Report: 'Windows 8.1 with Bing' could be an experiment to offer Windows for free

Last week, a new Windows 8.1 Update 1 build leaked to the Internet but this one was labeled as "Windows 8.1 with Bing." Since Bing SmartSearch is already a partof Windows 8.1, many have wondered exactly what this mysterious SKU is going to be when the final version is released.

Today, a new report on ZDNet from well connected journalist Mary Jo Foley claims, via unnamed sources, that Windows 8.1 with Bing is an experiment for Microsoft. She writes that while the actual SKU has only minor differences from the other versions of Windows 8.1, it could be a way for Microsoft to offer Bing-related incentives for either consumers or OEMs which could make Windows free in the future.

Microsoft already offers nice incentives for anyone to search the web using Bing. It started its free Bing Rewards program a few years ago which allows folks to get rewards such as gift cards for Amazon, Applebee's and Microsoft services like Xbox Live and Skype by searching the Internet on Bing.com. Just this week, the company announced that anyone in the program could get 100GB of free OneDrive storage for a year, normally priced $50 for the cost of just 100 Bing Rewards points.

If this report is accurate, it could mean that people might be able to get a full version of Windows for free that's monetized by Bing ads and incentives. While that sounds good on the surface, many users might be wary of having to deal with more ads and offers inside their operating system.

But take all of this with a grain of salt as it is being referred to as an experiment and could dramatically change or be canned at any time.

Source: ZDNet | Image via WZor

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If the ads can be blocked or easily avoided, I would very much look forward to a copy of Windows with no direct out-of-pocket cost.

PEOPLE,.....THIS IS A GOOD THING.

Microsoft NEEDS to this to stay alive. We have been living in a "new" economy for almost 20 years. Google HAS MASTERED it. Microsoft, to stay relevant needs to do the same. THIS NEEDS to HAPPEN. Windows needs to go free. Why? The answer is easy but no so obvious to all the Windows die-hard fans, Chromebook...I said, CHROMEBOOK is a threat.

It's a threat because it's cheaper, its easier to maintain, and it's very very good computing machine. It's also not just Chromebooks. It's also Android. Android can DEMOLISH the Windows Product severely. Right now, Android is a light OS that is ever evolving and can someday soon become the most powerful and popular OS in the world because of it's "open-source-ness" and it's App/Software development program.

Not only have I seen this, but so has Microsoft. That's why they are RIGHT to be scared to death over Chromebooks, Android, and other Google products. The one terrible weakness of Microsoft is that throughout their history, they have never faced a real challenge. I kinda-sorta liken them to Rocky (MSFT) and Mr. T. (Google) in Rocky III, where Rocky defended his championship by facing weak opponents. However, in this case, it's doubtful that the outcome will be the same as it was in the movie. Google is that big, it's that strong, and their revenue model is awesome.

The only question i have is this: How will the ads work? Are they going to be hypocritical and "Microscroogle" consumers? OMG....this is funny, if this really happens. This would totally put egg on the face of all those people who defended Microsoft's "scroogle" campaign no matter how dis-honest it was....like "Paul Thurrott" and Ed Bott. Mary Jo Foley is fine, but Paul Thurrott is a total Microsoft tool. Could you actually believe that Paul Thurrott actually said in his Windows Weekly podcast, that Microsoft should just develop and shape Windows for only true-diehard Windows 8 fans? It's true...he said it in either WW Podcast #347, 348, or 349.

Anyway, like I said, this is a GOOD THING. It's a necessary thing. Windows going free NEEDS to happen.

Strange to see people being so negative about this. Much as I wish Bing Rewards were available in the UK I'm sure this won't reach our shores, but that's a shame as it makes sense. Amazon do it with their Kindle, the ad supported version being $20 or so cheaper. Google do it with Android, they just have the smarts not to call it "ad supported" when that's exactly what it is.

TheShark said,
Strange to see people being so negative about this. Much as I wish Bing Rewards were available in the UK I'm sure this won't reach our shores, but that's a shame as it makes sense. Amazon do it with their Kindle, the ad supported version being $20 or so cheaper. Google do it with Android, they just have the smarts not to call it "ad supported" when that's exactly what it is.

I have been using all kinds of smart phones for the past number of years, which mostly are Android.

Not once,....ONCE....have I seen an Ad on an Android phone. Not in Gmail, Chrome, Maps, etc....

With all due respect,...I have no idea what you are talking about.

That is a pretty damning indictment and further confirms that Windows-8 was designed for tablets. The old saying "You get what you pay for." remains true.

TsarNikky said,
That is a pretty damning indictment and further confirms that Windows-8 was designed for tablets. The old saying "You get what you pay for." remains true.

Not necessarily: IMO what was wrong with the original release of the OS was the extremely poor execution of the concept and the main reason for that was that an narcissistic egomaniac was in charge and nobody in the upper echelon restrained him.
There is no comparison between the first release of the OS and the latest one.

ir0nw0lf said,
/me waiting for all the Apple zealots, er users to accuse MS of copying Apple [yet again]...

Apple sell high end PC's and Microsoft sells PC's at the bottom end. With a free add supported OS they can go even lower. Yay.

So the only thing left to do to compete is to make windows free? This is the beginning of the end, a race to the bottom. Apple get the high end sales and Windows devices get the cheap crappy bottom end. This is terrible for Microsoft.

Windows XP support ends in April.

Windows 8.1 Spring Update with free SKU probably will be released in April.

Coincidence?

anonymf said,
Windows 8.1 Spring Update with free SKU probably will be released in April.
Wouldn't hold my breath if I were you, this is highly unlikely.

anonymf said,
Windows XP support ends in April.

Windows 8.1 Spring Update with free SKU probably will be released in April.

Coincidence?


So you're taking an assumption and drawing coincidence from it? Don't you think that's pretty pointless?

Xenosion said,

So you're taking an assumption and drawing coincidence from it? Don't you think that's pretty pointless?

That Windows 8.1 Spring Update will be released in April was widely known. Almost immediately after my comment Paul Thurrott said that it will be widely available April 8th, the same day when Windows XP support ends:

http://www.neowin.net/news/rep...-8th-msdn-gets-it-april-2nd

Speculation that it will have free version is the point of article in comment section of which we have this discussion.

Assumption that free version will be available at the time of release is based on history: it was rare thing that some SKUs were available after release.

We have a new cellphone carrier in Sweden called Wifog, that provides you with a free contract, with free messaging, free data, and free calling, the only thing you have to do as a customer is listen/watch commercials. I haven't tried this yet myself, but it sounds insane.

You can read about it here, use google translate for English.
http://wifog.com/

Wall-swe said,
I haven't tried this yet myself, but it sounds insane.
I mentioned something similar to this above regarding internet connections: http://www.neowin.net/news/rep...ws-for-free#comment-2514045 Some people might go for it initially but before long such people will either look to block the ads, or look for ways to pirate the non-ad version, or come to their senses and pay. Being ready for ad bombardment just to use the OS sounds insane to me too.

The illusion that MSFT would have to give away their OS is bogus. I think the current pricing is perfectly fair. Could anyone tell me WHY it would have to be much cheaper or free? I mean the parallel with OS X just does not fly here as the required hardware and the premium price you pay for it more than makes up for the difference.

One company asks a fair price for a new OS where it will run fine on your 5 year old hardware, the other basically forces you to upgrade to new hardware as they make sure a new OS won't run on their X year old proprietary hardware.


I have a late 2008 macbook pro... It runs the latest OS X. Do the math, that's a 5 year old laptop and it runs smoothly. If you are talking about PowerPC computers... they had to die sooner or later. Just like the Zune did.

paulheu said,
One company asks a fair price for a new OS where it will run fine on your 5 year old hardware, the other basically forces you to upgrade to new hardware as they make sure a new OS won't run on their X year old proprietary hardware.

To be fair, while Apple have stopped supporting Snow Leopard after less than 5 years (which, don't get me wrong, I think sucks somewhat), the most recent systems that can't upgrade beyond Snow Leopard are, as far as I can tell, at least 7 years old at this point. Plus, they still run W8 fine.

I would not mind getting the Windows 8.1 with Bing if the price is free. I don't think Bing is as good with search as Google but free is better than $99. Also I use Chrome and don't need to use Bing.

If Windows really is going to be monetized by Bing, that ought to put paid to all those rumors about Bing being considered for sale or random investors wanting it sold. Even if this doesn't happen still there's just no way they're going to abandon Bing now, it makes no sense.

I bet Adblock plus and other ad blockers would really take off if Microsoft does indeed to go this direction. I'm defiantly all in for a free Microsoft OS if I can block the ads, doesnt cut too many corners, and has the same performance (in terms of gaming, etc.) as the paid version.

f0rk_b0mb said,
I bet Adblock plus and other ad blockers would really take off if Microsoft does indeed to go this direction. I'm defiantly all in for a free Microsoft OS if I can block the ads, doesnt cut too many corners, and has the same performance (in terms of gaming, etc.) as the paid version.

Or just buy the regular version? Why try to screw Microsoft out of its revenue when you deliberately choose the ad sponsored version of the OS? Or use Linux? Chromebook?

efjay said,

Or just buy the regular version? Why try to screw Microsoft out of its revenue when you deliberately choose the ad sponsored version of the OS? Or use Linux? Chromebook?

Linux is my main OS. The only reason why I still have Windows is games and MS Office for school. That's it. I don't think anybody wants a video ad to start randomly playing when they are typing a thesis or playing a game. W8.1w/B is most likely going to take out those "power user features" that very few people use to begin with. Buying the full version will do me absolutely no good. I don't need it. If I want features, I'll just reboot and choose Linux.

f0rk_b0mb said,
W8.1w/B is most likely going to take out those "power user features" that very few people use to begin with.
On what basis are you making this claim? If people are going to tolerate ads they will definitely demand that all the features be present.

timster said,
exactly. but the majority don't care, they all see $0.00 and don't question why its $0.00

Regrettably this is very true. Perfect example are the "subsidized" smartphones that the carriers racket sells in the US.

pratnala said,
But but the OS is free. Which, believe me, is a big deal in the developing world where I live. People won't mind the ads
I think if there's a way to pirate most people will go down that route before using an ad-supported OS. Also if the ads are in your face people will definitely mind. I remember ages ago some companies tried giving out "free" internet connections where you were forced to dedicate part of your screen to an ad scroller. Initially people were enthusiastic but pretty soon they got pi**ed enough to pay for proper access.

Lord Method Man said,
I just wish paid copies of Windows 8 didn't have built-in ads.

It doesn't. I think you're confusing optional apps with the OS.

Eric said,
It doesn't. I think you're confusing optional apps with the OS.
Optional in that you can stay away from them or use alternatives, but still bundled/pre-installed with the paid OS, right? How would you like it if Notepad or Paint started including ads?

Eric said,

It doesn't. I think you're confusing optional apps with the OS.

No. It has Apps. They come preinstalled with Windows and the apps are right there on the start screen.

They aren't third party bloatware or something the user installs on their own. Its no different than if they decided to add apps to Notepad or Calculator.

Lord Method Man said,

No. It has Apps. They come preinstalled with Windows and the apps are right there on the start screen.

They aren't third party bloatware or something the user installs on their own. Its no different than if they decided to add apps to Notepad or Calculator.

For some reason my apps don't have adverts, or I never noticed them, or they are filtering certain countries out

georgevella said,
For some reason my apps don't have adverts, or I never noticed them, or they are filtering certain countries out
Whether you see them or not and which ones you see depends on your location, but they are definitely there.

Lord Method Man said,

No. It has Apps. They come preinstalled with Windows and the apps are right there on the start screen.

They aren't third party bloatware or something the user installs on their own. Its no different than if they decided to add apps to Notepad or Calculator.

Right Click -> Uninstall. Takes about 3 seconds. You can even do them all at once if you want.

ModernMech said,

Right Click -> Uninstall. Takes about 3 seconds. You can even do them all at once if you want.

That's cool. It has nothing to do with the fact that Windows 8 comes bundled with built-in ads, but cool nonetheless.

Lord Method Man said,

That's cool. It has nothing to do with the fact that Windows 8 comes bundled with built-in ads, but cool nonetheless.

By your line of logic, Windows 7 or any OS these days comes with bundled, built in ads because when you launch a web browser, there are ads right there. Don't start getting ridiculous by redefining an OS as the OS + all bundled apps.

ModernMech said,

By your line of logic, Windows 7 or any OS these days comes with bundled, built in ads because when you launch a web browser, there are ads right there. Don't start getting ridiculous by redefining an OS as the OS + all bundled apps.

No, those ads aren't part of the browser. This is about the most pathetic "by your logic..." attempt I've ever seen. At least try convincing me that built-in ads are good thing that benefit everyone instead of pissing in my ear and telling me its raining by claiming W8 doesn't have built in ads.

Lord Method Man said,

No, those ads aren't part of the browser.

Thanks for proving my point. Ads aren't part of the browser in the same way ads aren't part of the OS. You're just defining "part of" to suit your needs. The OS is the OS. Period. You don't get to choose what the OS is. OSes come with apps. Apps can have ads, and those ads are used to support the app, *not* the OS. Just like an ad in a browser is used to support the website, and not the browser.

The apps are first party from Microsoft themselves, are included by default with the OS, and have ads in them.

Its a pathetic practice, almost as bad as your attempt at saying Windows 8 doesn't include ads.

ModernMech said,
Thanks for proving my point. Ads aren't part of the browser in the same way ads aren't part of the OS.

The browser doesn't have ads; the built-in apps do and they are part of the OS. Your analogy makes no sense.

Lord Method Man is correct in saying that Windows 8 has built-in ads. Whether you consider that an issue is another matter.

Lord Method Man said,
The apps are first party from Microsoft themselves, are included by default with the OS, and have ads in them.

Its a pathetic practice, almost as bad as your attempt at saying Windows 8 doesn't include ads.

What's pathetic is your continued conflation of OS and Application. Windows 8 is an operating system. Are you sure you know what that is? Let me help you. One of the purposes of an operating system as far as an end user is concerned is to host applications. Some applications are shipped with the operating system to provide a default level of utility. In the case of Windows 8, some of these applications contain advertisements to support continued delivery of content, including weather data or news. Whether you see these advertisements depends on whether you consume the data they provide. You noted before that this would be no different if they started including ads in Wordpad or Calc. Wrong, there is a huge difference; Wordpad and Calc are not serving you content from other sources that somehow needs to be paid for. Weather and the Bing apps *are* serving new content, and that's why ads are included.

We all agree the applications have ads. Where you are verifiably wrong is where you say Windows 8 comes bundled with ads. Windows 8 is an operating system. Windows 8 comes bundled with *apps* some of which have ads. This is a very important distinction, as the connotation is completely different from what you are trying to claim. What you are saying connotes that the actual OS is serving advertisements to you. This is a factually wrong statement.

the built-in apps do and they are part of the OS...Lord Method Man is correct in saying that Windows 8 has built-in ads

Which is it? Do the built in apps have ads or does the OS have ads? You're using the two interchangeably but they are not interchangeable. An app is not an OS. And OS is not defined by the apps it hosts.

ModernMech said,

Where you are verifiably wrong is where you say Windows 8 comes bundled with ads. Windows 8 is an operating system. Windows 8 comes bundled with *apps* some of which have ads.

I guess there isn't milk in my refrigerator, because technically the milk is inside of a carton which itself is inside the refrigerator.

Lord Method Man said,

I guess there isn't milk in my refrigerator, because technically the milk is inside of a carton which itself is inside the refrigerator.

Again, you're playing loose with semantics. We're talking layers of abstraction here, not physical containers. What we're talking about here are literally machines, not just boxes in physical space. When talking about machines the relevant semantics are *what they do* not *where they are*.

Lord Method Man said,

I guess there isn't milk in my refrigerator, because technically the milk is inside of a carton which itself is inside the refrigerator.

You carton likely has ads weather it part of the design and the name of the company that distribute the Milk that's an Ad there or the poor missing kid in the mild container. So by your logic you paid for Milk and got served ads.

Try Trolling Harder! the logic of these people... geez

Doesn't make a difference to me since I can block ads across the OS with my Firewall. And my Firewall has a lifetime license so no extra fees for me. It's especially useful because I can selectively block ads for whichever apps I choose.

ModernMech said,
What's pathetic is your continued conflation of OS and Application. Windows 8 is an operating system.

The distinction between OS and application is irrelevant because the statement was "Windows 8 comes bundled with built-in ads". The apps that contain ads are part of Windows 8, therefore the statement is accurate.

I just don't understand what you're hoping to achieve by convincing people the apps aren't part of the operating system, as that doesn't change the salient point here which is that Microsoft charges for software and then includes ads. You clearly don't have a problem with that; others here do.

theyarecomingforyou said,

The distinction between OS and application is irrelevant because the statement was "Windows 8 comes bundled with built-in ads".

It is *highly* relevant because of what the connotation is. If the apps are the delivery system for ads, I have the option of not using them or uninstalling them. If the OS is the delivering the ads, I do not have the option of not using them or uninstalling them.

The apps that contain ads are part of Windows 8, therefore the statement is accurate.

They are not a *part* of Windows 8. I don't know how many times I have to say this, but an OS is separate from its applications. Therefore you can't say the applications are a part of Windows 8. Yes they come installed with Windows 8. But they exist on top of and in addition to Windows 8. Windows 8 is wholly Windows 8 without them.

I just don't understand what you're hoping to achieve by convincing people the apps aren't part of the operating system, as that doesn't change the salient point here which is that Microsoft charges for software and then includes ads. You clearly don't have a problem with that; others here do.

This is exactly the mindset I am opposed to here. Microsoft charged for an OS. The ads are there to support a specific *app* not the OS. The apps in question deliver content, such as daily news. When you went to the store and bought Windows 8, you paid for the OS. You did not pay for the news included in the news app. Therefore, if you want daily news updates from the news app, you must look at an ad. If you don't want daily news updates from the news app, you simply do not use the news app. Notice that from start to finish, your involvement with ads in the news app has *everything* to do with your interaction with the news app and *nothing* to do with your use of Windows 8 as an operating system.

I don't have a problem with these ads because I understand why they are there, and that content is not free. If you have a problem with this, you either don't understand how businesses work, or you just want something for nothing. If it's the former, educate yourself. If it's the latter, welcome to the real world.

It is unavoidable.

Microsoft will have to dramatically reduce the price of the consumer version of Windows.
Times changed and the personal computing landscape also did. It is time for Microsoft to revise the pricing strategy if they want to remain relevant in this segment.

TheCyberKnight said,
Microsoft will have to dramatically reduce the price of the consumer version of Windows.
Times changed and the personal computing landscape also did. It is time for Microsoft to revise the pricing strategy if they want to remain relevant in this segment.

The bottom line is that the PC refresh cycle has slowed. By charging for Windows up-front, Microsoft only makes money off the first-sale. If someone replaces the computer in 6 years instead of 3, then Microsoft makes half as much money.

This isn't the case with an operating system that is free up-front, but makes its money off usage. Doesn't matter if someone keeps the computer for 3 years or 6 -- Microsoft continues making money as long as they're still using the Bing-integrated features of the OS.

The other consideration is that only 20% of Windows revenues come from consumer Windows, and Windows is only 1/3 of Microsoft corporate revenues. This means that Microsoft is only experimenting on 7% of its revenues. It's billions of dollars in absolute terms, but in terms of the overall size of Microsoft, it's tolerable.