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.
        • 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?
          • Linux Shill

            You and SJVN would be best friends.
          • Not just yet

            Allowing Metro apps to run in Windows is a good way to encourage desktop users to run the occasional Metro app. That can't be bad for Microsoft's app store.

            But that's a far cry from that thing alone enabling professional applications written in Metro. Professional applications need windowing support WITHIN the application. I need to be able to tear off an Altium schematic page or Chrome Web page, etc. as a separate thing... windows optimize complex, multi-application workflows.

            They also need to allow compilers. For code development, certainly, but not just code development. Much as you find JITs for Javascript in any modern web browser, you find all sorts of JITs used within professional applications these days. No one's going to support running slower just for the dubious honor of being Microsoft Store compliant.

            And the store has to be an option at best. The relationship between me and vendors of my professional software is a direct one, and adding Microsoft (and their 30% take) in-between offers absolutely no advantage to either software developers or their clients.
          • Windows 8 economics abysmal for partners

            The big deficiency with MS' strategy, is the economics of apps in its stores. It is abysmal. If MS is going to have an ecosystem, the fundamentals need to be good, or what it will have, is a bubble. In the Android ecosystem, virtually no one makes any money, because value is driven out of everything, and there is intense competition. Even Samsung's revenue trajectory appears to be going downwards. Now this the behavior MS is aping. If MS continues down the road of embracing Open Source and free software, it will completely devastate its own ecosystem, because these things drive value out of its ecosystem, making it no longer worthwhile for developers and other partners to participate. It is bad enough that the prices of apps in its Windows / WP stores are super low to nothing, MS goes and zeroes the price of its OS for many of its newest Windows form factors, driving customers' expectations of computer hardware and software prices through the floor. Google created an economic mess with its Android OS, but now MS is following it. People think tech companies are all about tech. No. Tech companies are actually more about economics, and I don't think MS gets the economic environment it needs to foster, for its ecosystem to survive and thrive.

            MS' Windows 8 developer ecosystem, which appears to be its future, is going through a crisis. It CANNOT support real (non-bubble type) growth, because of horrible prices. MS' critical power / business user constituents will never accept Windows 8, until they see great, rich apps and great hardware support. These things are simply not going to happen if MS does not address the dearth of value present in its Windows 8 / WP ecosystem. (I'd suggest solutions, but I doubt MS would listen to them.)
            P. Douglas
          • I'd like to know those solutions you speak of..

            Now, what I really like about Win8.1, is that I have my Metro apps. GTA San Andreas is awesome with its touch enabling. I also have the desktop ecosystem so I can draft building, grading, development plans with my AutoCAD, that isn't too friendly with touch. In my mind, that's the easiest way to make the distinction. Metro is much more touch oriented (although I never had an issue with mouse and keyboard when I upgraded my desktop), while the desktop mode is home for mouse and keyboard work, eg, AutoCAD, Reason, PhotoShop, Corel, etc... Metro for play/consumption, Desktop for work. What is probably the tits though is that I'm able to type this out inside the Bing News app, lying down on my couch, using touch, although I have a full keyboard on my Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 10, while also streaming and catching up on Chicago Fire, Blue Bloods, Rake, Game of Thrones, Family Guy, or whatever. that I send to my TV with the baked in Project To feature, then, with out missing a beat, soon as I'm done typing, in fact, go back to designing this barn I'm in the middle of designing in AutoCAD, on the desktop. With Win8.1, I essentially have the ability to have one device that can easily take the place of two, if not three. Remember, Metro=touch/play/consumption. Desktop=business, as in getting down to. I went off a little bit, I know, but....
          • LOL! So when someone refutes what you imagine, Stilbe

            They become a Microsoft Shill?

            How is that? because you actually believe you're the expert on this, and anyone who disagrees has to be an MS shill, because the alternative would have you admitting that you're wrong?

            talk about an undeserved ego...
          • Don't worry William.

            Your reputation and the One, the only real Microsoft shill will remain. But sorry to say, you are not the only. There are several Microsoft paid to post folks on this board. You are probably the least interesting though. So you may have won an award after all.
        • Do you have any real information that gives credibility to your claims?

          Right now it looks like you jumped off a ship near Florida, because you think there might be an iceberg nearby.

          Microsoft is making changes so that Metro apps can be run on the desktop. Why do that if they are going to kill the desktop as you suspect.


          Don't FUD.
          • You obviously aren't a developer

            and I am not going to give you a lesson on the architecture of Windows. Pinning a Metro app to the taskbar has NOTHING to do with what I am talking about!
          • hey shill

            Calm down, relax and get back to working on linux.. nobody is looking for your inputs here, since u have already moved on to linux..
            For the other folks: Yes, Microsoft, is doubling down on "Universal" modern apps and desktop.. Basically, desktop is not going to go away any time soon.. prrof? Look soon for a new version of WPF...