By Lisa Eadicicco
Microsoft’s Windows software currently comes in three flavors: Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 RT and Windows Phone 8. In the future, however, the Redmond, Wash.-based company may slim down its software into a more unified approach.
Speaking at the UBS Global Technology Conference, Microsoft’s head of devices hinted toward a more streamlined version of Windows.
“We have the Windows Phone OS,” Julie Larson- Green said. “We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We’re not going to have three.”
It’s unclear exactly that Larson-Green’s words mean for the future of Windows, but it does align with previous comments from Microsoft employees. Windows chief Terry Myerson recently said that he sees smartphones as the future of Windows RT, suggesting that Microsoft will merge its smartphone and tablet interfaces into a single platform. To do this, the company is working toward building a single app store for both Windows and Windows Phone, according to The Verge.
It would make sense for Microsoft to either cut Windows RT out of the picture or somehow merge it with Windows Phone. When the company debuted Windows 8 last October, the company was criticized for not clearly distinguishing the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. The latter is Microsoft’s scaled-down version of Windows 8 made for tablets, meaning it looks and feels almost exactly like the desktop software but doesn’t support full Windows apps.
A few of Microsoft’s OEM partners have ditched plans to launch Windows RT tablets within the past year. Asus told The Wall Street Journal that it will no longer make Windows RT slates, and Toshiba and Samsung have also cancelled plans to make Windows RT-based tablets that would have been launched this fall. The only Windows RT devices on the market are first-party Microsoft devices: the Surface 2 and Nokia Lumia 2520.
As Microsoft plans to merge its Windows operating systems, the company is expected to roll out a major update to its Windows Phone platform. Following suit with its Windows 8.1 launch, Windows Phone 8.1 could bring features such as a refreshed notification center, Microsoft’s own answer to Siri, and multitasking improvements. Larson-Greene also mentioned that sensors will play a big role in Microsoft’s future devices, which seems to add some credence to a previous rumor that the first Windows Phone 8.1 handsets will feature gesture detection support.