Microsoft: We aren't going to have three different versions of Windows

Microsoft: We aren't going to have three different versions of Windows

Summary: A Microsoft official confirms the company is planning to trim the number of different versions of Windows in its portfolio.


Microsoft currently has three different versions of Windows running on mobile devices. But Microsoft is working to reduce that number, Julie Larson-Green, Executive Vice President of Devices and Studios, confirmed in an interview last week.


At present, Microsoft offer plain-old Windows for Intel-based PCs and tablets. There's Windows RT for ARM-based PCs and tablets. And there's the Windows Phone OS for Windows Phones.

I reported earlier this year that one of my sources said Microsoft is planning to whittle this down to two versions, though possibly not until the spring of 2015.

Speaking at the UBS Global Technology Conference last week, Larson-Green confirmed Microsoft plans to reduce the number of Windows variants it has in its portfolio. She told attendees during a question and answer session the following:

"We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three. We do think there's a world where there is a more mobile operating system that doesn't have the risks to battery life, or the risks to security. But, it also comes at the cost of flexibility. So we believe in that vision and that direction and we're continuing down that path."

Larson-Green said Windows RT was Microsoft's "first go" at creating a turnkey, closed system, similar to iOS for the iPad. Like iOS, Windows RT isn't as flexible, she acknowledged, but it's more seamless and simplified.

"I think we didn't differentiate the devices (Surface RT vs. Surface Pro) well enough. They looked similar. Using them is similar. It just didn't do everything that you expected Windows to do. So there's been a lot of talk about it should have been a rebranding. We should not have called it Windows. How should we have made it more differentiated? I think over time you'll see us continue to differentiate it more," she said.

As I noted back in October, Microsoft seems to be thinking about creating some kind of hybrid OS that will bring closer together Windows RT and the Windows Phone OS. And at least according to one of my sources, it's more likely that the Windows Phone OS core is what Microsoft will use as the starting point, rather than Windows RT. If Microsoft is pursuing this path, there might just be full Windows and the new hybrid ARM-targeted variant of Windows in just over a year.

Larson-Green dropped a couple of other interesting tidbits during her UBS interview on November 21. She hinted that Microsoft is working towards a future where users may carry multiple kinds of phones or portable devices of some kind. she said that there could be a time when users have "three or four" phone-like devices they'll be able to switch between, using the one best suited to a particular scenario.

I have that six-inch one (presumably the Nokia 1520 or a device like it)," she said, "and when you're traveling on the train and you're using public transit so you can see more and do more, and then when you're out in the evening and you only have your suit, or your evening dress, you have a small one that slips in your pocket. You can buy more than one."

Microsoft is known to be working on wearable technology projects of various kinds, with devices sporting different kinds of sensors. 

Topics: Mobile OS, Microsoft, Tablets, ARM, PCs, Windows, Windows 8, 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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • This has been a long time coming...

    Windows Phone will merge with Windows on ARM (RT). My guess is it'll be a responsive OS that'll scale to both smartphone and tablet devices, share a single store, and it'll compliment Windows Pro, which will feature the larger legacy components of Windows, along with having access to the store like Windows 8.1 does today, and yes, still feature the Metro UI.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • No, this has been a short time coming

      RT has not been in the marketplace for very long at all. It's failure was rather fast.
      • It's too late. Windows on tablets has already failed

        Bumbling Ballmer mucked up. Badly.

        Remember a few years ago, CEO Ballmer was on stage telling everyone that Windows Phone should not be on a tablet. He said that tablets need a completely different OS.

        So he came out with Windows RT for tablets. It is an utter failure. A sales disaster.

        Now Windows RT for tablets joins the long list of failed Microsoft OSes (hello Kin). These failed OSes eroded confidence. Now everyone associates Microsoft mobile devices with failure.

        If Microsoft tries to get it right in 2015, nobody will be listening.

        Meanwhile, Android has taken the market.
        • I'd like to know what planet you're living on...

          ... Because it isn't Earth.
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • It's official: Surface RT is now dead

            It doesn't matter what you think about me...

            Microsoft's announcement is official.

            One of those OSes (Windows Phone or Surface RT) is going to be killed off. Then there will be one.

            It's not a merger. One will be killed.

            Now we can sit back and watch Christmas sales of Microsoft devices plummet.
          • And you got your information where ?

            Somebody at MS called you and told you about that great master plan? I don’t think so.

            I have the impression that what MS was trying to achieve with Windows RT and the Arm processors was to offer an alternative to consumer for a full-featured OS that could run New Design APPs as well as Office. They wanted to offer a tablet that would be more satisfying than an iPad for power tablet users with a desktop, a real file manager, that could browse a network, connect to USB devices, etc. Something that normal persons do with their computing devices but somehow not the Apple abductees who prefer to use a claustrophobic, proprietary device that requires additional connectors for everything and that acts like a money vacuum.

            The objectives of that Windows alternate version made no sense for phone devices that didn’t have the processing power or the screen size/resolution. 3 years ago, an Intel processor would have suck up all the battery of a Surface RT in less than 2 hours. They had to offer an alternative. Surface RT was the compromise.

            Now, four things happened since. 1. The phones got a lot better, 2. The X86 cpus now consume a lot less power, 3. MS finally realised that having 2 app stores makes no sense for the consumer, the developers or themselves. 4. The Windows app store is taking a lot more time than anticipated to fill-up. They need to react to these changes. One solution would be to MERGE Windows phone and the NEW Design part of Windows. They have to make the windows core very light and make it run anywhere and then, decide which features are offered on specific versions of it.

            In the meantime, I strongly recommend to MS to make the New Design runtime environment a download for Windows 7. That would boost the interest for developers to release New Design apps knowing that there are millions of additional users. New design apps could run in a Window. That was demonstrated.
          • Money Vacuum Cleaners...

            Could it be that the vacuum cleaner salesman was partially right?

            That "merging" looks like a dirty rug you so eloquently described above. I believe it originates in Cupertino and is despairingly recognized the world over as a so-called "iOS".

            I believe at the moment we're witnessing a phenomenon called "cleaning up" by the deceased salesman... and/or "cleaning up" after the retiring one, would you not agree?

            >>>One solution would be to MERGE Windows phone and the NEW Design part of Windows.
          • Microsoft is still waiting for customers to "Surface", and

            the market is not riding the Microsoft wave. Consumers have realized the absolute trash that Microsoft sells as product that the neither improve the stability of, nor work to treat customers with any care. Instead, they have all the same products which have been on the CERT security alerts for the past 10 years. The list of "problems" with these products is always the same. Program bugs involving buffer overruns, and other memory corruption allow remote systems to load software onto your computer that can do anything the user you are logged in can do.

            Consumers are done waiting for Microsoft. Many have experienced iOS, saw Mac's at the Apple store, bought those, and moved on. Others have found that having the internet on the phone is enough, and whether it's iOS or Android, they have no interest in Microsoft's Windows Phone platform.

            Practically, there is nothing to be gained. Surface Pro, comes with all the same virus and malware opportunities that you have on your other windows PC devices. So, how is that going to be a better user experience? I guess some people will find it convenient that it's a tablet that you can fit in the trashcan when it stops working.

            It's over for Microsoft! The Fat Lady is in the Limo, on her way to Washington State. After the Christmas season, we will see a huge decrease in the percentage Windows devices I'd bet. I don't hear people talking about the great new Windows XYZ device that they have their eyes on. People are standing in line at the Apple Stores waiting to get devices there, or they are surfing online, looking for good deals on Android phones/tablets.

            The mass of advertising that Microsoft is only now starting, demonstrates how far behind they know they are. We will be inundated with so much Microsoft advertising that people will just start ignoring it.
          • Keep dreaming!

            And come back here in a few years and repeat your drivel. Microsoft (as much as you'd wish) is NOT going anywhere except up (again).
          • If that were true, Microsoft would have ...

            ... killed off Windows RT with the Surface 2. They didn't because they have, for months, stated the intention to merge Windows Phone 8 with Windows RT. BTW, though a distant third, WP8 is already #3 by OS.
            M Wagner
          • Good Luck

            Hope you can find something better to do with your holiday season than focusing on the demise of a company which employs hundreds of thousands of people either directly or indirectly. Even Scrooge could do better.
          • already happening....

            I saw an ad for $180 surface RTs the other day.
          • Ok

            What planet was RT a resounding success on? Even a mediocre success? Not here, it was an abject failure, classed in with 'other' in market share.
        • Sounds like Vbitrate has it right

          Not sure what Microsoft can do at this point to correct things, but they better come out with something really good to get attention and pump up sales.
          • Vbitrate is right?

            I think he is too. Microsoft is going to do this, and Microsoft is going to do that. By the time Microsoft gets their OS in order, the race will be over. The phone race is pretty much already over, certainly in the USA. Microsoft has seen it's peak and now it's headed in the other direction. They need to adopt Linux as their OS. They need treat their legacy software as legacy software. They need to innovate and define new products and markets. Will they? No. They'll keep on milking their cash cows until they're dead. Think about this: Amazon sells more tablets than Microsoft. Amazon for Pete's sake. Amazon isn't even a technology company! So what kind of company is Microsoft? They're a joke. A joke company. Heading for extinction.
          • So take the unrelated and use that as a metric of failure?

            Repread your post. If you still don't understand after the third time, maybe someone will explain it to you.

            For now, we'll let you have the moment to yourself... :)
          • The parrot speaks!

            Come on "FrankInKy", Be honest for a change.

            If you can. ;)
        • Fail?

          Sorry, no, they have just gotten to the point that they are competitive. I expect them to take off this year and start a significant growth. They are going to cost less than the iPad, and be better than the android tablets. Developers are just getting interested in writing apps because they are just starting to be a reasonable buy.
        • Never too late for MS

          As long as they are the dominant force on home and work desktops as well as enterprise servers they'll always have an opening.
          new gawker
          • Dominant force in home and office.

            That's laugh worthy, lets cram a touch centric OS down the throats of workstation and home desktops users.

            Sounds like they really have a plan in place to "dominate" the ONLY reason they dominate anything is the current migration to Windows 7 in the work environment.

            If they fail to produce something usable in the next generation OS. I wouldn't call that dominance, as much as a last gasp from a fallen giant.