The company has announced it will be releasing a version of its upcoming operating system for the new Raspberry Pi 2 computer and other "Internet of Things" devices -- household items, wearables, cars and other things that store data and connect to the Internet -- in addition to PCs, tablets, 2-in-1s, phones and its Xbox console.
Analyst Daniel Ives of FBR Capital Markets believes such a move is important for Microsoft. "This speaks to the pressing need for Microsoft to court the developer community especially as the company is putting so many of their eggs in the Windows 10 basket," he said in an email. "One of the missing pieces for Microsoft is the developer community, especially the younger developer movement, as they are a key ingredient in the company's future recipe for success. Spreading the gospel, innovative products and embracing the developer community through areas like a free Windows 10 version is all part of this 'new Microsoft mindset.'"
Microsoft shares were gaining 1.35% to $40.94 in afternoon trading Monday.
One of the first devices to get the next version of Windows will be the super-popular computer-on-a-circuit board, the Raspberry Pi. The original Pi developers wanted to provide a working computing platform for Linux and Google (GOOG - Get Report) (GOOGL - Get Report) Android-based experimenters to learn about computers and to develop an ecosystem including software and hardware add-ons.
With its original asking price of $35, Pi has been a worldwide success from its first release. According to the device's leading distributor, Element 14, since its launch in February 2012, over 4 million Raspberry Pi boards have been sold. The little computer has spawned a still-burgeoning industry of low-cost extras and options.
On Monday, updated Raspberry Pi 2 hardware was introduced with a quad-core, 900 MHz Broadcom (BRCM) ARM-7 (ARMH) system-on-a-chip and 1 GB of RAM -- six times the processing power and double the memory of the original Pi. It's completely backwards-compatible with the older design, and it still costs only $35. Users still have to add a power supply and memory storage card and download an operating system to get the Pi up and running.
But now, in addition to Ubuntu and some other forms of the Linux operating system, there is a new Windows 10 option.
Microsoft is creating a working version of the Windows 10 operating system for the Raspberry Pi. Simply called Windows 10 for Raspberry Pi 2, the software is part of the Redmond, WA.-based company's Windows Developer Program for IoT (the Internet of Things).
No time frame was announced for the software's release.
Aarpo Markkanen of ABI Research thinks this is a "clever move by Microsoft." He wrote, "Microsoft essentially wants to use the partnership to attract into its IoT developer program [Windows on Devices], and this is exactly how they need to go about it: minimizing the barriers to entry. [CEO Satya] Nadella's Microsoft seems to get that."
Officially, Microsoft says this is its "first step to an era of more personal computing -- to a world that is more mobile, natural and grounded in trust. We see the Maker (developer) community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation for the next wave of computing.".
"Microsoft's decision to release a free version of Windows 10 for low-cost form factors is consistent with the decision to make the OS free for 9 inch and smaller tablets," said CLSA analyst Ed Maguire in an email. "Microsoft's objective has shifted from monetization of market share in a defined PC market to proliferation across a universe of new computing devices."
"Microsoft's long-term goal is to tilt the playing field back away from Android on costs, while delivering sticky consumer experiences through services like Bing, Cortana and Azure cloud computing," according to Maguire.
Raspberry Pi is not alone in the computer-on-a-board field.
Intel (INTC - Get Report) calls its tiny-computer design Galileo 2. It runs on a single-core, x86-based Pentium processor Intel calls Quark. Microsoft has announced it's developing a version of Windows 10 for the Intel platform as well. The Galileo 2 retails for more than double the price of the Raspberry Pi.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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