Microsoft OS chief Myerson on the future of 'One Windows'

Microsoft OS chief Myerson on the future of 'One Windows'

Summary: The head of Microsoft's unified operating system group, Terry Myerson, shares more details on Microsoft's one Windows vision in a Q&A with ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley.


Microsoft's Executive Vice President of operating systems, Terry Myerson, has a lot on his plate.


Appointed to head Microsoft's unified operating system group (OSG) last July, Myerson recently got even more power, now heading up everything in Xbox but the console hardware, along with the Windows client and Windows Phone operating systems. Before becoming OSG chief -- and being considered for the CEO job at Microsoft -- Myerson was head of engineering for Windows Phone and ran the Exchange business for the company. He joined Microsoft in 1997 when Redmond bought his Web-software startup, Interse.

I had a chance to sit down with Myerson earlier this week, a few days after Microsoft's Build 2014 conference, to get clarification on his plans, products and strategies for operating systems at the company.

In Part 1 of my Q&A with him, we had a chance to go more in depth about his "One Windows" strategy and vision.

Myerson made it clear that while supporting legacy apps on the desktop is part of Windows in the future, it isn't going to be part of every Windows variant going forward. He also gave me reason to believe the rumors that a new Windows on ARM variant that will work on both phones and tablets is, indeed, in the pipeline, as tipsters have indicated.

Here's our conversation on these topics from a transcript edited for length and clarity:

ZDNET: It's clear that Metro/Windows Store is the heart of Microsoft's Windows vision going forward. But how should we be thinking about the role of the desktop? Many believe the desktop is going to be going away, but others think it can't and won't. What's the reality?

MYERSON: We actually value using the desktop. I feel highly productive using it. It's very familiar to me. We plan -- (as) we talked about at the Build conference -- to bring modern apps to the desktop. We are going to have machines that have a great desktop experience.

It (the desktop) is also not the right experience for a phone or a tablet. And so how the Windows experience spans these form factors and is familiar across them -- that's what we need to deliver if we're going to delight people in the whole ecosystem.

The desktop is part of our future. It's absolutely core to Windows.

ZDNET: What about Windows RT -- not WinRT, the API (application programming interface) -- but Windows RT, the Windows flavor on ARM? Does that have a future?

MYERSON: Windows ARM processors have a future, and there's tremendous innovation in the ARM ecosystem. I think Intel has a fabulous future. There's tremendous innovation going on with Intel.

We want to take advantage of the innovations in ARM. I think ARM chipsets have a bright, vibrant future, and Windows will run on those chipsets.

ZDNET: We've been hearing rumors about the Windows Phone OS and Windows RT somehow becoming a new OS that's different from Windows RT as it exists today. Is that the right way to think about it?

MYERSON: We will have great version of Windows on ARM. One thing we're working through is how do we really delight customers in all the form factors that will have ARM chips.

ZDNET: What does "One Windows" really mean? There can never be a single version of Windows that runs on every platform because of the difference in form factors. But how should we think about how you get as close to "One Windows" as you can?

MYERSON: I think the most important thing is the one developer platform across the Internet of things, phone, tablet, PC, Xbox, PPI (Perceptive Pixel touch displays), the cloud. One coherent, consistent excellent place, one way for developers to target the Windows ecosystem and delight our customers.

ZDNET: I'm interested in hearing more about what you mean when you say "Internet of things" from the Windows perspective. Is this just the new name for Windows Embedded? Or is it more than that?

MYERSON: We have a Windows Embedded product today that is a catchphrase for several different things. We have versions of full Windows, versions of Windows Phone, we have Win CE, we have .NET, versions of .NET. They're all caught under this catchphrase, Windows Embedded.

We need to clarify this in the coming months for our customers. The classic Windows Embedded customer isn't building a piano right now. What we're talking about is an evolution of our Windows Embedded business, as well as our Windows Embedded offerings.

It's quite exciting actually because these are our enterprise customers. Instead of like talking to them about their productivity desktops, (we are talking about) their products themselves. So it's just exciting. We will see where it goes, but we (think we can ) help out our customers here with doing some really cool stuff.

ZDNET: When you announced at Build that you'd be making certain versions of Windows, Windows Phone and Windows for Internet of Things OSes all available for free, why did you draw the line at nine-inch screens? Is the thinking that the versions of Windows that will be free will be a single SKU around the time of Windows 9?

MYERSON: Obviously we'll have SKUs for things that are free and SKUs for things that are not free. So that is I'd say an accounting statement. That's an accounting more than a strategy statement.

We have these great OEM partners and we really want to encourage designs with those (under 9-inch) screen sizes, and that was a place where strategically we felt we needed to invest.

ZDNET: On the upper end of the spectrum, we know Xbox One OS is built on Windows 8 at its core. At Build, you indicated that at some point you're going to be able to run universal apps on the Xbox, too. Does this mean you could technically run a CRM app on an Xbox?

MYERSON: I don't know that I would. But you could.

Xbox is an experience that's really designed for a large screen, large shared screens in the living room.

We also have this product -- it's still called Perceptive Pixel -- which is just a magical experience in conference rooms that's a large shared screen. On these large shared screens, is CRM appropriate? Is Halo appropriate? We want to enable the creativity of the ISV to put what they want to put there.

In my office I expect to play Halo on the PPI. In my home I don't expect my kids to play CRM.

ZDNET: I would. Maybe.

MYERSON: We're a platform for our partners' creativity. I don't want to judge what they've put on that screen. CRM on the Xbox, I don't know. A weather app on the Xbox, hey, maybe. A sports app on the Xbox, yeah, I think so. A CRM app for the PPI board, you know, maybe.

The Internet of Things is a headless or small screen device. With Xbox and PPI we're talking about large screen devices. It really comes back to enabling the creativity of our developers to get out to these various places as efficiently as possible.

ZDNET: Can you give us any more clarity on timing? At Build you showed a mockup of a Start Menu. You confirmed the Start Menu and windowed Metro-Style apps are coming some time after Windows 8.1 Update. Will these be available this year? Not until Threshold/Windows 9 next year?

MYERSON: The reason we (showed) that work is we thought it was important to share with developers. When do we deliver it? I really don't have anything to share there. We're just not ready yet.

ZDNET: What about wearables? We've heard Alex Kipman of Kinect fame is working for you on some kind of wearable device software. My sources have said that. You know those sources.

MYERSON: Yeah, right.

ZDNET: Could you give us general guidance on where you're going with wearables?

MYERSON: Not really. With our Internet of Things work we are enabling our customers to build great stuff.

In Part 2 of my Q&A with Myerson, we talk about secrecy vs. transparency, the future of the Windows Phone platform and more. 

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Windows Phone, Tapping M2M: The Internet of Things


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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  • Shame on Microsoft

    I think MS plans to kill off Win32 entirely at some point, and force users and developers to solely live in the RT world as this will become more integrated with the desktop in future releases. Paying 100 dollars for a license to do sideload my applications on _my_ machine is unacceptable, and isn't what made Windows flourish in the past. The locked down totalitarian and feudalistic nature that MS is headed in really is disgusting. It really just shows how worried they are about the irrelevancy of their product, therefore they are locking it down more, which is the exact reverse of what they are trying to achieve. I will NEVER EVER develop an application for this Orwellian store; I have already moved to Linux to write all my applications. Shame on you Microsoft.
    • They can't kill off win32

      When they did Metro, they didn't create a new subsystem... they bolted it on top of Win32 (understandable, as then they don't have to create all new plumbing for services that do the same thing.)
      • Yes They Can

        They can make Metro the only thing that runs on the machine. Sorry, but I don't want to jailbreak my desktop. Windows is going down the tubes; the Titanic is sinking.
        • No Windows

          Insisting on staying the course down the WinRT/Metro rabbit hole risks all. All Windows has right now is its (dwindling) legacy momentum and people are tired of trying to get work done on the platform despite this abberant detour.
          • LOL!

            You know what's an even bigger risk? Continuing to pump out a bloated, non-touch desktop OS every 2-3 years with minimal changes and improvements, while the world moves to tablets and smart phones. That is what idiots like you want Microsoft to do, and it is a certain death.

            PC sales, Microsoft biggest territory, is declining. It's not declining because of Windows 8. It's declining because Microsoft's customers are stuck in the 90s while the rest of the world is moving to touch devices like tablets and smart phones. It's not going to stop. The desktop is becoming less important as people realize they don't need it, and the people who like desktop are not upgrading to new operating systems.

            Microsoft is right to change the way they do things, because if they don't they are friggin' dead.
          • On The Mark

            You're right on the mark, as is Microsoft. I look forward to lightweight, but full-featured applications to run on my desktop. They will run quicker, and be more secure.

            Resisting change has never worked in any mode of technology, and it's both futile and fruitless to do so.
          • jhammackHTH -Agree with you!

            I had no problems dumping Android tablets in favor of Windows 8 & 8.1. Tablets with Windows full 8.1 are terrific. I think it takes a touch tablet to really learn it like I am on now. (HP Envy X2)

            All of the usual trolls will be here. If you can't pay, you can't play. No biz like MS can give you freebies for life.

            As far as all the self proclaimed developers and know it all's go saying what they would do, well, how is that really working out for you? Oh, sorry, you are not CEO of your own software company with your own better OS you wrote from scratch?

            Oh sorry, you can't do that can you?

            "Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits." - Mark Twain.
          • Yes A Terrific Tablet That Can't Play Movies

            Microsoft left out support for a number of video codecs. They also dropped support for there own browser extension -- Silverlight -- in Metro IE. At first I thought Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with Windows 8.1 Metro but after using a Surface Pro 2 with a Surface Pro 2 docking station for a couple of weeks I believed they aimed higher and shot themselves in both knees.

            I have been using and devleoping for Windows since 1.01 which ran on a two diskette PC. The great thing about the environment was the total intergration. Now Microsoft is going over to the Linux model. They call it an app store whereas Linux calls it a repository. In both cases you have to get basic functionality from multiple creators. The only difference is that Linux apps tend to be free wereas in the app store you either pay or get staturated with ads and usually have to give up your privacy as well because many of the apps call home.
          • One sane person

            Finally someone that makes sense! Thank you.

            It used to be that developers thought they knew everything, but then they realized they did not. So now what we do is release a little bit, wire it up so we can get user feedback, learn and then release the next little bit. It is happening everywhere. MS is busy doing this with Windows, a single and soon free OS that can go from desktop to tablet. So I can take my Asus T100 dock it and have a big screen desktop experience, plug it out and have a laptop experience, and detach and have a tablet experience. Metro apps are coming to the desktop.

            Looking at the progress that has been made, would not bet against them, would put my money on them. A lot of people actually are if you look at the share price.
          • LOLZ!

            The biggest risk? Microsoft thinking that deadheads like you will some how save them by taking command of the IT departments and talking all non Microsoft whores down. Time for you to realize Microsoft is ready to drop you clowns because SHILLS are not buying Microsoft anything.
          • Nobody cares about your trolling.

            Nobody cares that you dislike Microsoft because you're some shill for another billion dollar corporation that doesn't give a damn about you.

            So shut up and go pedal your BS somewhere else.
          • Desktop is needed

            Hm, I don't know a single software/firmware developer that does his work on a cell phone or a tablet. They may do some of their emails or look at a document but running compilers, debuggers, virtual machines and such require a more powerful machine with multiple monitors to be productive. There's a strong correlation between screen size and productivity when creating documents, spreadsheets and code. The low powered small screen phones and tablets just aren't appropriated device for full time development.
          • sasadler, the reason you don't know

            "a single software/firmware developer that does his work on a cell phone or a tablet" is because you don't know one with a Windows 8.1 tablet with USB 3.0 ports and separate power ports so they can use a regular full size wireless Desktop Keyboard and Mouse that run off a USB Logitech or other unified USB dongle receiver. That Windows tablet today runs on anything from 2.4 Atom quad cores to quad core i7s with 8GB of RAM and quad HD IPS screens. You didn't know that Adobe is making their photo and graphics program to be most compatible with the new MS tablets.

            What do your types do, live under a rock with the latest Apple products with parental controls. (Apple parental controls filter out Microsoft search results, and any non Apple hardware and OS references, and substitutes 30 year old stories of virus and blue screens and fud, oh my.) Gotta follow that yellow brick road and repeat three time there's no gear like Apple, there's no gear like Apple, while you click your ruby money clips together.

            I am on my Dell Venue 11 Pro now. Quad core Haswell 2.4 GHz System on a Chip, 64GB micro SD in the slot, 64GB SSD, IPS 1080p screen, free MS Office home and student preloaded, full size USB 3.0 port, mini HDMI port, great camera and dual band WiFi, and lots more like NFC, user replaceable battery, and on and on.

            I can put it on a stand and do anything I can on my desktop, a Dell XPS 2720 all in one i7 SSDboot drive with 2TB in back. Both print to my brother laser all in one network printer, as well as do scans wirelessly through the router because the Windows 8 full software suite is installed on both.

            I guess lots of folks spout what they have been exposed to here, which isn't a lot apparently. Lots of wannabe developers who don't even understand the new Post PC form factors. Why? Because they still believe Apple is in the lead from behind innovating the whole time by doing what has been done before. Android now owns 70% of the phone market, MS still has 95% or better of the enterprise market, and shares the server market with Linux derivatives. MS plays movies fine with any missing codecs provided by VLC media player free. Don't need an mp3 player because our tablets have SD card slots. Mine is 64GB big. How much memory does the iPod have again? Linux has our hardware, and oh, I almost forgot, Apple uses our hardware now too.
            What are you developers developing for? Palm Pilots? At least go out and try out some new devices at least to the point you can discuss them and sound like you work in this decade not the beginning of the last. I can understand the users who think MS just imitated Android and Apple with limited capabilities. MS tablets are as powerful at the top, or capable at entry level machines, as Apple macs and Macbooks, only better.
        • I doubt it'll come to that

          We're in the midst of some major changes with MS, so I expect some of the sideloading aspects will change. The thing to remember is that the management on the Modern UI is much cleaner than doing it on Windows without the sideloading ability. I've done both and deploying a Store of sorts with easy access to company apps is a simpler way of doing things and far more efficient. The current licensing structure is actually far cheaper than the labor cost to fix issues in traditional Windows.

          I also doubt Win32 is truly going anywhere for at least a decade. Microsoft does not force companies to turn on a dime like others do. This isn't the two year complete compatibility cut off that Apple did with PowerPC. Windows 7 and Windows 8 will be supported for a long while - as will Windows 9 when it hits. The Desktop and Win32 will still be there.

          My hunch is that Microsoft is aiming for a gradual and natural move to Modern, including shifting Office to be fully Modern apps. By allowing them to run in the Desktop windowed, they can now encourage all major apps to move there. I also think with the universal apps, they can build different front ends that can wisely determine if you're using mouse and keyboard or touch - and adapt.

          I see nothing changing any time soon for those that do traditional loads. But now you have new ways to manage devices and you can do it all from one place if you deploy phones, tablets, and desktops. I think MS has done a masterful job of creating management tools that give IT more control over device experience.
          Jeff Rickel
          • Yours truly,

            written by a Microsoft shill.
          • Cheers

            Written by a Linux Shill...
          • Actually

            I'm a BSD guy, moron.
          • Allrite, BSD shill:)

            nuf said.. rest in peace.. Ahole
          • "I'm a BSD guy, moron."

            a BSD guy and a moron -- here, I fixed it for you
          • Subject free

            Thinking of making a game, tell me what you think. It chooses a topic you are apparently not interested in and makes comments. It allows you to reply to these comments without censorship . Know you would be a fan, but are there others?