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Microsoft really wants to get Windows 8.1 in consumers’ hands.

To boost the number of folks using the operating system, Microsoft is reportedly considering giving it away for free or selling it at a very low cost, according to The Verge.

If it slashes the price tag of Windows (and Windows Phone OS) to zero, the Redmond-based company may look to service add-ons to pick up some of the slack — like additional OneDrive cloud storage. Microsoft is also positioning Bing as a platform it can monetize in the future.

It makes sense, then, that the SKU at the center of Microsoft’s monetization experiment is “Windows 8.1 with Bing,” a new version of the upcoming Windows 8.1 update revealed by Windows leaker WZor (and reported by ZDNet).

If Microsoft indeed chops its OS licensing fee for Windows device makers, as some recent reports have suggested it will, Microsoft will have to make a tough choice. It currently bundles a bunch of services with Windows: OneDrive, various Bing services, Xbox music streaming, the core Office apps (for RT users). Will it begin charging for those services to make up a more substantial amount of lost revenue for OS sales, or just eat the cost?

Either way, Microsoft’s Windows experiments reflect a change of thinking in Redmond. Its search platform is being perceived differently, as a sort of engine powering Windows and Windows Phone. That’s a bit less surprising when you consider that former Bing chief Satya Nadella is now heading the company.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on this story.


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