Microsoft is considering making the next version of Windows RT and Windows Phone free for computer and device makers interested in using it, the Verge reported today.
That meshes with a report from earlier this week which said “Threshold,” the next iteration of Microsoft’s OS, may include a single version of Windows that’s targeted at both Windows Phone and Windows RT devices.
The new report says that the move to free would come with an increased push for users to buy into Microsoft’s subscription services, like Skype, SkyDrive and Office 365. In addition, the company would be looking to expand the reach of its advertising to compete with Google’s efforts on mobile.
Windows RT is the version of Windows for devices that run power-efficient ARM-based processors, common in smartphones and tablets.
In the past, the company has made a significant chunk of its revenue from licensing Windows to computer and device makers. But that model relies on manufacturers being interested in buying a license in the first place. Android, which OEMs can license free of charge, currently controls the majority of the smartphone market, and has been making significant gains in the tablet market.
While Windows Phone and Windows RT have been growing, most of that growth has been slow, at best, and driven by Microsoft’s own efforts and those of Nokia, which the company recently purchased. Making the next version of that operating system free could help expand Windows Phone offerings outside of Microsoft’s umbrella.
The growth of Chromebooks has also been a major thorn in Microsoft’s side, and creating a version of Windows that could run on Chromebook-grade hardware could help draw OEMs – who have decided to explore Google’s Chrome OS as a way to bolster flagging PC sales–back into Microsoft’s arms.