There have been a lot of rumors in the past that Windows 9 could be free for existing users. But now there are some credible reports and indications that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s next-gen OS could really be free. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, who has a solid track record in revealing Microsoft’s future products, said that the second major update to Windows 8.1 is expected to land on August 12 as part of Microsoft’s patch Tuesday.

Windows 9

Microsoft to offer existing users ‘some kind of deal’ with Windows 9

Foley said it would be a minor update without any significant surprises. With this, Microsoft is done with Windows 8.x as the company shifts its focus to Windows 9. Earlier this year, the software giant said that it will bring back the full-fledged Start menu, which would be available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update.

But ZDNet’s report suggests that the Start menu won’t be part of the Patch Tuesday update. So, experts believe the company will bring back the Start menu with Windows 9. Microsoft has already said that it will be available to Windows 8.1 users as an update. if the Start menu comes with Windows 9, Microsoft will find it hard to backtrack on its statements and charge users for the new OS. Making Windows 9 available for free is not impossible.

Mary Jo Foley said Microsoft is like to “offer some kind of deal” to Windows 7, XP and Windows 8 users to entice them to upgrade. And the deal may be in the form of an absolutely free upgrade, she added. The main target for Windows 9 will be Windows 7 and XP users rather than Windows 8. According to Net Applications, Windows 7 and XP users still account for 75% of total installed base for Windows. Windows 9

Windows 9 must appeal to Windows 7 and XP users

Reports suggest that Microsoft is trying to blend the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8 in Windows 9 in an attempt to get Windows 7 and XP users to finally upgrade. The company is concerned that Windows 7 may become the next XP, and the company may have to extend the support timeframe for Windows 7 as well.

By making desktop the center of Windows experience once again, Microsoft will re-target users who didn’t find Windows 8 appealing and kept using Windows 7 or XP. A big question is whether the company can make Windows 9 good enough to entice those users. Microsoft is already giving away Windows for free for devices with screen size of less than 9-inch. The company has also reduced prices for OEMs. So, the idea of giving away Windows 9 isn’t that far-fetched.

Microsoft shares fell 0.18% to $43.29 at 11:41 AM EDT on Tuesday.