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Microsoft Offers Windows for Free on Phones and Small Tablets

Microsoft just announced that Windows is now a free operating system for mobile phones and tablets with screens smaller than 9 inches. What does this mean for you? More and cheaper devices.

The news was delivered Wednesday at Microsoft's Build developer conference, where a number of other features and devices were also discussed. A common theme was promoting adoption of the Windows ecosystem as a whole, and to that end it was revealed that for mobile and tablet devices, the OS would now be free.

What does that mean, though? You can't just bring your tablet into a Microsoft store and walk out with a boxed copy, if that's what you're thinking.

Microsoft

No, this offer is more for manufacturers, who would otherwise have to pay for a Windows license if they wanted to put out, say, an 8-inch Windows tablet or a new Windows Phone device. Especially with mid-range and budget devices, this can be the difference in making, say, that $200 price possible.

It may also spur more options with tablets that currently only support Android. For no extra cost, manufacturers can offer Windows instead, or even include both, as long as the hardware supports it.

A version of Windows will also be made free at some point for "Internet of things" devices, such as wearables, connected appliances, and so on.

Desktops and laptops, of course, will still include a Windows license fee in their cost, but this could still help spur sales of phones and tablets. If companies take the bait, we could see a broader and cheaper selection of devices before the end of the year.