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Microsoft gives away Windows Phone 8 licences in India – report

'Experiment' welcomed by local mobe-makers who would otherwise embrace Android

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Microsoft convinced two Indian mobe-makers to use Windows Phone by letting them install it for free, according to The Times of India.

The paper's report says Lava and Karbonn, both of which announced their Windows Phone plans at the Mobile World Congress, only signed up after “... when Microsoft agreed to remove the licence fee it charges from phone makers for its OS.”

The Times of India quotes an un-named “senior executive with an Indian phone company “ as saying “For our planned Windows Phone handsets, we are not paying Microsoft a licence fee. The company is obviously exploring new models for Windows Phone. It must have realized that the older model where it licenced the OS did not work out well, even with Nokia's support.”

“Another senior executive” told the paper the free licence is not permanent, but an “experiment” between Microsoft and the un-named company. “Windows Phone still doesn't have lot of appeal in the market but now that it doesn't have any licence fee, it becomes easier for us to experiment with it," the senior executive said.

Microsoft was built on licensing operating systems to hardware makers, so for the company to step away from that tactic, even in a developing market, is a remarkable shift.

Windows Phone is not a stand-out in the market, so it has never achieved the dominance that allowed Microsoft to corral PC-makers so effectively in the days of Windows 3.1 and 95. Google's free Android licences gave its operating system plenty of momentum and helped to reduce the price of smartphones.

The cost of handsets is very important in nations like India, where a $US100 device remains an extravagance for the majority of the populace. With Windows phone requiring hefty-ish hardware, and not enjoying Android's ability to run older versions on lesser kit, removing licence costs is an obvious way for Microsoft to go after what some pundits call “the next billion” people to come online.

If waiving licence fees helps Microsoft to win some of those people coming online for the first time, it's probably worth it to have the chance of selling them some services or at least flash some ads past their eyeballs. Just what services work for someone in a village or small town in less-developed parts of India are for better minds than your correspondent's to determine. ®

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