Microsoft looking to cull Windows variants, Windows RT and Phone likely to merge

By on November 25, 2013, 7:15 PM
microsoft, windows, windows phone, windows 8, phone, windows rt, windows 8.1

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.

User Comments: 9

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St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

Good riddance. It's easy enough to do - Android has had tablet UI for a long time. Also in this lovely merger, take Metro and funnel it into the phone/tab and leave it there. Perhaps an option to install the module, if required on touch screen notebooks ...

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Seriously, who didn't see that coming? This generation of products (including shoving the Metro interface down our throats) was a stopgap attempt to push into the growing touch-centric mobile environment, and normalize the user interface experience across phones, tablets, and PC.

If they can take the next logical step and accomplish what Ubuntu is hoping to, with full seamless OS and app compatibility across all 3 platforms, they could just have Windows. No Phone, RT, Pro. Just Windows, and it runs on any hardware. It's a big step, but it could be the Holy Grail for them, considering the direction that Microsoft has been pushing themselves for the last few years.

MrAnderson said:

It should have come sooner, but it seems you can only do so much, with only so much resources targeting something. Then there was the organization of Microsoft at the time, and now the lay of the land provides less internal resistance to do these things, It would be great to see the Modern UI of Phone and RT come together and then on x86 you get the best of both worlds. Its just a matter of getting the titles to dynamically flow on different screen sizes. I figured Modern UI was mostly vector based with roots or lessons learned from WPF/Silverlight so I look forward to merge and streamline of the developer APIs so developers can write once and then tweak for the form factor.

Guest said:

"Seriously, who didn't see that coming? " Microsoft, apparently.

RH00D RH00D said:

If they are going to do this they had better make fully functional and just as useful Modern UI versions of Command Prompt, Powershell, Remote Desktop Connection, and all the other Microsoft desktop apps that run on Windows RT but not Windows Phone.

One of the best things about my Surface RT is that I can still run all desktops apps that are built into Windows by default such as the ones I just listed, not to mention you can run MMCs (Microsoft Management Consoles) on RT.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

These quotes are interesting in that apparently Microsoft sees the problem with the limitations imposed by RT and mobile OS's. I've maintained since the Windows RT release that Microsoft's strength is in the open software ecosystem, and the problem with RT is that it supports no desktop software. If Windows RT was opened up to become just Windows for ARM, then IMO it should be more successful.

I don't have high hopes that's the direction Microsoft will take, but I think the direction that makes most sense is to push full Windows on all devices. Make it as power efficient as possible, especially when running Metro apps, and allow it to run the full ecosystem of software so that you can dock a phone and use it as a full PC. That's where Windows can win, because that's the advantage it has over other mobile OS's.

Capaill said:

It's clear to me now that I had no idea there were different versions of Windows for different device types. All this time I've been wondering why my desktop has an interface designed for touch-screen devices (ie. tablets and phones) -- yet MS have completely different OSs for tablets and phones? Ok, now I'm confused.

drjekel_mrhyde drjekel_mrhyde said:

I have no clue why is this news. They been saying this months ago, in fact WP8.1 shares 75% of the code with RT and support up to 10" devices.

/WP8.1 should be out Q1 2014

tonylukac said:

Just means features will be removed from each one, with likely more clicks to get started for legacy apps. By the way, did you know windows 8.1 has no programs menu for the desktop? Search and destroy.

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