Microsoft has been working hard to increase Windows 8's adoption rate. One of the issues they have faced from manufacturers is the pricing of the operating system versus the perceived lower cost for Android on low-end tablets. One of the rumored ideas to solve this perceived issue was a reduced cost or free version of windows designed for low-cost devices.
This rumor was validated at //build/ this year, when Microsoft announced an end to licensing fees for phones and smaller tablets. This week, Microsoft detailed the free edition of Windows 8.1 that will be available for these smaller tablets. Named Windows 8.1 with Bing, the new version of Windows is almost identical to it's full-priced edition, with only one small change: manufacturers cannot change the default search engine before shipping the device. A Microsoft representative said,
The Windows 8.1 with Bing referenced on the Windows Blog is the edition that is licensed in connection with the recently announced royalty-free option for small tablets. Microsoft will license this edition for other OEM form factors as well. OEMs will each determine which types of devices they want to bring to market with this edition of Windows.
Several manufacturers have been paid by Google to change the default behavior in Windows for years, but with this new Bing-powered version, that will no longer be an option. Microsoft is making it clear, however, that it is entirely up to the manufacturer whether they want to enter into this edition of Windows or continue on with the standard Windows on a device-by-device basis. This means we could see Dell release 2 versions of its Dell Venue Pro 8 - one with each version of Windows.
It will be interesting to see how many manufacturers pick up this new edition and if it can make a bigger dent in the Android tablet space.