Talking tech since 2003

Speaking at the UBS Global Technology Conference last week, Microsoft’s head of devices, Julie Larson-Green, talked a bit about what the future holds for the Windows experience. Specifically, she said that going forward, the company would look to unify its three different versions of Windows—Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Mobile—into one operating system. The news came as a result of Larson-Green being asked about the difficulties in selling the Surface RT and the Surface Pro, and how the process “was somewhat confusing for the supply chain and the consumer.”

Indeed—I’ve noted as much back in September, just prior to Microsoft’s Surface 2 announcement. In that piece, I noted that one of the biggest issues facing the Surface as a whole was the fact that there were two identical looking versions of the thing, each capable of similar stuff, but to varying degrees. In short, having two separate devices with two separate operating systems, both with nearly identical names, was a big mistake.

While that hasn’t quite been corrected with the Surface 2, it’s nice to hear that Larson-Green is aware of the issue—and that she’s hoping the company will start to fix that issue:

“I think we didn’t differentiate the devices well enough. They looked similar. Using them is similar. It just didn’t do everything that you expected Windows to do. So there’s been a lot of talk about [how] is should have been a rebranding. We should not have called it Windows. How should we have made it more differentiated? I think over time you’ll see us continue to differentiate it more.

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.”

So there will be “one Windows.” But does that simply mean that the tablet version of Microsoft’s operating system will simply be called, like, “Doors”? Or “Curtains”? That’s what the first part of Larson-Green’s explanation would seem to indicate—that the trouble is more one of branding rather than somewhat arbitrarily fracturing your own product line.

The answer, I hope, will look something like Canonical’s Ubuntu Touch OS. That was going to be one OS that could run on the company’s Ubuntu Edge smartphone and convert to function as a desktop of sorts. Mobile devices keep getting more and more powerful, while the prices of implementing that kind of power keeps going down. As such, each new smartphone generation is capable of more, further proving that we’re basically just shoving tiny computers in our pants pockets.

So when Windows is unified, will it truly be one OS spread across all kinds of devices? I hope so. I also hope that we have the kind of hardware options to make a tech revolution like that a practical reality. That’s a much more desirable outcome than simply rebranding a hobbled version of Windows on tablets and phones.

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