Windows 8.1 with Bing targets budget tablets

Microsoft has unveiled a new version of Windows 8.1 to help push the OS onto budget tablets.

Windows 8.1 with Bing targets budget tablets

Rumours have circulated for the past several months that Microsoft was considering offering a cut-down version of Windows to device manufacturers for free, in order to boost the use of the OS on tablets.

At its Build conference last month, Microsoft said it would offer a free version of Windows to devices smaller than 9in.

Microsoft has now confirmed one new version will be called Windows 8.1 with Bing. It hasn’t specifically said it will be made available free to manufacturers, but Windows watcher Mary Jo Foley said it will likely be given to hardware makers for free or a reduced price. It will only be available on devices, not made directly available as a standalone version for consumers.

It also won’t be the predicted cut down version of Windows. Instead, on this version of Windows, Internet Explorer will default to Bing as the search tool, as it does now, but manufacturers will not be allowed to alter that setting to Google before shipping devices, according to reports.

Microsoft stressed that users will still be able to change the search bar to Google or another provider, or to install a rival browser.

Other than that, Windows 8.1 with Bing “provides all the same great experiences that Windows 8.1 offers”, communications manager Brandon LeBlanc said in a blog post.

Some Windows 8.1 with Bing devices, particularly tables, will come with Office or a one-year subscription to Office 365.

What’s in it for Microsoft? “The end result is that 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,” LeBlanc said. “Additionally, as reach expands, the opportunity for developers and their apps also increases.”

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