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For a while now, it has been rumored that Microsoft would be coming through with a new version of Windows 8.1. The cheaper edition would offer a more bare-bones experience, it was thought, and now, we finally have some details thanks to an official announcement. The new SKU is called Windows 8.1 with Bing, and offers a stripped-down experience that will pave the way for a band of significantly cheaper Windows 8.1 tablets.

As well as catering to manufacturers wanting to build lower-cost machines, Windows 8.1 with Bing will also be used to promote the Redmond’s search engine and services, although whilst Bing will be set as the default search engine from the get-go, users will be able to tweak Internet Explorer’s settings and change it to something else if they so wish.

Window 81 with bing logo

Windows 8.1 already runs on some lower-costing laptops and tablets, but in pushing Windows 8.1 with Bing, Microsoft is clearly trying to spread its wings and hit the very entry level markets that may otherwise opt for a cheap Android tablet. We don’t, as yet, have any specific information on the first round of devices to be released running Windows 8.1 with Bing right off the bat, but apparently, a bunch of OEMs are already plotting devices on the new OS.

As Microsoft and many of its competitors have learned over the past few years, selling an ecosystem is far more valuable than merely selling a device, and so by getting consumers to buy into Windows 8.1 at a lower level, the company can begin to occupy a market that Apple and Google currently have a stronghold on.

We’ve seen similar such moves on a smartphone level, with Nokia’s budget ‘X’ range of handsets running on a forked, Windows Phone-esque version of Android that Microsoft hopes will draw more users to WP in the future. Windows 8.1 with Bing is, in many respects, a variation of the same tactic, grabbing a piece of the lower tier of the market and in turn, helping Windows 8.1 to compete in a tablet market that it currently has very little stake in.

As aforementioned, several unnamed manufacturers appear to be working on bringing new Windows 8.1 with Bing devices to market, and we should hear more over the next few weeks as official announcements are made. Just who Microsoft has partnered up with for this initial run of new low-cost devices is anybody’s guess, but should any clarifying information come to light, we’ll have it covered right here at Redmond Pie, so stay tuned!

(Source: Windows Experience Blog)

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