Skip to main content

Microsoft May Still Merge Windows Phone, Windows RT

Last week Microsoft held a financial analyst meeting with Julie Larson-Green, Kirill Tatarinov, Qi Lu, Satya Nadella and Terry Myerson, and moderated by Tami Reller (docx file). One of the questions asked during this meeting was about the future of Windows RT, which was a good one at that. Manufacturers have seemingly bailed out on the ARM-based platform, and Microsoft's own Surface RT stockpile caused the company to take a $900 million hit in the pocket.

"We have two very important chipset families in everything we're doing in all of our devices, and that's x86 and ARM," answered Microsoft's new head of the operating systems division, Terry Myerson. "The ARM devices in particular in phones have incredible share given their battery life and the connectivity options available with the system-on-a-chip ecosystem. Windows RT was our first ARM tablet. And as phones extend into tablets, expect us to see many more ARM tablets, Windows ARM tablets in the future."

Earlier in the session, Myerson said that Microsoft should have one silicon interface and one set of APIs for all devices. Even more, all apps brought to end users should be available on all of those devices, not just one set on one architecture and one set on another. The company also needs one core cloud service to enable all devices whether they're branded Windows or Xbox. In addition, users should have a familiar, unified experience across all devices, but each device should also have a tailored experience whether it's an 8 inch tablet or a 60 inch HDTV.

"So our team is now organized in this way," Myerson said. "We [have] a core team that will bring those silicon interfaces together, bring those developer platforms together, and approach delivery of apps to the customers in a common way. We have one team delivering the core services that will light up our devices. And then we have satellite teams each focused on each of the device categories, so each of them can be reflective of what the customer expects in that place."

As it stands now, Microsoft has created a unified design style across desktop, mobile and console, but the app ecosystem is divided between x86 and ARM-based architectures. One of the biggest complaints thus far is a lack of a common store shared between tablets and phones. However, the statements made during the session seem to indicate that Microsoft is still pushing for simplicity: one platform and one app market to rule them all.

"We've been together, brought all the OS groups together at the company for about two months now," he said. "And we really haven't been wasting any time in terms of organizing all of our efforts in the operating system area around three key beliefs." Again, those three beliefs are one silicon interface, one core service and a tailored experience for each device.

Does this mean Microsoft plans to merge Windows RT and Windows Phone? That's up in the air, but the wording points to a possibility that Microsoft could also bring Windows Phone to tablets. The outlook, it seems, is that Microsoft is shooting for a Windows 8 platform without labels for all form factors and architectures.

Microsoft plans to hold a Surface event on Monday, reportedly to showcase the new Surface Pro, Surface RT and Surface Mini tablets. Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 are slated to launch on October 18, 2013.

Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

Contact Us for News Tips, Corrections and Feedback

  • Blessedman
    Why wasn't this the goal from the start? If they had one OS across all their platforms, all apps only required minimal modification to run on the different platforms (or non at all considering most development now includes a mobile version of the app) they would really gain some momentum. Their fragmentation makes android look like a dream! **As Ballmer cried about fragmentation in the android market.
    Reply
  • Cryio
    They should do this faster. Windows Phone development (OS updates and apps) is going way faster than the Desktop Store, be it for RT or x86.

    Maybe Microsoft have more in store for us after 8.1, but they really REALLY need to take a closer look at all the dubious apps released for Windows RT. Windows Phone apps are of a way higher quality.

    The merge only makes sense. But they should do it rather sooner than later.
    Reply
  • falchard
    I know the reason I never thought about buying Windows RT is because its redundant. I think its entirely possible to do this outside of games. The C# implementation can make it simple to compile programs for all Windows Devices. The exception is of course high end games that require the more powerful C++ code.
    Reply
  • JD88
    This is real simple. Windows Phone (or name it whatever) with ARM chips for 8" tablets and under. x86 Windows 8.x for anything bigger with an on/off switch for the metro interface depending on how the device is used.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    JD88, why bother limiting x86 or ARM to certain sizes? The interface is the same either way. With a ULP x86 processor, I see no reason why you couldn't have a 7" Win8 tablet. On the other side of the coin, a high-powered Snapdragon or similar ARM chip could enable a 10" or so device that could come in at a significantly lower cost. I don't see the need for arbitrary restrictions.

    Now with regards to Windows Phone, if they can better unify the APIs and the store between WP8 and WinRT/8, then I think it will improve the situation across the board. My biggest gripe is that if you run into a game that's available on both, and you want to play it on both, currently you'd have to buy it twice. I understand it might not be identical, but if it's the same software they should work with developers to make it available on both platforms if you've purchased it once - whenever possible.
    Reply
  • Bloob
    Merging the 2 would go against their policy of seeing tablets more like PCs than huge phones. The OSs might "merge" somewhat on API level, but I'd wager they will keep the UIs seperate (as they should, a tablet is not a phone).
    Reply
  • Bloob
    Why wasn't this the goal from the start? If they had one OS across all their platforms, all apps only required minimal modification to run on the different platforms (or non at all considering most development now includes a mobile version of the app) they would really gain some momentum. Their fragmentation makes android look like a dream! **As Ballmer cried about fragmentation in the android market.
    If made well, often a WP app will run on W8 by just doing layouts with binding's to right data and calling your functions from event-handlers. Your app will work way better as a tablet app if you do not re-use the whole phone UI (you can still re-use some components / user controls).
    Reply
  • Blazer1985
    The moment I'll be able to open 3D Studio Max from my smartphone I'll be an happy man with a grin on my face and a burning phone on my hand :-)
    Reply
  • sire_angelus
    i hope the transition comes soon.
    Reply
  • ddpruitt
    You know Microsoft tried this before on a smaller scale (think NT days) with their microkernel. Didn't work so well back then either. Unfortunately merging everything will just make things worse for everyone. APIs will work unpredictably, hardware won't be used to it's full potential, etc.

    I know the reason I never thought about buying Windows RT is because its redundant. I think its entirely possible to do this outside of games. The C# implementation can make it simple to compile programs for all Windows Devices. The exception is of course high end games that require the more powerful C++ code.

    Script kiddies really shouldn't try to respond on the technical side, sorry.
    Reply