Microsoft is mulling the possibility of dropping all license fees from its Windows Phone OS and making the operating system free to any mobile device manufacturers who want to use it. This is in a bid to try to steal away market share from Android, which is also free of licence fees.
The news was first reported by The Verge and it makes sense for Microsoft to do so. With cellphone division their biggest partner, Nokia, now under the wing of the software giant, it makes no sense to keep on passing money to it, especially since Nokia ships and sells more Windows Phones than any other device manufacturer.
Sources close to The Verge say that Microsoft’s Windows OS chief Terry Myerson is the one behind the idea, as it is now his job to bring the Windows ecosystem together and finish the plan that Microsoft started when they first began to integrate Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7 together.
The takeaway from this is that Microsoft doesn’t believe in Windows RT any more. Windows Phone can scale up to large device sizes and recently Intel’s Bay Trail processors have been seen in Windows 8 tablets around the 8-inch form factor. There’s very little space for a Windows RT tablet to exist in Microsoft’s product stack and even if they continue to make them, they won’t sell very well.
Is it worth the effort to make them free? From the manufacturer standpoint there’s definitely some attraction in not having to account for OS licenses in every phone and mobile device you sell. You can make cheaper, better devices and the ecosystem becomes a lot like Android but with much less fragmentation.
On the other hand, it means that Microsoft needs to either feed solely off revenue from Android license patent fees, or turn to advertising revenue to drive the platform. Already the Windows Store supports advertising by partners inside applications, but what if this were to spread to the mobile sector? Or to the desktop environment?
It’s anyone’s guess where Windows is going to end up, but I don’t doubt that it will be a better place without Steve Ballmer and Steven Sinofsky mucking things up.