In somewhat unprecedented move, Microsoft gave access to third parties to create new themes for the OS and published their themes as highlighted ones on Microsoft’s own Personalization Galleries page. Is Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz or Vodafone-branded Windows 7 on the way? It looks like Microsoft started to make ground towards offering its family jewelry, Windows OS and Office application suite – "for free." We already know that Microsoft plans to offer Office 2010 in sponsored version, but the last change opens that path for operating system as well.

As a part of their Windows Theme Experience, Microsoft opened up to a dozen companies. Naturally you can create your theme as well, but for those highlighted spots some $$$ needs to exchange hands.
On official Personalization Gallery page, a new section titled Windows 7 themes opened up with sponsored themes featuring motion picture Avatar, Coca-Cola, Ducati, Ferrari, Infinity, Pepsi, Porsche? all alongside Microsoft sponsored themes such as Bing’s Best, Gears of War, Zune and many more. We have checked some of the themes and they’re really impressive, but some are just a re-hash of all already existing content. Still, it is a start of competition among featured companies as well, since the highest rated/downloaded applications warrant as large exposure as possible.

The sponsoring deal lasts for full 12 months, expiring on November 1, 2010 after which companies involved in the scheme will either prolong their contracts or be replaced by new ones. In the past, there weren’t any problems if you wanted to create own version of Internet Explorer, for instance "Microsoft Internet Explorer powered by Company XY" and even change the loading icon with your own animated image but it looks the company decided to turn that feature into a cash-cow.

Windows 7 Themes

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If you are a regular user, you can create your own theme without a hitch and this also opens up an opportunity for various competitions where people would battle for the best Windows 7 theme in an event sponsored by an interested company. In any case, this is a whole new channel for communication between advertises and consumers.

From one side, this is a new revenue opportunity for Microsoft but from another, it could open a way towards free versions of their operating system. For instance, we spoke with several sources from Telecom industry and they were interesting in netbook and tablet computers with their own, non-changeable theme featuring prominent branding. In exchange, consumer wouldn’t have to pay for the operating system as the carrier would subsidize the price. Smartbook/netbook computer for zero dollars/Euro? The idea isn’t as impossible as it seems and Microsoft would sleep tight because the company could charge much more than $15-25 for Windows 7 Starter Edition [or should we write Netbook Edition].

Coca-Cola giving away a Coca-Cola computer with Coca-Cola Windows 7? Regardless of how it may look, the mass market would jump on this opportunity and yield a lot of revenue for companies involved.