Microsoft currently has 3 operating systems for consumer devices: Windows, Windows RT, and Windows Phone. And according to the new head of Windows, Julie Larson-Green, that’s at least one too many.

Speaking at the UBS Global Technology Summit recently, she told attendees that eventually “we are not going to have three.”

Windows 8.1

While Larson-Green didn’t elaborate, it’s likely that Windows RT is the odd operating system out and that it could eventually be merged into Windows Phone or simply replaced with full-fledged Windows software.

Windows RT is basically a stripped-down version of Windows designed to run on low-power devices with ARM-based processors. Because ARM chips have a different architecture than most Intel and AMD chips, the vast majority of apps developed for Windows won’t run on Windows RT (at least not unless they’re recompiled to work with ARM chips).

Most apps designed for the new “Modern” or “Metro” user interface do run on both Windows 8 and Windows RT. But if you want to run iTunes, MediaMonkey, Photoshop, GIMP, LibreOffice, or other desktop apps you’ll need Windows and not Windows RT.

It made a lot of sense for Microsoft to develop Windows for ARM a few years ago when the iPad was dominating the tablet space. But by the time Windows RT arrived a funny thing had happened: Intel had slashed power consumption of its Atom chips, enabling device makers to release tablets with the full version of Windows without really sacrificing battery life.

Given the choice between a Windows RT tablet and a Windows 8 model there’s almost no reason to choose the RT model — especially since the prices tend to be similar.

And given a choice between a Windows RT device and one running Android or iOS, the Windows RT tablets still don’t look so good: Not only can they not run desktop Windows apps, but as of late 2013 some of the most popular mobile apps for Android and iOS still aren’t available for Windows.

Things might have been different if Microsoft had marketed Windows RT as an extension of its smartphone operating system, Windows Phone. Nobody really complains that iPads don’t run OS X software because they’re basically big iPhones. If the Microsoft Surface and other Windows RT devices were basically big Windows Phone devices nobody would expect them to run desktop software.

So maybe that’s what Larson-Green is suggesting: in the future Windows RT and Windows Phone could merge and Microsoft could take a more Apple-like approach to mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

Or maybe something else will happen: Maybe Windows Phone will start to look more like desktop Windows software. As more and more apps are developed for the Windows “Modern” user interface, it’ll be easier for developers enable support for phones, tablets and desktops with ARM or x86 processors. You may eventually be able to use a single Windows Store to download apps that will run on any of your devices, and rather than paring down three operating systems to two, Microsoft’s grand plan could involve just a single Windows operating system that runs across all your devices.

Whether you’ll be able to run Flash Player, Steam, iTunes, Thunderbird, or other desktop apps on that operating system remains to be seen.

via Geek, Computer World and CITE World

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32 replies on “Windows, Windows RT and Windows Phone: At least one will probably die”

  1. This just tells me to stay away from Windows RT or Windows Phone, since one of them is going to be killed off by Microsoft.

  2. Julie Larson-Green is right. Microsoft doesn’t need 3 OSs. While dropping RT would hurt the least amount of users, dropping WP8 is best. RT should be their phone only mobile OS. Overall the sad part is how awful the press has been with RT. About 90% of articles comparing WIndow 8 RT with Android and iOS fault RT for not running x86 programs, as if Android and iOS magically do (Heck it happened even in this article).

  3. Simple solution: port RT into phones and ditch WM. As our phones get more and more powerful, people aren’t going to want to be limited by their phone’s OS. Our phones will also be our computers. Our information is going to go with us everywhere. When we get home, we are going to hook up our phones to our TVs/monitors through miracast (or something similar) and use bluetooth keyboards and mice for productivity.

  4. Full version of Windows with Phone functionality. Legacy apps + Phone function; I assure you. It would sell like candy especially to those who cannot let go of their old apps and who also wants a phone function in their device.

    Google is doing progress by equipping their phones with apps that resembles or can replace legacy apps. I supposed big time Microsoft can do better.

  5. So here we are back with Win, Winmo, and WinCE all over again.
    Way to learn from past mistakes!

  6. Windows RT was Dead on Arrival. No Apps. Metro Tiles on the Desktop was Dead on Arrival. No Touch Screen on most PCs. Microsoft wanted a Unified Interface for all devices. Well, they got it. Now they’re stuck with an interface that SUCKS on ALL Devices! It’s a good thing I switched to Linux after the Vista Fiasco. Now Windows 8 is an even bigger Fiasco. Linux gives me a CHOICE of more than a dozen interfaces. I recommend Linux Mint with the MATE desktop.

    1. So the iPhone was dead on arrival since there wasn’t even an App Store then? Or the iPad when there were a fourth as many apps then as now?

      The interface is very nice. Have you actually tried it? It’s really just a blending of widgets with a visualized start button menu. Works great. I like it a lot, and I’m mostly an OS X guy. Don’t much care for Linux Mint, but Ubuntu is okay. My fave Distro is Crunchbang.

  7. With Intel moving to a 14nm process, I see no need for WindowsRT. Why use an ARM processor when you can use and X86 processor that will be relatively cheap, powerful and very energy efficient? I can see a time when RT and WP both disappear. Microsoft will just need to figure out the UI based on screen size. Give it a year or two and phones will be able to run full Windows9.

  8. They only need to remove the desktop option from Windows RT and make a fullscreen metro Office! TADA!

  9. This is just wrong. The Tech Media has destroyed the awesome OS Windows RT. We don’t see many people who like it on such sites because they aren’t techies or “power users”. And hence we assume that power users make up most of the Windows market share. This is not true.

    My sister, who recently bought a Surface 2 and she’s like “Why the hell didn’t I get this kind of a device earlier? Awesome battery, Awesome screen, does everything I want it to, and its cheap!” yes, most users still want to do just web browsing, and listening to music and all.

    Windows RT is perfect for them. I feel so sad that Microsoft is killing it. 🙁 This means Surface RT and Surface 2 have no future? No future updates? Or if at all they do, it would be a dumbed down WIndows Phone UI? (Don’t get me wrong, WP UI is the best, but just not on a tablet).

    Windows RT won’t get malware, It has WinRT and so it won’t “WinROT” after a couple of months, nothing can modify its registry, nothing can add itself to startup. it’s just the awesomest thing ever that most Windows users out there need.

    1. I agree 100%. The tech press is in love with all things Apple and Google and hates Microsoft. I think that’s shortsighted. I own and use products from all three. I like nice things, don’t care as much who makes them, although I’m quickly becoming less enamored with how Google does things.

      Windows RT is brilliant. But gets swamped by people who don’t get it because it’s not as built out as iPad for apps (of course not, it’s newer) or because they can’t game and run their legacy apps. They’re out of touch with the market for this device, a market that doesn’t download as many apps as the reviewers do. Most of the apps I’ve put on my iPad are workarounds for solutions prebuilt into Windows RT.

    2. Yeah but a Windows Atom tablet is also cheap, has awesome battery, AND has Metro. Why hamstring yourself with only RT/Metro when you can have a full windows OS? It’s not like you are forced to use it, you can stay in Metro mode 100% of the time if you so desire.

      If MS had developed an Atom powered Surface tablet with their beautiful hardware AND having full Windows, with the battery life, size, thinness, weight of the ipad, and cheaper to boot, well they probably wouldn’t be looking at that $900 million loss. 900 million reasons why RT doesn’t make sense IMO.

  10. Quoting from the article: “Because ARM chips have a different architecture than most Intel and AMD
    chips, the vast majority of apps developed for Windows won’t run on
    Windows RT (at least not unless they’re recompiled to work with ARM

    This is simply incorrect. Microsoft already had legacy windows software running on Windows RT, when Intel pulled some trump card out of their sleeve and convinced Microsoft to remove legacy software support from Windows RT, so Intel wouldn’t have to suddenly compete with a horde of ARM chip manufacturers.

    I can’t imagine what Intel must have offered to Microsoft or threatened them with, to get Microsoft to turn Windows RT into an undead zombie before it was even released.

    After that, the only customers for RT tablets were disheveled Walmart shoppers in pajamas who mistook them for portable Televisions.

    1. Wrong twice, I think.
      #1 The way that legacy windows software ran on Windows RT was that they recompiled for ARM.
      #2 Microsoft was the one who made the decision to prevent users from recompiling their own applications on ARM in order to promote the Store API programs.
      The way Intel hurt Windows RT running on ARM was simply to provide better processors for the $, and shrink the power requirements of the Bay Trail Atom that powers the latest small tablets.

      1. Yup. They got a bad case of iEnvy watching Apple raking off thirty fat juicy points on every app sale and want to move all Windows sales into the Store. RT was the pilot project and thankfully it has failed. Because the key to making it work wasn’t the ban on native apps entirely, it was the sealed bootloader that was the key to forcing every 3rd party app vendor to use the Store.

        Now the question is whether they get a new CEO who can learn the correct lesson or will they get one who thinks Balmer had the right idea but just pooched the implementation and marketing.

  11. I wonder if Windows RT was made as a threat to Intel.

    Microsoft: Lower your tablet CPU prices or else!
    Intel: Or else what? What’re you gonna do, switch to some other chip?
    Microsoft: Yep, that’s what we’ll do.
    Intel: Ha Ha! Go ahead, I dare ya!
    Microsoft: Introducing Windows RT …
    Intel: Um, well, uh … introducing, lower prices on tablet CPUs, I guess.

    It makes me wonder what happens to Intel CPU prices if Windows RT goes away? Maybe the desire to take Android tablets and phones away from ARM will keep Intel CPU prices low.

    1. While RT with the original legacy software support did work out to be a significant threat to Intel’s inflated profit margines, I don’t think that was Microsoft’s aim… they desperately wanted to keep their OS monopoly from eroding any further.

    2. But, Intel is not one who make x86 chips.
      At least, there are AMD, and some other odd guys like VIA (ha-ha, their’s CPU as cheap as bad) and DM&P Electronics with their Vortex86 (else one odd guy, who offers performance, but lack of modern instructions).

  12. I can see x86 Wndows as the sole survivor, with both desktop (for desktop PC and laptop) and modern (for phone and tablet/slate/convertible) interfaces. Microsoft moved too slowly and passively to let the non x86 Windows OSs get traction (a good reason to break up the company, it has too many products).

    In the meantime, the hardware got a lot better, no doubt Intel was spurred on in mobile by ARM’s competition, the same way x86 desktop/laptop CPU develpment is spurred on by AMD. MS should just concentrate on x86, and abandon ARM the way it did with Windows NT.

    By doing so, Microsoft could adopt a very powerful marketing tag “If you like your software, you can keep it.” On second thought, “Windows: Runs everywhere.” or “One software. Any device.”

    1. “Windows” has been Windows NT ever since WinMe bit the dust. NT was never abandoned, just the opposite. Even Windows RT is NT. The only other things left are the phone OSs, which are Windows CE.
      The likely losers? Windows as we knew it and CE, i.e. only Windows RT will remain after the dust settles. Goodbye legacy applications, goodbye open development. It’ll cover x86, x64, and ARM.

      1. Sadly, you are exactly right about Microsoft’s intention.

        Time to migrate away from an OS coming from a Company that makes self serving decisions directly injuring their customers and partners, as well as destroying the waning attractiveness of their OS.

      2. Windows NT used to run on Alpha, MIPS, Itanium, in addition to x86.
        MS killed the non-x86 versions. It should kill the RT version of Windows 8.

        From a market share/dominance/strategic importance standpoint, that x86 Windows will survive is pretty obvious. Even though PC shipments are declining, they are still several hundred million a year, which stacks up nicely against mobile device shipments. And Microsoft owns some 90% of the client OS market here, x86 software, virtually all of which x86 Windows underpins, probably accounts for 90% of Microsoft’s revenue.

        Plus, given Intel’s renewed push to proliferate x86 across mobile, x86 Windows will run nicely on these devices, supporting both legacy software and modern UI software.

        Legacy Windows x86 software isn’t going away. Don’t believe me? COBOL is still around, and running some enterprise critical systems.

        Microsoft squandered Pocket PC/Windows Mobile/Windows Phone’s market share of around 15-18% by saddling it with a Windows x86 desktop type interface when the hardware was too wimpy to support it. Nowadays, Windows Phone’s market share is only around 5-8%.

        As far as Windows RT is concerned, I wouldn’t be surprised if it got killed off in the next 2-3 years. That Microsoft’s hardware partners are abandoning RT should tell you all you need to know.

    2. You’re making good sense, but Microsoft isn’t quite following you, sadly – because they are hellbent on copying Crapple’s tollboth laden business model. They want to switch everything to apps as soon as they can to get a 30% cut from every windows app ever sold from here on out.

      Remember how they tried to convert Office into a rental software only? Till customers revolted and they had to back track. But this is still their goal.

      This is my reason to try to convince every software maker who’s software I like to use to offer a Linux version, before Microsoft has arranged pay walls all around windows.

      Not to mention that windows gets worse with every ill conceived abstraction layer they add, not to mention that the Windows file system is hopelessly behind Linux, cause it does not actively check if your data is still alright. In windows, your data could be corrupted due to any number of faults, without you or windows every knowing about it, until you try to actually access it. Unlike Linux, Windows only checks if the partition table entries are ok, but never the data itself.

      Windows 8.1 killed all my mapped local folders, and nobody at Microcruft could tell me how to reinstate them. It seems local mapping functionality (without detour through the network interface, which has its own problems) has been removed. All Microcruft employees managed to do was the extremely lame suggestion I should just put those folders in ‘favorites’, which is not even nearly similar to giving something a proper drive letter.

      So, in essence, Microsoft is adding fluff while stripping basic OS functionality! Not a good direction for an operating system.

  13. Let’s hop that Windows RT gets the axe and Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 finally share all the same apps, but specified by screen size.

    1. No Cal, this is not okay. You don’t (and even I didn’t before seeing how it can be used) realize the importance and utility of Windows RT. It’s just awesome for most Windows users out there. 90% of them are still noobs who need just web, media, file management. Windows RT does everything, doesn’t catch viruses, doesn’t winrot.
      2 of my family members are more than happy with their Surface 2.

      1. If those are your only uses you don’t need Windows. Why do you think that the second a non-windows option that didn’t require a mortgage appeared people who didn’t need (and never needed) Windows fled by the million? It is too late for Microsoft to try to sell end users a reliable, no user adjustable options device because in their mind Microsoft == PC and they don’t want it.

        Their only viable option now is to retrench into the PC/Workstation market of people who DO need what a full PC can offer and try to convince those people that Windows is now good enough they don’t need to jump to Red Hat or Ubuntu. Up until now they have been pretty good at that, odds are they could retain a nice business selling software to those white collar professionals who aren’t in IT.

      2. My point is that Windows RT and Windows Phone can be integrated into one platform. Making one mobile device platform that doesn’t have viruses and doesn’t require the full openness or user control of Windows 8 or other OSes would be just fine. That also saves money on development, since they would be one platform.

  14. I think the future is Windows (no desktop, modern plus the merger of RT and Phone) and Windows Pro (still has a desktop and legacy support) and those OS siblings will be customized only so much as necessary for the device class they’ll be used on.

    1. Could be, yeah, but I will really miss the File Explorer on Windows tablets. (A LOT)
      And there’s no way RT UI works on a phone, or the WP UI on a tablet. :

      1. Probably they would have a modern version of File Explorer.

        I don’t think the UI would be the same, that would be the different part, but they would share all the same API’s and base code.

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