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Windows Change Could Make Big Chromebooks a Better Buy



If reports of Microsoft changing the way it handles Windows 8.1 with Bing are correct, the next cheap full-size notebook most users buy could be running Google’s Chrome OS instead of Windows.

The Register is reporting that sources inside Microsoft say the company is planning to make big changes to Windows 8.1 with Bing. Windows 8.1 with Bing is the discounted operating system Microsoft lets devices makers include on their notebooks and tablets to hit ultra-low price points. According to the report, Microsoft plans to stop handing out deeply discounted Windows 8.1 with Bing for devices with a screen that’s bigger than 14-inches.


The HP Stream 11.

Allegedly, Microsoft won’t kill off the operating system completely. Instead, it plans on increasing the price of Windows 8.1 with Bing for anything bigger than 14-inches. To be clear, devices makers will still get a heavily discounted version of Windows 8.1 with Bing for anything that has a 14-inch display or less. On the business side, Microsoft should see an increase in the amount it earns from sales of Windows on PCs going forward. For users who care about cheap notebooks, this isn’t necessarily great news.

Microsoft introduced Windows 8.1 with Bing to stop Google’s Chrome OS in its tracks. Microsoft gave PC makers the discounted copies of Windows to use on their devices. PC makers than passed the cost savings on to users with ultra-cheap notebooks. The only functional difference between Windows 8.1 with Bing and a regular copy of Windows 8.1 was search. PC makers had to make the default search engine on their devices Bing. That’s the search engine owned by Microsoft. It was unusually swift reaction to the threat Windows faced from Chromebooks.

According to today’s report, Microsoft over estimated the threat Chromebooks posed. Now it’s drawing a line in the sand, scaling back the reach of Windows 8.1 with Bing on larger notebooks that it would have made more money on. In a way, limiting Windows 8.1 with Bing is Microsoft saying that it doesn’t think that Chromebooks are going to catch on – for larger notebooks at least.

This could lead to lower Windows sales overall. The Register is reporting that 14 percent of Windows notebook sales in the United Kingdom were Windows 8.1 with Bing in the fourth quarter. Sales-wise that equates to roughly 115,000 notebooks. Of that number, roughly 94,000 had 15.6-inch displays. In theory, sales of Windows 8.1 with Bing machines – and low cost full-size Windows notebooks could plummet thanks to this small change in the way Microsoft licenses Windows. At least, we could in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Whether we’ll see a decline world-wide is less clear. Chromebooks haven’t been as popular worldwide as they are in the United States. We don’t have a rough breakdown of which screen sizes are popular though. Microsoft’s decision to leave Windows 8.1 with Bing licenses alone for devices at or under 14-inches means we’ll continue to see ridiculously low-priced notebooks on store shelves under 14-inches.

In short, Windows 8.1 with Bing infused notebooks like HP Stream 11 won’t be affected by the change. The HP Stream 11 costs just $199 from the Microsoft Store. For most purposes, it’s completely capable of replacing a regular notebook. It has a full-size keyboard, an 11-inch display and a front-facing web camera. It’s the internals that reveal the HP Stream 11’s true nature. Buyers can install desktop apps but there’s only 2GB of RAM to power them along with 32GB of storage to hold them. The HP Stream 11, like most other Windows 8.1 with Bing notebooks also offers a free year-long subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription service.

Windows 8.1 isn’t just for notebooks and tablets. The HP Stream 7 offers a pretty robust tablet experience for $179.99. At CES 2015 HP revealed the Pavilion Mini. It’s a miniature PC running Windows 8.1 that costs just $319.

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