A wave of cheap Windows 8.1 (with added Bing) devices will wash over the UK this summer but the distribution channel's finest aren't exactly rubbing their hands together in anticipation - quite the opposite really.
Until Microsoft last week confirmed the plan to release a new licensing option, the UK PR team - which gets nods and winks from Redmond - had three weeks previously denied all knowledge of its existence.
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But even after MS HQ marketing bod Brandon LeBlanc blogged that lower cost machines running on Windows-8.1-with-Bing will be spaffed at Computex, details on how this operating system variant differs from the standard version were thin on the ground, very thin.
So all that we, and channel partners, know at this time is that the software comes with the Redmond search engine as default - though customers can change this when they get the device home.
HP and Toshiba are understood to be among the vendors that signed up to building Windows-8.1-with-Bing systems, and distributors are already able to pre-order some of the systems. A 15 inch notebook, for example, is expected to retail at £229.
"Microsoft can't compete with Google Chromebooks," said a wholesaler. "This is them trying to fight back".
Stock is expected to arrive in late July/ early August, he added.
As we revealed recently, around 45k Chromies were dispatched by distributor across the UK in Q1, which equates to 61.5 per cent of sales across Europe. Even so, with low sales prices they are hardly helping distributors looking to bolster traditional product revenues.
Several complained to us that the Windows-8.1-with-Bing computers will have the same destabilising impact that netbooks had when they hit the market, forcing sellers to run faster merely to stand still.
"Average unit prices will fall through the floor with Bing products but we've got to include them in the range," said one distributor.
We've again asked Microsoft to highlight the differences between the standard version of Windows 8.1 and the one with Bing. We'll update when the UK PR team has found out from the US PR team what it can say.
Update A Microsoft spokesman confirmed:
"There's not a whole lot of difference between [the OS] versions".
He added the main one is that Bing is set as the "default" search engine within Internet Explorer and "cannot be changed" by the hardware maker.
More details will be released at Computex next week, the firm added. ®