Unlike Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, which run the same way on both smartphones and tablets, Microsoft offers three different operating systems for the two device categories, including Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1 and Windows Phone 8. In the not-too-distant future, however, we may see Windows Phone and Windows RT merged into one system, possibly along with Microsoft’s full Windows OS.
Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft’s chief of devices, hinted at a possible software merger last week while speaking at the UBS Global Technology Conference. She suggests that the company may offer just two operating systems in the near future—or even just one cohesive OS—while also admitting that there are plenty of hurdles in the way.
Responding to a question, Larson-Green teased the possibility of a unified Windows ecosystem and what it might look like:
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.
For the time being, though, Windows RT will continue to grow as the company attempts to redefine the poorly received operating system. Larson-Green explains that the stunted OS was designed to be the company’s first “turnkey” system—similar to iOS on the iPad—but suffered from unfair comparisons to the full Windows OS. “We should not have called it Windows,” Larson-Green said, adding that in the immediate future Microsoft will continue to “differentiate” its separate operating systems.
We agree, the lack of support for standard Windows apps in Windows RT has been misleading for the platform. Larson-Green’s comments also back up our own speculation that a much more powerful version of Windows Phone is on the way. The Lumia 1520, which runs Windows Phone, and Lumia 2520 tablet, which runs Windows RT 8.1, already have such similar specs that we’re curious as to how soon Microsoft will simply port the more powerful Windows RT platform down to its phone portfolio.