Could Windows Phone Blue be Microsoft's next tablet OS?

Could Windows Phone Blue be Microsoft's next tablet OS?

Summary: Might the next major version of the Windows Phone OS work on 7- to 10-inch devices? The latest Windows Phone rumors indicate it might be possible.


Could the Windows Phone operating system become Microsoft's operating system of choice for 7- to 10-inch tablets?


Based on new rumors, courtesy of Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott, this scenario isn't outside of the realm of possibility.

Windows Phone Blue, which may or may not ultimately be christened Windows Phone 8.1, is the first "major" update to the Windows Phone 8 OS since Microsoft launched it in the fall of 2012. We've known about the existence of WP Blue for months. The latest rumors I've heard continue to peg Windows Phone Blue's release-to-manufacturing date some time around "spring 2014."

Thurrott's new rumors, from a single source who asked not to be named, include some new specifics around both the UI and guts of the Windows Phone (WP) Blue OS. We've known since February 2013 (courtesy of one of my unnamed sources) that WP Blue would be a stepping stone along the way to bringing Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 into closer alignment around the NT core, programming interfaces and UI look-and-feel. Thurrott's source cites an interesting statistic (which I've not seen Microsoft state publicly), namely, that Windows Phone 8 currently has "33 percent API unity" with Windows RT. Supposedly the goal is for WP Blue to reach a (a very precise) 77 percent by the time it comes to market.

The ultimate goal, according to Thurrott's tipster, is to allow developers a single app that can run on both Windows RT and Windows Phone, thanks to universal binaries. That would fit nicely with the concept of a single Windows Store -- something to which Microsoft execs have committed privately to providing alongside the next major release of Windows (whatever that really means).

The same tipster told Thurrott that Microsoft is planning to do away with the Windows Phone back button in the WP Blue release. That's something I hadn't heard previously. It makes me wonder what Microsoft will do, backwards-compatibility-wise, for those of us who have Windows Phones that include back buttons as part of the actual handset. (I'd love to see Microsoft move the Bing search button to the left on Windows Phones, given it's currently far too easily to accidentally hit the search button on WP handsets.)

But none of these tidbits are as interesting to me as one other piece of information from Thurrott's source. Supposedly, Windows Phone Blue will work on devices with 7- to 10-inch screens. Right now, Microsoft prohibits OEMs from putting the Windows Phone OS on new devices with those screen sizes; their only choice, if they want Windows, is to go either Windows RT or Windows 8. As I've reported previously, the coming GDR3 update for Windows Phone 8 will support devices with 5- and 6-inch screens, like the expected Nokia "Bandit" Lumia 1520 phablet, for example.

Remember: Microsoft's own OS chief, Terry Myerson, recently said publicly that "as phones extend into tablets, expect us to see many more ARM tablets, Windows ARM tablets in the future."

I'm thinking this could mean Microsoft ends up dropping the Windows RT name and instead goes for a single unified OS brand across devices. Whether this ultimately is called "Windows Phone OS" or just "Windows" (or something else all together) will be interesting to see. Whatever it's called, this branded OS should, I'd think, work on ARM-based phones and ARM-based tablets.

It's funny to think of it this way, but after a number of us called for Microsoft to make Windows Phone OS the Microsoft solution for tablets, we just might get our wish, albeit two or three years later than we asked....

For now, it's worth reiterating that this new info is from one unnamed source. It's not official, so don't take it as being set in stone. If I hear more, I'll update this post.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Tablets, ARM, Windows, Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • This is good news

    I'm glad to see Microsoft finally waking up and stop trying to control innovation in the market for no good reason!

    We should have had WP7 8-10 inch tablets all along!

    If they want to win, they have to let the consumer accept or reject whatever Mfg's want to put out there as long as it's Windows Phone compliant!
    • True.

      There should have at least been WP8-based tablets with built-in LTE from the start. Rather than wasting resources developing RT, they should have spent those resources making WP8 better or developing some high quality standard applications for it. WP8 always made more sense than RT as a tablet OS.
      • RT > WP8

        RT is a much more robust OS compared to WP8. I think sooner or later they are going to have to move to RT. WP8 was just a stop gap, until phone hardware caught up to RTs girth.
        Now that ARM hardware is strong enough to run RT (smoothly) - we should expect the phones to move towards RT.
      • RT == WP8 soon

        I think what we're seeing here is the convergence of RT WP8. They both have the same core and according to Paul Thurott WP8.1 will give us binary compatibility between the 2 with 77% of the API being shared between the two. A developer will be able to code to that shared API base and the app will run on Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1.

        Now whether that means WP8 will move towards RT or the other way around, it doesn't matter. The end game, I think, is that there will be one Windows for ARM and one for Intel and an app written for the WinRT stack will run anywhere.

        Now THAT is a cool thing.
        • I hope so

          I want a tablet that also makes calls.

          I use my phone for maybe 5 minutes of calls in a month. If my Windows 8 tablet could also make and receive calls, I wouldmbin my s,artphone.
    • I've been saying this for a long time

      Full fat windows on a tablet makes no sense and RT is a joke.
      Alan Smithie
      • Nothing funny

        @Alan Full fat windows on a tablet is amazing, have you actually ever tried it?
        I can use my HP ElitePad for everything I need, at home, at work or on the move
        • Ya, everything Windows is a joke to some.

          You know, the same ones that say something as poorly thought out as "Full fat windows on a tablet makes no sense" are of course the same ones that think Android tablets and iPads are gods gift to IT as opposed to the large part of the population who want nothing to do with either of them because of the hobbled OS's they employ as opposed to a Full fat Windows OS.

          Some people absolutely refuse under any circumstances to acknowledge in any way that for a massive part of the world, nothing less than full fat Windows is what they need and want, thereby, for their purposes rendering anything else into junk.
        • Full Windows 8.1 Multifunction vs. Companion

          Full Windows 8.1 tablets are Multifunction devices, as opposed to Companion Devices (iPad,Android, WinRT etc). If you have ever used one of the Multifunction Tablet devices, you'll know what thommck is saying. Rather than drag several devices around to get the job done, a Mutlifunction device conforms to your usage pattern in different settings.

          When you want to be casual, it is casual. When you want to be productive, it is productive. Sit on the couch and relax, or put it into a docking station and drive dual 4K monitors. A True Multifunction device molds to you, where as a Companion device is another thing you have to lug around.
      • Objective as always

        WindowsRT is actually great on a tablet, but it doesn't offer much incentive as a choice over iOS/Android or even Windows8

        Full windows8 on a tablet can easily repalce iPads/Androids and laptops with one device.
  • Microsoft - where is the roadmap for the tools to develop software

    What I am most interested in is a proper roadmap for .NET, Silverlight or its successor.

    Right now the whole thing is in a limbo which is most frustrating for software companies to develop enterprise applications.

    In my opinion, this is definitely not good for Microsoft.
    • which thing is in the limbo?

      .NET and Silverlight are two completely different tings. One is being actively developed while another is supported in its current form (ie severe bugs will be fixed but no new development) till 2021 and then discontinued.

      In fact, .NET is now considered a component of Windows and its support life cycle is tied to that of Windows. New MAJOR features are rolled out every couple of years by .NET team. No other programming platform that I know of enjoys such rate of progresses. If you know one please don't keep it a secret.

      Seriously, I don't understand what else one could possibly need to see from MS in order to stop whining and spreading this BS


  • Ballmer, and the years lost

    I also remember Ballmer saying that Windows Phone should not be on tablets.

    Now he has changed his mind. It's the right (and only) direction to go. But how many years have been lost for Ballmer to come to this realization? The 'Windows Phone 8" tablets won't be on the market until 2014.

    I always thought it was silly to change the name 'Windows Mobile', which suggests it can run on many devices, to 'Windows Phone'. Now Microsoft has got itself into yet another confusing naming mess.

    Incredibly bad marketing from a guy who is supposed to be a marketer.
    • What?

      That shouldn't confuse anyone. Companies rebrand their crap all the time. Android's marketplace has gone through three names since it came into being and it hasn't confused anyone.

      If you can't draw the conclusion upon looking at the two that Windows Phone is the successor of Windows Mobile, then you belong in a corner eating paste.
    • That's the best you can do, Vbitrate?

      You're slipping if that's the best you can do to spin the story.

      Apple's changed their "cloud" offerings so many times, I think iCarly was the only name they haven't used yet...
      • Phones are the core

        Yes, Apple's cloud strategy has always been weak. But...

        The core of everything is the phone platform. Despite its slipping percentages, Apple still has a strong phone platform.

        Microsoft is weak in phones. The fact Microsoft called its OS 'Windows Phone', combined with Ballmer's original comments that the OS should not run on tablets, demonstrates clearly that Ballmer got it wrong. Very wrong.

        Everyone was telling Ballmer years ago that the phone OS should run on a tablet. But he didn't listen. He kept pursuing his preferred strategy of putting the full-blown Windows on tablets (back then it was with the desktop Windows interface).

        So it looks like sometime in 2014 we'll see Windows Phone OS running on tablet. That's what Microsoft should have done in the first place. My point is that Microsoft lost more than half a decade to correct its strategy that everyone else knew was wrong. That's an awful lot of years to get behind the eight ball.
        • Microsoft also said Phones should not be a PC

          When they originally launched Windows Phone, I remember Ballmer and crew strongly stating phones should not be PCs. Insinuating how wrong they got it with Windows Mobile Phones UI (shrunken-down Windows UI on a small screen). Now if the rumours are true, Microsoft will be reverting back to the days of Windows UI being "shoehorned" onto phones.

          This company shuffle strategy just like a deck of cards.
        • At that time...

          At that time, I think there were some very real technical reasons why WP OS couldn't run on a tablet hence the strong statements that it won't be allowed to run on a tablet. That doesn't mean, though, that the plan all along hasn't been to have them converge. In fact, the WinRT framework says that binary compatibility has been a goal between ARM and Intel apps for a long time. It would be crazy to think that they weren't looking towards that same compatibility with the phone as well. Because they needed to get WP7 out so quickly, it just wasn't technically possible.

          I think this convergence between WP8 and RT has been in the works from the beginnings of Windows 8 design and they'll finally merge into one OS by Windows 9 with full binary compatibility between the two systems (and Xbox?)

          I really don't think you can take what Ballmer said about WP7 and assume he doesn't have a different plan for WP8 and into the future.
    • It's Ballers new strategy, copy everything Apple does

      This is inevitable, the RT was DOA. W8 phone is not doing well but better then the RT so merge them like Apple does. Truthfully, MS is basically trying to reinvent them selves in Apple's foot steps so this should be no surprise.

      I will also add that this is a huge mistake, they can't compete with Apple on Apple's turf. They need to refocus on their strengths, the business community and stop trying to be Apple, they don't have the image or vision to do it but they can do well in the business market.
      • Apple would dearly hope that MS stop competing with them,

        because, MS is gaining on them, day by day, and that is already apparent in other markets, and could be the same in the U.S. pretty soon.

        So, are you working for Apple in trying to stop MS here in the U.S., or around the world?

        In less than 2 years, Apple will be third in smartphone sales, and third in tablets. It's inevitable. ;)