Microsoft has unveiled yet another version of Windows 8.1 — but you won't be able to buy it and install it yourself. Here's the lowdown on Windows 8.1 with Bing, and what it means for Windows RT.
At the Build 2014 developer conference earlier this year, Microsoft announced that hardware manufacturers would be able to acquire Windows for free for installation on cheaper devices — those with a screen sized 9 inches or less. In a blog post today, Microsoft windows communication manager Brandon LeBlanc confirmed that the version that would be pitched at those manufacturers would be the new Windows 8.1 with Bing version:
As we move forward, many of these lower cost devices will come with a new edition of Windows called Windows 8.1 with Bing. Windows 8.1 with Bing provides all the same great experiences that Windows 8.1 offers with the Windows 8.1 Update, and comes with Bing as the default search engine within Internet Explorer. And of course customers will be able to change that setting through the Internet Explorer menu, providing them with control over search engine settings.
The labelling is a little confusing. Windows 8.1 already has deep Bing integration, including searching Bing whenever you use the system search function (though it's possible to turn that off). And despite the name, you're able to switch from Bing as the default search engine in IE (which wasn't the case in Windows RT). If "all the same great experiences" means that the feature set matches, then it's more of a branding exercise than a different release.
This version is only available to hardware manufacturers, so you won't be able to download and install it yourself. Manufacturers can also bundle an Office 365 subscription on these devices (though that will cost extra for them and, ultimately, for the consumer). It's expected that devices running the platform will show up at Computex in Taipei, which kicks off on 3 June.
Though nothing was mentioned in the announcement, this would appear to represent an effective death knell for Windows RT, the version of Windows designed for ARM processors and which can only run "modern" Windows apps. RT was also supposed to run on cheaper devices, but hasn't been widely adopted outside of Microsoft's own Surface RT lineup.
Helping our hardware partners build lower cost Windows devices [Windows Experience Blog]