UPDATE 3-Microsoft to offer Windows for free on phones, tablets

Wed Apr 2, 2014 4:41pm EDT
 
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(Adds CEO quote, details on Windows pricing, Cortana launch)

By Bill Rigby

SAN FRANCISCO, April 2 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp is to give away its Windows operating system to makers of smartphones and small tablets for consumers as it seeks to make more of an impact on those fast-growing markets and counter the massive success of Google Inc's free Android platform.

Microsoft's move, announced at its annual developers conference in San Francisco, is an attempt to broaden the small user base of mobile versions of Windows, in the hope that more customers will end up using Microsoft's money-making, cloud-based services such as Skype and Office.

Up to now, Microsoft has charged phone and tablet makers between $5 and $15 per device to use its Windows system, as it has done successfully at higher prices for many years with Windows on personal computers. Hardware makers factor the cost of that into the sale price of each device.

That model has been obliterated in the past few years by the fast adoption of Google's Android system for phones and tablets, which hardware makers quickly embraced and now accounts for more than 75 percent of all smartphones sold last year. Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad account for most of the rest of the mobile computing market.

By contrast, Windows-powered phones held only 3 percent of the global smartphone market last year. Windows tablets have only about 2 percent of the tablet market, according to tech research firm Gartner.

FREE MONEY   Continued...