There's speculation that Microsoft may be merging the code of Windows Phone 8 "Apollo" and Windows 8 next year. This rumor falls into the "One Modular OS To Rule Them All" theory that we've heard for some time, an idea that Microsoft's Windows 8 would ultimately encompass the PC, the tablet, the Xbox and the smartphone.
Recent speculation behind the code merge partially stems from an announcement made by CEO Steve Ballmer on Monday that Windows Phone division president Andy Lees would take the reigns of a "time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012" with Windows Phone and Windows 8.
"We have tremendous potential with Windows Phone and Windows 8, and this move sets us up to really deliver against that potential," Ballmer said without adding any further details.
Terry Myerson, who worked with Lees on Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, will take over as head of Windows Phone, Ballmer said. Lees himself signed on with Microsoft back in 1990, and before that served as corporate vice-president of Microsoft's server and tools marketing and solutions group. He moved over to mobiles as part of the entertainment and devices group restructuring in 2010.
Hal Berenson, a former Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, believes the company is merely switching out the Windows Embedded Compact code of Windows Phone with parts of "MinWin," which is described as the "detangled core Windows kernel/file system/networking stack code." Microsoft supposedly wouldn't want to actually shove Windows 8 into a phone nor does it want to throw out all of the "Windows Phone OS" customized bits layered on top of the core, so the company is likely taking the MinWin route.
"[MinWin] is not a complete rewrite of the [Windows] kernel, but a reorganization of the APIs, so that components only call down the stack, and not up it," explains Microsoft's Mark Russinovich via the Windows Now blog, clarifying that it's not an actual kernel. "It is isolated in the build tree from the rest of Windows, so it can be innovated on by itself. It is fully bootable, 25-40 MB of disk space, and contains the executive systems, memory management, networking, and optional file system drivers. It’s fully testable, and Microsoft is working on a large suite of test cases to run against it. And it *is* indeed in Windows 7."
Previous reports indicated that Windows Phone 8 "Apollo" would arrive by mid-2012, but Microsoft later dismissed those claims. The software will likely launch alongside the general public release of Windows 8 or sometime thereafter. However it's believed that the use of MinWin will not only help accelerate the mobile OS release, but deliver cross platform coding simplicity and a significant boost in functionality. Software engineering costs would also be reduced because the desktop and mobile teams will be working on a common Windows stack code.
We expect to hear more about the possible merging of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in just a matter of weeks at CES 2012.