A document surfaced today bolstering rumors that Microsoft will release a free version of Windows 8.1 tentatively titled “Windows 8.1 with Bing”. Files found in an alleged Windows 8.1 ADK (Assessment and Deployment Kit) leaked by Russian leaker Wzor.net suggest the free version of Windows 8 will be used as the default OS for low-end devices.
According to Bav0.com, PCs running “Windows 8.1 with Bing” will, as you might have guessed, feature Bing as the default search engine on their browser, Internet Explorer. All of this, it seems, is designed to ease new PC owners into the idea of using Microsoft’s services:
“Windows 8.1 with Bing is a new Windows edition that helps OEMs add Windows to low-cost devices while driving end user usage of Microsoft Services such as Bing and OneDrive.
Those are just default settings, though: Users will be able to switch back to their favorite search engine if they want. OEMs, however, will be required to leave those settings as is.
The document suggests that, other than those default settings, “Windows 8.1 with Bing” will be treated just like any other version of Windows 8. “Windows 8.1 with Bing is similar to other editions of Windows and should be imaged, updated, and deployed the same as any other Windows edition.” The document specifically says the feature set for “Windows 8 with Bing” will be “based on the feature set available in Windows 8.1 Core.”
The words “based on” seem to suggest that Microsoft may strip some features out of Windows 8.1 with Bing. Considering that a new copy of Windows 8 is currently priced between $100 and $140 on Newegg, we’d have to believe that the OS would have some features ripped out if Redmond begins to it for free at some point.