Microsoft reportedly offering Windows Phone for free to Indian OEMs

Microsoft reportedly offering Windows Phone OS for Free to Indian OEMs

Microsoft is reportedly reducing Windows Phone’s license fee and making it available for free to at least two Indian phone makers. Leading Indian OEMs, Lava and Karbonn Mobiles, will be getting the Windows Phone OS for no charge, according to a report from the Times of India

At the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona last month, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore announced that the company was expanding its mobile partners, and among several big names such as Samsung, LG, and Huawei, the aforementioned Indian OEMs were also on the list.

Licensing Windows Phone OS for free is rather a surprising and an unprecedented move by Microsoft, since even its exclusive partner Nokia reportedly pays a fee of about $20-$30 for every Lumia phone it sells. But according to the Times of India, several sources tell it that Microsoft was in talks with these two Indian OEMs to produce affordable Windows Phone handsets since last year.

Unlike Google, which lets any partner use Android OS (not including its Google Mobile services -- AOSP, in other words) for free, take the Nokia X family for example, a license fee has always been a source of revenue for Microsoft.  "For our planned Windows Phone handsets, we are not paying Microsoft a license fee. The company is obviously exploring new models for Windows Phone. It must have realized that the older model, where it licensed the OS, did not work out well, even with Nokia's support," a senior executive with an Indian phone company told TOI.

As of now, the only two OEMs that are getting the Windows Phone OS for free are Karbonn and Lava. But I think it is just a matter of time before other mobile makers will get the same offer. “We have extensive programmes to help our partners build great devices. Our licensing model allows us to partner with OEMs across the world." a Microsoft spokesperson told TOI.

Incidentally, both Karbonn and Lava (Xolo) will be shipping Windows-powered tablets in the coming months. Both the companies are among the leading Indian mobile manufacturers.

Making Windows Phone free will naturally attract more partners and will help the OS both in short and long runs. “We have extensive programmes to help our partners build great devices. Our licensing model allows us to partner with OEMs across the world," another spokesperson told TOI.

Furthermore, this will certainly also help uplift Windows Phone’s market share in India, which as of now, just holds under 10% in a market which is jam-packed with Android and iOS. "If Microsoft has decided to waive the licence fee for Windows Phone, it is great news for local phone makers. Local phone makers are comfortable with Android. They are still not sure of the appeal of Windows Phone. If the OS is free to use, they will feel more confident while experimenting with it in the market," said Manasi Yadav, a senior market analyst at IDC.

While this is a very welcoming move by Microsoft, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it took it four years to realize that making the OS free is the only effective way to compete with Google’s Android. What are your initial thoughts on this? 

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