Microsoft released a preview of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 recently. The most visible changes include things like the ability to put home screen Live Tiles into folders and the ability to create an Apps Corner that restricts access to some apps.

But Microsoft is also making some changes to its hardware guidelines which make it possible for device makers to offer Windows Phone tablets without cellular functionality for the first time.

It’s not clear if anyone will actually build such a device. But up until now Microsoft has been pretty opposed to the idea. Now it looks like that’s changing.

nokia lumia 1520

The company’s new Windows Phone hardware development page includes a number of changes including support for devices with 6.01 inch to 7 inch displays with 1280 x 768 pixel resolutions and a new WiFi Feature Pack which removes cellular functionality from the  operating system.

That feature pack is “intended only for devices that will not be connected to a cellular network,” which basically means Microsoft is now cool with device makers offering WiFi-only tablets or iPod touch-like handheld devices with Windows Phone software.

Why the change of heart? Microsoft isn’t saying… but the fact that the company’s Windows RT software for tablets hasn’t exactly made a big splash could be playing a role. Windows RT was developed alongside Windows 8 and it was designed to basically be a desktop and tablet version of Windows that would run on devices with ARM processors.

The problem is that Windows RT devices like the Surface RT and Nokia Lumia 2520 tablets can’t run Windows apps designed for devices with Intel or ARM chips… which means that they actually have access to fewer apps than a phone running Windows Phone software. That’s because there are now more than 300,000 apps in the Windows Phone store, but only about half as many in the Windows Store.

Now that hardware manufacturers can make tablets that run Windows Phone software… they probably won’t. Windows Phone hasn’t proven much more popular with device makers than Windows RT. Microsoft and its recently acquired subsidiary Nokia make most of the world’s Windows Phone and Windows RT products at this point.

But eventually Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Windows are likely to move a bit closer together. Microsoft recently unveiled support for Universal Apps which are designed to run across a range of Windows platforms and on devices with different screen sizes and processors. Eventually it might not really matter which version of Windows you’re running.

From a hardware standpoint there’s another reason we probably won’t see a flood of Windows Phone tablets with ARM-based chips anytime soon. Microsoft is giving away both Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 software to hardware makers that are building tablets and phones with 9 inch or smaller screens and Intel is offering its Atom processors at deep discounts… so it’s not hard to find tablets running a full version of Windows 8.1 that sell for $199 or less… which is about half the price of an iPad mini with Retina display. If you have a choice between releasing a full-fledged Windows tablet with all-day battery life and the ability to run desktop and tablets apps or a model that’s basically a big phone that doesn’t make calls… why would you choose the latter?

via ZDNet and Myce

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12 replies on “Windows Phone 8.1 could run on tablets… if anyone makes one”

  1. I think that there shall come a lot of demand for Windows, it’s actually free and O.E.M.’s can place their own apps on it contrary to Google Android which comes with a mandatory list…

  2. There are three Windows OSes here, and two which are mobile. It’s just confusing to the general public, and a headache to developers and OEMs.

    Microsoft should just drop Windows RT, and merge it with Windows Phone (if there’s any point for doing this), and use Windows Phone for tablets if they find demand for it.

    1. Microsoft will have 1 O.S. for everything regardless of size, they plan on merging Windows with the smaller O.S.’es (Nokia O.S.’es, Windows Embedded, and Windows Phone) and the bigger O.S.’es (like the Xbox O.S.)

  3. Manufacturers can make windows desktop devices with 5″ devices too… and aren’t. I can’t understand why. Geeksphone among others makes a INTC powered 5″ Android device, slap Windows desktop on it for me please….

    Rather have a 5″ desktop Windows device than a 10″ windowsphone device….

    1. The Intel phone SoCs aren’t intended to run Windows and still use Imagination PowerVR GPUs, which don’t have good drivers for full Windows anyway…

      Maybe later, when Broxton comes out late 2015 and offers something that can offer both flexible performance and a entirely Intel platform from top to bottom that they can really put desktop options to phone like devices but for now it’s limited to mid-to higher range tablets and larger devices…

      Present Intel Merrifield and Moorefield are only intended to run Android for phones and low end tablets… Though, with the upcoming Braswell and Cherry Trail we should at least see tablets down to 7″ and not just 8″ and larger…

      1. …and now I know. Thank you for the super awesome reply. I just couldn’t understand it for a while now.

  4. What you have here is a sinking Windows ship and a Microsoft handing out more teaspoons to bail with.

    1. No, it’s just an evolving platform… Google also plans to allow Chrome and Android to share apps and eventually should merge them too… Flexibility and scalability is the trend they’re going for now…

  5. On a tablet I think I like RT more than Phone. RT has the ability to snap multiple apps to the screen, ability to extend its screen to an external monitor, better USB support and multiple accounts.

    Hopefully universal apps will make it so that many if not most new apps will work on all 3 OSes: Windows 8, RT and Phone.

    The Windows 8 + Atom is compelling and lessens the need for Windows RT + ARM. The main reason I can think of to go with Windows RT/Phone for tablets would be because they don’t get viruses at the moment. Windows 8 requires more maintenance.

    1. Well, they’re likely to merge RT and WP first… Allowing RT to share in the WP apps will generally help solve the lack of Apps, not that WP has a lot more but over 70,000 more is still over 70,000 more, while introducing more pro options for all mobile devices as by then they should have the RT version of Office out and would no longer have to rely on the desktop mode for RT for that functionality…

      They’ll then later merge everything for a fully flexible and scalable platform… Primary focus will be the app stores and they will be the first to merge even before they merge the OSes together…

      Main hindrance is most WP apps were optimized for lower resolution, especially the older WP7 apps that WP8 still supports, but as they continue to increase resolution support for WP then the merger will get easier to do…

      While Intel still has a long way to go before they get a significant market share of the mobile market and thus why there’s still a market for OS version that runs on ARM… for now…

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