hurt it eventually is fragmentation.

Edit:
http://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html
this is to backup my stement, only 2 percent using 4.4 kitkat. almost 25% using 2.x, 3.x, and the rest using jellybeans which was also crap until 4.3. so don't blame them when they say bad battery life, bad performance. blame samsung for pushing buggy code to people.

Edited by trojan_market, Apr 2 2014, 11:12pm :

trojan_market said,

I know what you talking about and you're right, after kitkat android has got a lot better. However, that's exactly the android's problem because most of android users using older android 2.x. and 2.x is absolutely crap. even highend devices like galaxy series lag behind all updates. I have nexus 5 and its uptodate, have no issue with it. apart from buggy apps. but many users are using gs2 or other devices that runs older android. the problem of android which will hurt it eventually is fragmentation.

Edit:
http://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html
this is to backup my stement, only 2 percent using 4.4 kitkat. almost 25% using 2.x, 3.x, and the rest using jellybeans which was also crap until 4.3.

Android really started getting better with Jelly Bean and then improved move with kitkat. JB was pretty fast and smooth and KK made it faster and able to perform better on lower end devices.

you are completely wrong, the cost of wp licencing costs was a huge part of why oems didn't jump on the bandwagon, now that has gone you can expect a crap load more oems developing wp devices in the future.

techbeck said,

Android really started getting better with Jelly Bean and then improved move with kitkat. JB was pretty fast and smooth and KK made it faster and able to perform better on lower end devices.


I am not sure if you recall the fatal issues on GS3 with 4.2.1 ? restarts. just google it. they fixed it partially in 4.2.2 update, GS4 shipped with 4.2.2 which is pretty new device (less than a year old) the point is samsung is always behind updates and this is android's problem (fragmentation)

You can have a crap ton of OEMs making something, many are making WP devices now, doesnt meant people will buy them. And having a lot of OEMs really doesnt equal to a lot of marketshare either. Apple has proven they can produce a device and still remain pretty dominant while the several OEMs for WP have been slowly increasing.. I would of thought with MS close partnership with Nokia, Nokia and WP would be doing much better. Really not so much about costs as every Android OEM has to pay Google to use the services and then MS. Its about producing a device/platform that attracks customers and developers. Something so far MS hasnt been doing well at. But hopefully that will change with recent news and the direction MS seems to be heading.

But time will tell and like I said, if I am wrong I will be one of the first to admit it.

trojan_market said,

I am not sure if you recall the fatal issues on GS3 with 4.2.1 ? restarts. just google it. they fixed it partially in 4.2.2 update, GS4 shipped with 4.2.2 which is pretty new device (less than a year old) the point is samsung is always behind updates and this is android's problem (fragmentation)

I had it on a few devices and never had a problem like that. Performance wise, it was solid tho. And JB was a huge inprovement over ICS.

MrHumpty said,
I'm curious, why?

Firstly, I use a Dell Venue 8 Pro for web browsing often. Enjoy the hell outta that.

Secondly, ReadingView.

I just don't understand why 4:3 is considered better. It's silly.

There's nothing silly about it. A 4:3 device will have a larger area than a widescreen device of the same diagonal length, and a lot of traditional websites still benefit from the extra width. If you put your tablet next to an iPad Mini and try browsing a few full-blown desktop websites, there is no way you won't notice the difference.

PmRd said,

I know a couple things Android can do that Windows can't.

- Run slowly on high end hardware
- Drain battery
- Give headaches to developers

- Get malware/Spyware/Virus