Gigaom reports New Windows 8.1 licence means cheap Windows laptops.

Microsoft announced a new version of Windows on Friday, Windows 8.1 with Bing, that will be sold only to hardware makers. The idea is to take advantage of lower system requirements in Windows 8.1 and provide a lower-cost operating system option to compete with Chromebooks and Android.

While that’s a smart idea, there’s something wrong with the way Microsoft sells Windows licences. The list price for a full Windows 8.1 licence in New Zealand is NZ$200. You can buy a Windows device for as little as NZ$450 — barely twice the price of the downloaded software.

If the new Windows version means hardware prices fall below, say, $400, we’re not far off the point where hardware is free or close to free.

Meanwhile, other operating systems are being given away. Apple’s last OS X upgrade was free, Windows is now free on small screen devices and whoever heard of paying for a smartphone OS?