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Microsoft: Windows goes free for smartphones, tablets

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Microsoft to offer Windows for free to smartphones and tablets vendors who manufacture devices with 9-inch or smaller screens, Microsoft executive VP Terry Myerson announced on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Build conference, Myerson revealed that the company is to give away some freebies including $500 Windows Store gift certificate.

Microsoft has been charging smartphone manufacturers between $5 and $15 per device to use the Windows system. Myerson said that the company has made licenses free for using Windows on certain phones and tablets, starting April 2, 2014.

“To drive adoption of your applications and get your applications out there for more customers, on phones and tablets with screen sizes less than nine inches we are making Windows available now for zero dollars,” said Myerson.

With this move, Microsoft is attempting to broaden the small user base of mobile versions of Windows to counter the massive success of Google’s free Android platform.

“Microsoft is evolving its Windows business model to enable partners to offer lower-cost devices in the highly competitive smartphone, tablet and PC categories. Microsoft will offer to hardware partners $0 Windows with services including a one-year subscription to Office 365,” read the press release.

Microsoft also revealed that it would support Windows Universal Apps and announced the release of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 RC.

“Since universal Windows apps run on the same Windows runtime, developers have a common way of building and architecting apps for phones, tablets and PCs; from how they handle suspend and resume and do background processing, to the way they manage in-app security,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

Also introduced at the conference, is the voice-activated smartphone personal assistant dubbed Cortana as a part of the Windows Phone 8.1 update that comes out later this spring. Microsoft also said that a version of Windows will be free for ‘Internet of Things’ devices soon.