Early in March, the rumor mill was abuzz with Microsoft allegedly working on a free version of Windows 8.1. Before the month ended, Microsoft Office for the iPhone and Android was released for FREE. As if that weren’t enough, Microsoft just dropped a bombshell that certainly makes things a lot more interesting: Windows for mobile is now also free.

This move has a huge impact on hardware manufacturers who use Windows as the operating system on their mobile phones and tablets. The new operating system is dubbed Windows for the Internet of Things.

Windows

The way things go is this: when hardware manufacturers use Windows for the Internet of Things on their devices, they get a free licensing deal. The catch – if it can be called that – is that the device has to have a screen that is smaller than nine inches.

This does not mean that Windows is free for other devices such as PCs, laptops, and tablets that have screens larger than nine inches, but Microsoft gives itself a competitive chance with this most recent move.

Android being open source means manufacturers do not have to pay a single cent to use the code on their mobile devices. Apple is also already going down on its prices for its mobile OS. So if you think about it, making Windows for the Internet of Things free is the best thing that Microsoft has done to give its mobile OS a fighting chance. Otherwise, at $10 (the licensing fee for Windows Phone), Microsoft’s mobile OS might very well die out due to mere lack of presence in devices.

One important detail: Microsoft is not going open source with the Windows code base.

Just because they’re giving it for free does not mean they’re allowing just anyone to get right into the thick of things and meddle with the code.

The question is whether this move will actually have any impact on user experience and increase the desire of consumers to go for mobile devices running on Windows instead of Android or iOS. What do you think?

[Image via phones.co.uk]