Reports are beginning to surface that a new version of the Windows operating system is being tested, which may be the placeholder for a low-cost or ultimately free version of Windows 8.1. The news of the possible existence of a free version is believed to be a direct result of the growing Chromebook market share and consumer reluctance to upgrade from older versions of the Windows operating system.
The rumor mill
Over the past few days, numerous well known and respected news leakers and bloggers have begun to report on a new test version of the Windows operating system named Windows 8.1 with Bing.
The well-known Windows leaker, named Wzor, published a number of screenshots from the mysterious new Windows operating system. The version is said to include all major updated assigned to the upcoming Windows 8.1 update as well as indications that Internet Explorer and Bing Maps could be receiving a focus.
Other well-known Microsoft followers have also begun to report on the possible new Windows offering. The indications are that Windows 8.1 with Bing is a test project designed to research the possibility of offering low-cost upgrade options for Windows 7 users while monetizing previously included Microsoft services, like OneDrive and Bing.
While Windows 8.1 has slowly picked up steam and recently reached a new sales milestone, adoption of the operating system by stalwart Windows XP and Windows 7 users is still well below the previously expected numbers and Chromebooks and low-cost tablets are threatening market share. In order to continue to control the massive share of the market that the company has enjoyed for more than two decades, Redmond must make drastic changes.
In most cases, a Microsoft operating system enabled device derives a significant portion of its base cost from including the operating system, which prices the device in the higher range of most hardware brackets.
Introducing ultra-low-cost, or even free, Windows operating system options to new and existing consumers and manufacturers will open up multiple competitive possibilities for the company. Windows 8.1 could then become a direct competitor for the inexpensive Chromebooks and open up new options for Windows 8.1 on tablets not called Surface.