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Microsoft's Free Windows To Come With Bings Attached

Computer makers can get Windows for free for small computers, but they will have to use Bing, rather than Google as the default search engine.

When Microsoft announced plans to make Windows free for smaller devices last month, it was vague on the details.

The company clarified on Friday that it is planning a new version of Windows — Windows 8.1 with Bing — to target low-cost computers and tablets. That version, as the name implies, comes with the Bing search engine as the default within the Internet Explorer browser.

Customers, of course, will be able to change the default search engine (or use an alternate browser).

“This new edition will be only be available preloaded on devices from our hardware partners,” Microsoft said in a blog post. “Some of these devices, in particular tablets, will also come with Office or a one-year subscription to Office 365.”

The free Windows option for computer makers is limited to devices (likely tablets) with screens smaller than nine inches.

Microsoft said that computer makers will start announcing PCs with the new operating system shortly, as the industry gears up for the annual Computex trade show in Taipei.

The move should help give a boost to Bing and also help Microsoft somewhat offset the cost of giving away its flagship operating system — and, in some cases, Office as well. For more on Microsoft’s move to give away Windows for phones and small devices, check out our analysis from last month.

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