Microsoft’s desktop and smartphone operating systems have been inching closer and closer together in recent years. But while Windows 10 for PC and Windows 10 Mobile share a common core, phones still have a different user interface and feature set than Windows 10 PCs, and not all Universal Windows Platform apps that run on desktops can run on phones.

A key reason is that smartphones running Windows 10 have ARM-based processors, while desktops have x86 chips.

But with Microsoft planning to release a desktop version of Windows that runs on both ARM and x86 chips, maybe the company doesn’t need to maintain two different branches of Windows anymore.

According to Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, Microsoft is planning to develop a single version of Windows 10 that runs on phones, tablets, and desktops. That’s probably good news for folks looking to buy a new Windows phone in a year or two. Its’ less good news for anyone currently holding onto a phone running Windows 10 Mobile.

That’s because existing phones will most likely not be updated to the new operating system. They’ll be stock on Windows 10 Mobile.

What’s more, if Bowden’s sources are correct, they’ll be stuck on Windows 10 Mobile “feature2” branch, which is based on Windows 10 Redstone 2. There are no plans to update Windows 10 Mobile to the upcoming Redstone 3 (Fall Creators Updated) and Redstone 4 release.

Bowden says Microsoft will backport some Redstone 3 and 4 features so that existing phones will be able to run newer apps… for a while at least. Support for new features could end sometime in 2018, by which point Microsoft will hopefully have its new version of Windows for phones ready.

At this point, Android dominates the smartphone OS space, with iOS coming in a distance second (globally at least… Android’s lead is a lot smaller in the US). Windows is just a tiny spec in the rear window. It’s not clear if moving to a unified desktop/phone OS will do anything to change that. But if Microsoft can merge its smartphone and desktop operating systems, it could theoretically be less work to continue supporting phones than it would have been to continue developing two different branches of the OS.

It could also help make the platform a more attractive target for app developers, who could create a single app that should run across mobile devices and PCs. And even if the platform doesn’t become popular among consumers, Microsoft could continue to target enterprise customers that might be attracted to devices like the HP Elite x3 which blur the lines between desktops, notebooks, and smartphones.

But if Bowden’s information is correct, you might want to wait for next year’s model rather than picking up an HP Elite x3 today, since it’s unlikely existing phones will support the new software.

Oh, one other weird thing about Bowden’s report: apparently Microsoft has been referring to the new multi-form-factor version of Windows 10 internally as “Andromeda OS,” which is the same name that Google’s allegedly used internally to refer to a new OS that merges the Chrome OS and Android operating systems.

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17 replies on “Report: Windows 10 Mobile is a dead end, up next for phones: Windows 10”

  1. This might be more popular if it had Icons on a Desktop like Android and iOS. Just say NO to Metro Tiles!

  2. Microsoft was using the Andromeda code name before Google was, this info leaked out some time back and when Google announced their code name many took it as Google firing a shot across Microsofts bow in that it’s coming after Windows PC space.

  3. So Microsoft is rebooting their mobile OS ….yet…again. I would say the third time’s a charm, but it’s a least the 4th, 5th if you count RT. It’s no wonder that no one wants to develop apps for mobile Windows. Besides the microscopic market share, Microsoft keeps abandoning and rebooting the OS. From the other comments, it seems others are more forgiving and optimistic about Microsoft’s mobile ambitions. I personally have zero confidence in them at this point. I expect this new mobile OS to be a flop. It will be quickly abandoned after it fails to gain market share leaving users and developers out in the cold.

    1. What else are they supposed to do? Mobile computing only going to become more dominant as people continue to integrate mobile devices into their daily lives. Giving up would only cede the battlefield to Apple and Google, and Microsoft clearly still believes the client space is too important to give up on.

      1. They need to make major changes if they want to gain mobile market share. They need to start acting like they have a clue as to what they’re doing. I’ve listed some things they need to change if they really want to be a contender in the mobile space.

        They need to determine a direction and stick with it. Microsoft’s mobile strategy has been schizophrenic. They keep changing directions. They keep throwing out new operating systems, development strategies, and app migration tools. Apps written for Windows Phone 8 may not work with Windows Phone 10. Developers have to use migration tools to see if their app is going to function properly with the new code base. Apps written for Android 5.0 will work with Android 6.0. They make not take advantages of new features, but there shouldn’t be compatibility issues. Microsoft wanted developers to make apps for Windows 8 Phone, then Windows 10 Phone, now it looks like they want developers to make Universal apps that should work on both phone and desktop. It seems like every year they throw out a different strategy and migration tool for apps. It’s like they try something and it isn’t immediately successful, so they scrap it and try something else. Swimming upstream is hard. It takes a lot of perseverance. That’s what they have to do to gain market share. I understand small startups trying something and giving up because it wasn’t quickly successful. They don’t have and endless supply of money to burn, but Microsoft does. They need to accept that if they really want to gain mobile market share that it’s going to take time, focus, and money.

        They need to keep promises they make. Microsoft doesn’t know how to act in a market they don’t have a monopoly. Breaking promises and doing shady things doesn’t affect you much when you are in a dominant position (example: forced Win10 upgrades) but it’s extremely damaging when you’re the underdog. Customers who take a chance on a fledgling OS and ecosystem feel really burned when they were promised a OS upgrade and then the company changes their mind or direction.

        They need to make a major push to get key apps in their app store. I would describe Microsoft’s attitude towards getting their app market stocked as very passive. They’ve made migration tools available, but they’re expecting every developer to beat a path to building or migrating apps. It’s not happening. The new Universal app strategy seems like a good idea. They’re trying to leverage Windows desktop dominance into luring developers to make Universal apps, but I think it’s too little too late. I’m sure they will have some success with it, but I think most people have lost confidence in Windows Phone.

        They need leadership and communication to developers and users. Windows phone looks dead right now. There has been very little communication to users on what they’re planning or which direction they’re going. There’s been rumors of a Surface phone, but no proof. There has been a steady dwindling of apps in the app store. Microsoft pulled the plug on their own Linkedin app. No customer wants to buy into a dying (nearly dead) ecosystem and Microsoft isn’t doing much to reassure customers that Windows Phone has a future.

        They need a good selection of desirable products. When Nokia was still making Windows Phones, there was a good selection of respectable quality phones available. Nokia had a great and consistent design language for their hardware. They covered lots of price points and sizes. All those products shriveled up and died when Microsoft took over hardware production. There’s only a handful of Windows phones available, and most of them are high end. Several cellular providers don’t even have Windows phones listed and the major ones only have one or two. Verizon only has the Lumia 735. It’s a reasonable quality phone and it’s well priced, but it’s old and it’s screen is small by today’s standards. You can’t have a small selection of old outdated products and expect customers to flock to your brand.

        I’m no business professional, but even I can see Microsoft has done a bush league job of managing mobile. The real tragedy is I believe there is still room for major innovation in the mobile space. Android and iOS are creeping towards a unified experience across mobile and desktop, but Microsoft has an opening to beat them to it. Unfortunately, with Microsoft’s consistent lack of execution and follow-through in mobile, I would be shocked if they were able to capitalize on it.

        1. Sadly but true. I bought 3 Windows phone (NOKIA 625) and one Lumia 640. Old NOKIA device is better built, snappier and more refined. New MIcrosoft one is cheaply made. But that does not hurt as is does that all 8.1 devices are obsolete and only 640 have upgrade available and even than, the Windows 10 is crippled in comparison of 8.1 – many features gone, even Microsft own software works better on Android, no major and important software house are developing for WP… dead end. Not even backup of old devices will work. I can buy some time upgrading 640 to W10m … tha I will be able to buy something new… and I will probably be in the dead end after a year or 3. Again… I hated iPhone and laughed at Android for years using old Simbian NOKIA’s. Than Lumias came out. What a FRESH wind on mobile market… but few years forward… I’m thinking of buying iPhone :(((

          Oh, how they screwed!! I even payed for developing for WP, to develop my own apps I needed. Grrrr. And they ruined original NOKIA.

  4. Am I the only one who thinks that the whole universal app idea is rather silly? I mean, a smartphone is so much weaker than a desktop. Developers will be extremely limited due to that. But, I might be wrong here.

  5. 100% guarantee these new phones will only run apps from Windows app store. This is the same problem Windows mobile had. Until Microsoft fixes their app store (purge crap, pay to get ALL the popular apps) this will fix nothing.

  6. It is not true that Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile have the same core. Microsoft marketing claimed it, but is not true. It is not just the UI which is different. Windows Mobile misses all the win32 APIs which makes the system useless. The fact that Windows Mobile is missing useful APIs and is very unfriendly to developers, killed the platform.

  7. It sounds a lot like what Canonical tried to do with Ubuntu before they gave up. Truly a single OS that runs on everything is a neat idea but not sure it will translate to an improved mobile market share.

  8. I like the optimistic view that you’ll still be able to buy windows phones in two years time.

  9. Windows Andromeda is old news. It was reported back in Feb. That Win 10 Mobile is being orphaned may be new news, but it was pretty much expected when it was forked from the main Win 10 development, especially given the tiny userbase.

    In other words, nothing earth-shattering. MS is still trying to leverage its desktop dominance to break into the mobile market, while Google is doing the same from the other end. The notion of “one app to run everywhere” has been trotted out once too many, and appeals to only the naive at this point.

  10. Since this new upcoming version of Windows will be able to run on ARM chips, does that mean that any software designed for Windows will work on these new mobile phones? Would someone be able to run PC games (probably less demanding/indie games) on their mobile phone? Or would such software/games need to be updated to run on the ARM processors?

    That would likely be the only thing that would cause me to consider switching to Windows on a phone. Also, they’d need to make those phones have some micro-hdmi (or whatever) to connect to an external display and use it like a portable desktop PC. That would be fantastic.

    1. Lyncoln: The current generation of phones running Windows 10 Mobile (Lumia 950/950XL, Alcatel Idol 4S, HP Elite x3) are all able to connect to an external display via the Continuum feature.

    2. My employees and I have been connecting our Lumia 950/950XLs to external displays, keyboards, and mice for almost 2 years via Continuum, using them much as a desktop (lightweight travel), but we have been limited to UWP apps in Continuum mode. With full Win10 on ARM, we should be able to run our full win32 desktop applications (engineering models, GIS, CAD, Photoshop, etc), although performance should not be expected to be at desktop speeds.

      1. Don’t bank on it.
        x86 executables will need software conversion, ie emulation, onto ARM architecture.
        This means it will use a lot of battery power. However, it also means it will perform very slow.
        Especially since the best ARM processors (Cortex A73) are still today catching up to mainstream x86 performance (Intel Core i5-U). AMD will surpass Intel in 2018/2019 if Intel stick with their roadmap, however, ARM can too with their 2018 10nm 3GHz Quadcore Cortex A75’s trouncing Intel’s 2018 14nm 2GHz Dualcore Core M7 chipsets. IF they stick with the current/announced roadmap, some leaks out there beg to differ.

        So…you’re better off looking at the future, rather than the past, and relying on UWP apps and Contiuum instead. Although those selling points feel a bit moot, as Android can achieve the same thing.

        And if Apple decides to join, it would be game over for Microsoft.

        1. If it’s all the same Windows 10 on all devices I don’t see why they would not be able to run x86 apps from an ARM based phone. Of course, running them on a phone screen wouldn’t be very usable, but when docked to a larger monitor it seems like it could be a good feature for some. That’s the idea behind Continuum.

          Windows 10 ARM has been demoed on Snapdragon 820 running x86 apps and the apps ran pretty well. I feel we are reaching a point where it will be possible to use a single device for everything without compromise (if you are okay with Windows).

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