Microsoft to give away Windows 9 for free to Vista, XP users?

Windows 8.1 update still expected August 12

Windows 9

Update: Windows 9 is now known as Windows 10. Want to know more about when you can get your hands on it? Check out our in-depth Windows 10 release date page

Could Microsoft go as far as giving Windows 9 away for free to Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 users? This may well be the case as the focus moves away from Windows 8 towards its successor, which is expected to land in spring 2015.

In a blog post, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley cites rumours that Microsoft could be offering "some kind deal" to users of the three operating systems to entice them to move away from legacy platforms. Such a deal, she writes, could be in the form of a free upgrade.

Microsoft has offered such deals to kickstart transitions from older platforms to newer ones in the past, but given the large contingent of Windows XP users out there, a freebie might lure them to Windows 9 - rather than Google Chrome or Apple's OS X.

On track

According to Foley's sources, Windows 8.1 Update 2 is expected to land on August 12, on the company's monthly Patch Tuesday. It's said to be a minor one and won't be mandatory, and its content is expected to include minor design changes, but nothing spectacular.

Instead, the focus will be on Threshold, also referred to as Windows 9, which is expected to place a particular emphasis on getting some crucial features - like a new start menu - baked in.