Generosity or Strategy : What if Windows Phone 8.1 becomes a free OS

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With the Microsoft Build Developer Conference inching closer, the rumour mill has churned out “news” that this is when a free version of Windows Phone 8.1 will be launched. Since Microsoft has decided to remain tight-lipped about the same, your guess is as good as ours. However, if this really is true here are some of the things that we should consider:

1) Low Cost Windows Phones – Right now Microsoft generates revenue by selling the Windows Phone operating system to Original Equipment Manufacturers, which directly affects the cost of the device. However, if Microsoft decides to give away the OS for free we can expect the cost of Windows phones to dip to fill the lower-segment family. If we were to venture a guess, 5-6k INR would probably be enough to get you a basic Windows Phone with limited functionalities (we’re talking low specs, no flash, no front camera, small screen…you get the drift)

2) Increasing Windows Penetration – Microsoft (parent company of Nokia) has certainly satisfied the high-end market with devices such as Lumia 1020 and 1520. With the launch of cheaper phones we can see it being a great success in places like India and South-East Asia where more bang for your buck is appreciated (read paisa vasool). This will result in Windows Phone devices maintaining or even increasing its current market share in the long run.

3) Paid Apps? – Giving out the operating system for free like candy on Halloween is a poor business strategy since it will dry up Microsoft’s source of income, right? Wrong! Here’s where the intelligent MBAs and their clever business idea comes into the picture. Although Microsoft may release the Windows Phone OS for free, they are most likely going to make you pay for things you currently take for granted. Once they have a user base all they need to find is a way to monetize their “act of charity”. For example Microsoft Office, which is currently free and pre-installed on Windows Phone 8 devices, may be a paid app in the free 8.1 version. Sucks, right?

4) Desperate Survival Strategy? – With a measly 3.3% of the Smartphone OS market share, there’s no way Windows can compete with the Android (79%) and iOS (14.2%) giants. BlackBerry, which used to have a percentage in double digits, is currently dead with just a 2.7% share worldwide. If Windows does not want to fizzle out like BB (obviously it doesn’t) it has to keep the 8.1 update free of charge to keep the interest of end users. We hope Microsoft learns from BB’s mistakes and goes ahead with the free update to increase its market share.

5) Overhauling the Appstore – However, even after the free update to 8.1 there is no guarantee that the Windows App Store will see a major overhaul. It is no secret that apps on the Windows platform can’t hold a candle to the Google Play Store (the iOS AppStore is obviously a far cry). So unless the Windows App Store undergoes a major surgery, not just cosmetic, and makes things much easier for app developers we cannot assume that the numbers are going to change very much. If Windows wants to become a major player in the Smartphone competition it needs to overhaul its entire structure and start from scratch.

These are a few things that come to mind when we talk about the supposedly free update to Windows Phone 8.1. Do you have something else to share with us? Drop a comment below and let us know!

If you are excited by the dynamic changes in the world of technology read about what the facebook whatsapp deal means for you.

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Abhirup is our guest blogger on education apps and thought partner. He harbors certain thoroughly misguided self-impressions like he has a refined aesthetic sense (our website’s visuals are NOT inspired by his ideas) or that he has a deep baritone. However, we choose to ignore these as he sometimes comes up with good ideas notwithstanding the fact that they are articulated in confusing managerial jargon; perhaps explained by the fact that he is an MBA from IIM Bangalore.

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