Some say Microsoft should have taken Windows Phone’s OS and slap it on a tablet instead of taking the current Windows RT approach. And some say Microsoft should scrap Windows RT and use Windows 8 on tablets since RT comes with many restrictions, especially in Desktop mode. And then there are those who think completely outside of the box that came up with a different opinion, an opinion that may highly be true.
Windows RT is a massive milestone for Microsoft. Getting Windows running on ARM based devices is a leap in the future of Windows and computing in general. Microsoft was successful in porting and running Windows on thin and low power sipping hardware, making Windows extremely portable and mobile like never before. That’s what makes Windows RT so unique and of high interest to Microsoft, because we all know that the future (and almost the present) is mobile and touch ready devices.
Microsoft knew, a few years back, that they needed to re-enter the mobile market, but Windows wasn’t mobile and touch friendly at the time (Windows 7) and their Windows Mobile OS was outdated and had almost no market share and even that didn’t fit well as a tablet OS when compared to the competition (iOS and Android). They had to start from scratch, but a difficult decision had to be made.
Microsoft always wanted A “Windows Everywhere” world but knew it would take lots of time and money to make it happen. They had to make a choice:
- Assemble a team that worked day and night on a single unified Windows experience on both phones and tablets.
- Or, assemble two teams. One team worked on creating a “touch first” interface module for Windows to compete in the tablet market. And, another team worked on a brand new lightweight OS that competes in the smartphone market.
They knew the first option will take much longer to execute since they will be targeting a single OS to two markets; tablets and smartphones. But it will certainly allow developers to code once and release to both platforms as well as have a consistent UI experience across all devices.
The second option seemed more feasible in order to act quickly. Both teams have a specific market audience and requirements, and a quick V1 product can be released once those requirements are met. This way, they would still hit both markets but with the burden of having two mobile operating systems with different APIs. So while the Windows team were working on the new modern interface for Windows 8, another team was working on Windows Phone 7/8.
But the reality is that Microsoft never neglected or forgot about their main goal; Windows Everywhere. A unified OS that targeted all desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. While Windows 8 was considered the OS for desktops & laptops, Windows RT for tablets and Windows Phone for smartphones, Microsoft (in my opinion) still pursued their main goal internally, and that was the reason why Windows RT was born to be Microsoft’s risky attempt to fulfill their “Windows Everywhere” dream.
What made me come to this realization is a comment I read by a user called cool8man on Mary Jo Foley’s article (title: Why Microsoft isn’t going to dump Windows RT):
RT runs across multiple ARM chips, WP8 only runs on Qualcomm. RT runs almost all Windows 8 apps, WP8 runs no Windows 8 apps. RT runs the full versions of Office, WP8 runs mobile versions. RT has advanced print drivers, WP8 can’t print. RT has IE11 with Flash integrated & unlimited tabs, WP8 has IE10 with no Flash and only 6 tabs. RT has side by side multitasking, [WP8] does not. In a few months RT will have more apps than WP8 despite a 2 year head start for Windows Phone. RT has a full suite of Bing service apps while WP8 has a pared down Bing Hub. RT is already in 8.1 preview while WP8.1 is so far behind schedule it is pushed back to 2014.
Windows RT is already ahead of Windows Phone when it comes to delivering the next OS update as well as compatibility with new hardware and screen sizes/resolutions. While Windows Phone serves its purpose (to run on high and low end smartphones), it still just falls in one single market and therefore will always have its own API and associated maintenance and costs. But Windows RT also works on high and low end hardware, on a spectrum of screen sizes, is able to run all Windows Store apps and apparently it can also run the entire Office suite all while managing to stay running on battery for a full day.
So what does all that mean? It means that Microsoft might have already been working on a plan to merge Windows Phone into Windows RT, and therefore have Windows RT act as the core of Windows running on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Windows RT is the “Windows Everywhere” dream becoming a reality. A consistent and unified OS experience across all devices.
There is another point worth mentioning which may act as further proof that Microsoft is indeed moving in that direction. Windows Store apps have a “snap” view mode, where the app can run on either the left or right side of your screen alongside of another Windows Store app (or even Desktop, which is also considered an “app”). If you look into the dimensions of an app in snap view you would realize that it’s the same required (at least width wise) dimensions for apps to run in Windows Phone. In other words, snap view is the view you’d see if the app was running on a Windows Phone screen. Therefore, if Windows Phone OS was to be replaced by Windows RT, current and future Windows Store apps will most likely be compatible with current and future Windows Phone (or Windows RT) smartphone screens and will adjust accordingly based on how the developer programmed it (this is simply managed by the Visual State Manager in Windows RT’s API).
Of course, having a single OS to rule them all is a massive task for Microsoft and may have sounded as a futuristic concept for the average consumer today, and that alone could have been another reason why Microsoft staged the implementation through several OS iterations that individually targeted different markets. But all I can say today is that the time has come for Microsoft to cleanup and consolidate its current three operating systems and make their “Windows Everywhere” dream a reality.