Free Windows 10? PCs Could See Big Price Drop

John Lister's picture

Early last year, Microsoft released a free version of Windows for manufacturers that produced tablet computers with screen sizes smaller than nine inches. Known as "Windows 8.1 with Bing," the forecast was to make a big difference to the economics for manufacturers weighing up which operating system to use on its devices.

Analysts are now speculating whether Microsoft will do the same with Windows 10 and, if so, whether the offer will apply on traditional PCs. It also raises the possibility that Microsoft could face accusations of unfair behavior in promoting its search engine.

Windows and MS Office Cheap or Free for Tablet Makers

Now a document published on Microsoft's site for manufacturers has revealed more details. It shows that officially Microsoft charges $10 for Windows 8.1 on small tablets, and $25 on large tablets. However, Microsoft then immediately applies a $10 "configuration discount", making the price $0 and $15 respectively. (Source:

The document also shows that with both tablet sizes, manufacturers can choose to include a one year subscription to Office 365 at no cost. The catch is that all of these deals are only available if the manufacturer agrees to set any pre-installed browser to use Bing as its default search engine, and MSN as its default home page. The user is able to change these defaults to any other service, including changing to a different browser if desired.

The revelations come as industry experts are speculating about the possible pricing for Windows 10, including how much manufacturers will have to pay to put it on new machines. While Microsoft has rarely published details, and appears to vary pricing depending on how many computers a firm wants to manufacture, historically manufacturers are believed to have paid $50 or more.

Cheaper PCs Could Be in the Works

A big reduction on that fee, if passed on to consumers, could mean a noticeable drop in computer prices. (Source:

Such a move, especially if applied to all computing devices, could also spark controversy over Microsoft appearing to give firms financial incentives to favor its online services. Previous attempts to force firms to use Internet Explorer as the default browser on Windows PCs have led to major legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic.

It's important to note a couple of differences with the current situation. The Windows 8.1 deal offers discounts if companies make Bing and MSN the default, but doesn't force them to do so. It also only applies to specific settings in the browser, rather then affecting what browser manufacturers install.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you expect Microsoft to offer similar discounts for manufacturers with Windows 10? Would a price drop in the region of $50 make you more likely to buy a new computer running Windows 10? Do you think Microsoft is acting fairly in tying its pricing offer to search engine and homepage settings?

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Dennis Faas's picture

As long as I can easily change the search provider and home page, it wouldn't bother me in the least to save money on a PC with these presets. It's not like I use Windows straight out of the box, anyway.

ljbalk's picture

Save money?, count me in! I've been holding off on buying a new computer until after Windows 10 becomes available because I dislike Windows 8.x so the idea of getting a new OS cheaper with what appears to be minimal requirements in terms of the browser is a no-brainer for me.

nate04pa's picture

Microsoft should offer freely transferable Windows 10 to ALL legitimate Windows XP, 7, 8, and 8.1 users AND new users for just a few dollars more than it charges OEMs. This would be an incentive to upgrade.

thedoorway's picture

In his opening remarks in the Microsoft presentation shown at, Terry Myerson, Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Operating Systems, publicly announced that MS will be offering a FREE UPGRADE to Windows 10, during the FIRST YEAR after Windows 10's release, for anyone currently running a copy of Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, or Windows 7. That statement starts about about 13:30 in this video. The video runs almost 2.5 hours, but it's worth the watch. You'll be blown away with what's coming.

I've watched that video and it's amazing what Windows 10 will be providing, including the ability to play with and create holographic images, via their HoloLens goggles type device and their holographic creation software. W10 will also work on phones, tablets, and PCs.

I've been playing with W10 in a VMware virtual machine, and it's really nice. I'm looking forward to getting it for real. I believe this will be a version that everyone running Windows will want to get. And that generous free upgrade will sure help make that possible.