Microsoft is considering releasing both Windows Phone and Windows RT for free in future versions as a way of pushing back against the dominance of Google's Android platform in the mobile segment. This according to The Verge, which cites unnamed sources within the company saying that the move to push the two platforms on a license-free model could happen when the software giant pushes its next revision of the Windows platform, Windows Threshold. The move would mark a considerable change for Microsoft, which has for decades relied on the licensing of its Windows operating system for a large portion of its revenue.
Instead of charging licensing fees for Windows RT - a version of Windows built for ARM processors - and Windows Phone, Microsoft would look to generate revenue from the two platforms through its own apps and services, much as Apple does with iOS and Google currently does with Android. Microsoft would hope to monetize the platforms via in-app ads and Bing search results. There would also be a bigger push for consumers to subscribe to services like SkyDrive, Office, and Skype.
While Microsoft had a foothold in the mobile segment before either Google or Apple, Windows' share of that market has dwindled as mobile computing has exploded. Android and iOS now together account for nearly 95 percent of the market, and Microsoft's Windows Phone and Windows RT platforms are struggling to approach double digits.
Pushing those platforms for free, then, could help Microsoft to combat the Google-Apple hegemony. It could still prove a rough road, as that combined market dominance typically means that Windows Phone cannot get attract the developer interest it needs to grow its app library. Windows RT has been hemorrhaging manufacturing partners since its launch, and now Microsoft an the soon-to-be Microsoft-owned Nokia are the only manufacturers vigorously supporting the system.
The push to offer free Windows Phone and Windows RT installations - or possibly a merged version of the operating systems - could take shape over the next two years. The Verge's report says that Microsoft is still considering the possibility of such a move, and it gives no timeline, but it does cite the "Threshold" update as a possible landmark for the licensing shift. That update has been previously rumored to see release some time in 2015.