Just a few weeks back, Microsoft cut down the licensing fees for its Windows 8 operating system. At that time, there were rumors that Microsoft was working on a free version of the OS, even for Windows Phone 8. Looks like, these rumors were somewhat true as Times of India (TOI) reported yesterday that Microsoft has struck a deal with two local manufacturers for using Windows Phone 8 OS for free.
Back in MWC, Microsoft announced two new Windows Phone manufacturers namely Karbonn and Lava (Xolo). However, the exact terms of agreement between these companies were not known at that time. But TOI reports that according to its sources, Microsoft is licensing its Windows Phone 8 OS for free to these local manufacturers. The company was in talks with them since last year; however the actual agreement was signed only after Microsoft offered its OS for free.
Usually, Microsoft licenses its OS to OEMs for around $15 per handset, but this would be the first time its offering it for free. Android and iOS dominate the current smartphone OS segment and Windows has not been able to grab a significant portion of these markets. With the OS growing at a very slow pace, this must be the only solution left with Microsoft.
However, this may not be as bad as it looks. The company may not support for marketing these phones, as they usually do. Also, being free to use, these manufacturers will be able to experiment with new phones running Windows 8 and this might help the OS gain some market share rapidly. Given that India has a huge smartphone base, a positive attitude towards Windows Phone OS may actually help it to compete with Android and iOS.
While Microsoft is offering its OS for free to these two players, other manufacturers may not be getting this privilege. The company may cut down the cost of its licensing, instead of making it entirely free for other OEMs. Also, this discount could be for specific growth markets only, where Windows penetration is still very low. So, manufacturers from other countries may still have to pay the usual prices for these licenses.
Given that Microsoft has already cut down prices of Windows 8 licenses for OEMs manufacturing budget friendly (under $250) devices, the company may actually release a free version of the OS as rumored. So, things could get better for the operating system, at least in terms of market share in the coming years.
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