The current Windows arrangement sees three different versions running on a range of devices. Windows Phone is designed for ARM-based smartphones up to around six inches in size; Windows RT is for ARM-based tablets and PCs; and of course there's regular Windows for x86 tablets and PCs.
As you may have noticed there's some crossover between versions of Windows: Phone and RT both run on ARM devices, and RT and regular Windows both run on tablets. This is causing Microsoft to adapt their OS strategy, with Julie Larson-Green, executive vice president of devices and studios, confirming last week that they're working on reducing the number of Windows OSes.
Specifically, she said the following at the UBS Global Technology Conference to attendees during a Q&A session:
We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three. We do think there's a world where there is a more mobile operating system that doesn't have the risks to battery life, or the risks to security. But, it also comes at the cost of flexibility. So we believe in that vision and that direction and we're continuing down that path.
She claimed that Microsoft didn't differentiate their Surface products well enough, saying that while both the Surface RT and Surface Pro look similar and are similar to use, they "just didn't do everything that you expected Windows to do". Also, she suggested that Microsoft perhaps shouldn't have called their ARM-based OS Windows RT, rather it should have been more differentiated.
So if Microsoft is cutting down on the number of Windows versions, what will be the OS that bites the dust? Chances are it will be Windows RT, merging into the Windows Phone codebase to form one version of Windows designed for ARM devices. Mary Jo Foley believes this new variant might be ready in just over a year, cutting the versions down to just full x86 Windows and the ARM-targeted Windows.
It's great to hear that Microsoft is planning to simplify the Windows line, especially considering the confusion that still reigns between Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, and the vast differences between Windows Phone on 6-inch smartphones and Windows RT on 7-inch tablets.