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Microsoft Takes Steps To Expand Phone, Tablet Sales

San Francisco – Microsoft hopes to expand the availability of its Windows OS for smartphones and tablets with a business-model change that eliminates OS licensing fees for smartphones and tablets with screens sizes of less than 9 inches.

Microsoft will also offer free services, including a free one-year subscription to Office 365.

In eliminating licensing fees to entice manufacturers, Microsoft is mimicking Google’s Android OS business model.

Microsoft revealed the changes yesterday here at its Build developers conference.

 At the conference, Microsoft also announced a Windows 8.1 update to encourage manufacturers to offer lower cost Windows 8.1 tablets and PCs. With Windows 8.1 Update, hardware makers can “more easily build lower-cost machines — such as devices with 1 GB of RAM and a 16GB hard disk drive — without sacrificing the experience customers expect,” Microsoft said. “The combination of new efficiencies and innovations from Microsoft hardware partners means customers will be able to choose from a wider range of Windows devices, particularly budget-friendly notebooks and tablets.”

Windows 8.1 Update will deliver “a more familiar and consistent experience across touch and non-touch devices,” the company said. Key features include user-interface improvements for mouse and keyboard users, the ability to access the taskbar from any screen, the ability to pin Windows Store apps to the taskbar next to desktop apps and websites, and performance and compatibility enhancements to Internet Explorer 11.

Current Windows 8 and 8.1 users will get the Windows 8.1 Update for free beginning April 8. Windows Phone 8.1 will be available as an update to Windows Phone users in the summer.

 Also at the developers conference, Nokia unveiled the first smartphones that will ship with Windows Phone 8.1 out of the box. Microsoft plans to close on its purchase in the coming weeks of Nokia’s handset and tablet business.