Microsoft today confirmed the rumors of a new edition of its latest operating system by unveiling Windows 8.1 with Bing. The company says the main purpose of the new SKU is to allow its hardware partners to sell lower-cost Windows devices; the first ones with the new edition will be announced next month at Computex in Tapei.
Windows 8.1 with Bing is exactly like Windows 8.1 with the recently released Windows 8.1 Update, with one major difference: Bing is set as the default search engine in Internet Explorer. Users can still change that option in IE’s search engine settings, but OEMs do not have that luxury.
It’s also worth noting that Windows 8.1 with Bing cannot be purchased: it is only be available preloaded on devices from Microsoft’s hardware partners. Some of these devices, in particular tablets, will also ship with Office (Microsoft wouldn’t specify which edition, but we assume Office 2013) or a one-year subscription to Office 365.
Here’s Microsoft’s explanation as to why it is making the move:
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. Additionally, as reach expands, the opportunity for developers and their apps also increases.
In other words, this is part of the company’s new strategy for taking on Android. Microsoft is well-aware it needs to boost demand across the board: OEMs want cheaper software, developers want more devices, and users want more apps.
Yet details surrounding Windows 8.1 with Bing are still scarce. We don’t expect Microsoft to share how much less it will charge OEMs for the new edition (the company doesn’t publicly reveal how much it charges OEMs for Windows 8.1), but how exactly the user experience will be different (if at all) is worth an explanation. It’s easy to see how this edition could be used by Microsoft to bundle various Bing apps and services onto new Windows devices, but right now the company is only underlining the IE default search setting.
We have contacted Microsoft for more details about Windows 8.1 with Bing. If we learn anything, we’ll update this post with the details.
Update: Microsoft wouldn’t share anything new about Windows 8.1 with Bing. The SKU really is all about OEMs: they can’t change the Bing setting, but get a discounted price (it’s not clear if it’s heavily reduced or free). Users are still getting the same deal: Windows 8.1 that can be changed any way they like.
See also – Microsoft says Windows for the Internet of Things will be free, starting with phones and tablets less than 9″ and Microsoft updates Bing Smart Search to use natural language, fix common spelling mistakes, show more apps