Windows Is Now Free on Small Devices

Greg Wheeler
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Microsoft offers a royalty free Windows license for developers who use it for small computing devices with screens under 9 inches. This offer includes Windows Phone. If you develop web-enabled embedded technology for devices, called the Internet of Things, Windows is also free for you to use. The only caveat for free Windows is that you must be an Original Equipment Manufacturer, OEM, or an Original Design Manufacturer, ODM.

Microsoft’s decision to make Windows for free applies to small devices such as smartphones and tablets. The 9-inch screen size restriction rules out desktops and laptops. Despite this, the move is a win-win for businesses and consumers. As a business owner or developer, your company saves money because it no longer has to pay licensing fees when you need to create windows applications for small devices. As a consumer, you also benefit, but only indirectly. Companies pass their cost savings onto you with lower prices on applicable products, but otherwise you still need to purchase Windows when you need a copy.

Microsoft also benefits because it hopes to gain market share from its rival Google. Windows and Windows Phone are now more competitive with Android, Google’s free operating system. These platforms are also more competitive with Apple’s iOS. This is because more and more consumers are purchasing tablets and smartphones at the expense of desktops and laptops, which have failing sales. Microsoft’s free Windows program puts the company directly in play to earn a larger share of the small-device market.

The Windows for free program for Internet of Things devices deliberately places Microsoft in a head-to-head battle with Google’s Android Wear. Android Wear focuses on extending the Android platform to wearables such as wrist watches, and this is a market Microsoft wishes to crack. The company's decision to allow IoT to use free Windows shows long-term thinking. IoT is the future of large growth in small computing because it allows machine-to-machine communication and control of devices via the Internet. Smartphones and tablets help to control these web-enabled objects. As an example, there are Android apps that let you control your smart washing machine with your smartphone.

The connection between small devices and IoT spurs the growth of both technologies. Microsoft looks for a large market share, if not dominance of the market. In a perfect-future Microsoft scenario, you use the free Windows software in your smartphone, tablet or wearable computer to control smart devices in your home office. These devices, such as lighting, coffee makers and refrigerators, connect to the Web with the use of the free Windows software.

The market for smartphones and tablets continues to grow, as does the demand for apps. The growth of IoT technology further fuels the need for small devices as a means of control. Microsoft’s decision to give hardware developers free Windows and Windows Phone operating systems makes the company more competitive. It also gives you choices and flexibility needed to meet this growing demand, whether you are a businessperson or a consumer.


(Photo courtesy of Naypong /


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