Who (if anyone) will build a 7-inch tablet running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system?

Who (if anyone) will build a 7-inch tablet running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system?

Summary: It's now technically and legally possible to build a 7-inch tablet running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. Will any OEM — including Microsoft — do so?


Windows Phone 8.1 Update (1) includes a number of under-the-hood features. 

Among them are new screen resolution options that enable the Windows Phone OS to run on devices that are under seven inches. There also is now the ability to build Windows Phone devices that don't incorporate the radio — i.e., the phone — functionality, as Myce.com noted in an August 8 blog post. (The full list of Update 1 features are available on this Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1 documentation page.)

The new 7-inch screen size combined with the ability to omit the phone, at least in theory, means that some OEM could build a 7-inch tablet running the Windows Phone OS. This was not possible from a licensing and/or technology standpoint before Windows Phone 8.1 Update (1), which Microsoft made available in developer preview form on August 4.

Some may recall that a number of us Microsoft watchers were lamenting that Microsoft itself didn't build a line of tablets running the Windows Phone OS.

Supposedly, one of the reasons Microsoft didn't want the Windows Phone OS on tablets was because it wanted to take advantage of the larger Windows ecosystem. 

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The thinking was that the existing pool of Windows apps would be more interesting and stable than the pool of Windows Phone apps. (Microsoft execs also had decided to make Windows RT its Windows-on-ARM-tablet offering and needed to try to get developers onboard to back that play.)

The bigger pool of apps argument sort of made sense if you were talking about Intel-based tablets which were/are able to run Win32 apps in the Desktop. But it didn't in regards to ARM-based tablets, which can run only Windows Store/Metro-Style/modern apps other than Microsoft Office and a few other Microsoft-specific apps.

As of the end of June, there were more than 300,000 Windows Phone apps available in the Windows Phone Store, according to Microsoft (and reported first by WPCentral.com). Comparatively, there are more than 155,000 Windows Store/Metro-Style/modern apps in the Windows Store.

I've heard rumors that Microsoft has experimented internally with the idea and feasibility of putting the Windows Phone OS on tablets. But when I've asked around about the likelihood of such a device coming to market, folks have thrown cold water on the idea. There might be a 7-inch Windows Phone phablet/phone coming from one or more of its OEMs, they suggest. But a Windows Phone OS tablet? Less likely, I hear — especially given where Microsoft is going with Threshold, a k a Windows 9, in terms of bringing Windows Phone OS and Windows on ARM together.

I wonder if any of Microsoft's current or future OEM partners might bite the bullet and be first with a Windows Phone OS tablet. Would you be interested in such a device, readers? Why/why not?

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Tablets, 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).

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  • Not me - Silly idea

    The Windows Phone Home screen is a delight, but the second, Apps List page is plain ugly. We need Grouping and/ or Folders, and different Sorts, as per proper Windows Start Screen with a Horizontal Panorama scroll.

    But Windows Phone has lost all its Hubs and User centric charm since the great Windows Phone 7 for the sake of excessive Apps centric approach. Little different from OS or Android now. time to kill off Windows Phone, and replace by Windows RT.
    • Not sure what hubs were lost

      except that the apps list now includes games. But there still is a games hub (xbox games; which still includes xbox and non-xbox games). There still is a contacts hub and you can select which social contacts to show in the hub.
    • Guess you aren't in the Preview for Developer program?

      ...or read any news about the update for Windows Phone 8.1? The "Update" includes "Live Folders", the implementation of which is excellent. It really works well. You can obviously group similar types of apps, name the folder, and each tile in the folder remains a Live Tile, if you want them to be. The tiles in the folder can be different sizes, just like on the main Start Screen. The folder itself can be any of the three sizes, so you could have a small Live Folder that expands to display a bunch of Wide Live Tiles, vice versa, or any combination.
      • I do have Live Folders - But No they are not Hubs

        Yes I am a Developer, with over 2.4 Million Apps download to my name. And no Live Folders is NOT a substitute for the integrated WP7 Hubs experience.

        And the XBox Music has a log way to go to be as good as Zune in WP7, which is pretty sad, considering how critical Music players need to be to compete in SmartPhone space. The failure of Xbox Music, is one of the reasons that WP8 phone sales are declining.
    • silly idea?

      WP8.1 Update brings folders to the table, and they work quite well. But I agree that it would be super helpful to have a list sorting mechanism similar to Win8.1 where we could sort by most used, newest, alphabetical, etc. But that couldn't be that difficult to implement right?
    • Better WP than RT

      Windows Phone is ahead of Windows RT. It supports swype/shapewriting, the auto-correct/suggestions are 100x better than what's in RT (or Windows 8 running on something like the Dell Venue Pro 8), there's a better app selection, 8.1 Update 1 supports folders and you don't have to keep ending up on the desktop for some reason.

      I'll give you that the app list is better in RT/Windows 8, but for most other functions on a mobile device/tablet, Windows Phone is ahead of Windows 8 by a long way.

      As a matter of fact, my fear is that the Windows team ends up shoving their crappy keyboard and suggestions into WP and not the other way around.
      • Better RT than WP

        Windows RT is ahead of Windows Phone. It supports better contracts between apps (so something like OneDrive or Box is available to all apps without individually logging into each app)

        Sure, there's less apps than Windows Phone, but the ones that are there are far more robust. Apps support files by default, we don't need to wait until all of the developers update all of their apps for file support if we want something other than OneDrive as a workaround. That especially includes Microsoft's own apps (Email?!). Metro IE is so much better on Windows RT than IE on Windows Phone. And Office on Windows Phone? 100% worthless. For most functions on a mobile device/tablet, Windows Phone is far, far behind Windows RT.

        And compared to the Action Center, the charms bar is far more convenient for things like changing brightness, screen rotation lock, Wifi network, the OS allows for printing and scanning, multiple monitors. As a matter of fact, my fear is that the Windows Phone team ends up shoving their phone-based UI designs onto a paradigm they just don't work on. (Example: when the charms bar goes away, I'm sure we'll end up with a swipe from the top notification thing like IE, iOS, and Android... except that is actually a bad user interaction on larger devices.)
  • iTouch Competitors

    Microsoft is finally opening up to having iTouch competing devices that are basically phones without a carrier attached to them. So, anyone that just wants a smart mp3 player complete with apps, games, web browsing, email, social, etc. can get it without paying a monthly phone bill.
    • But wasn't that Zune?

      The market for media players has been nose diving for years though.
      • Yes it was...

        But unlike Zune, WP is capable of a lot more. It is easier to support an MP3 player when you can reuse hardware and software from larger and more capable devices. In fact it can be used as a way to recoup product losses.

        For example, lets say you just happen to have warehouses full of small-ish rectangular devices that never quite made it into production. Those devices could then have WP installed on them and be sold as media players... now if only we could think of a company with warehouses full of 7" portable devices that never made it to market...
      • Zune was not WP

        WP can be on super cheap hardware that really works well. The 630 or 520 would make great game and music devices. I have one for my kid. We're talking $79 for a pretty awesome mp3 player.
        A Gray
    • always wondered why no one else did this

      I love the iPod touch - use it as a pocket tablet. Surprised no one else plays in this market.
  • Why not RT?

    Why wouldn't you build such a device running RT?
    • RT is Dead.

      Because RT is dead. Its on its way out. Atom based tablets beat the crap out of the RT units. I will never buy another RT unit. They can make a version of office that is flexible for the devices just as Apple programmers do and Android programmers do. People mostly use tablets for media consumption and the WP8 OS does that perfectly well. Perhaps if they had tablets they could get more traction from developers. A Nexus like device from MS featuring the Windows Phone 8 OS.
      • I agree

        It was when the atom tablets came out that I actually bought a small 8" one. Everything I can run at work or on the laptop can also be used on that. I'm not sure why anyone would want the RT version. Although mostly it just gets used as a smartglass remote touch screen for the Xbox. It's not a very productive gadget.
        Buster Friendly
      • Windows RT

        I upgraded from a Windows RT tablet to a Windows 8 Atom Z2760 tablet and there is a noticeable difference in performance.
        Pollo Pazzo
      • Here's the thing.

        As long as Windows tablets have to rely on legacy software and the desktop, they will never be competitive with Android or iPad. Why? Because the desktop and legacy Win32 software is absolute garbage on a tablet. They weren't built for tablets, they don't have the UI for tablets, they're more bloated, less efficient, and less secure than modern apps, which means virus software and worse battery life. All of this is even worse on a small tablet, and none of this is ever going to improve. We can only hope the most important Win32 software will become modern, sandboxed apps.

        Nobody with any sense wants to deal with the traditional issues of Windows on a tablet. That's why Windows RT is vastly superior as a tablet OS than full Windows.
        • non technical gibberish

          The only problem with win32 apps is they haven't usually been targeted for touch.

          But touch has been available as pointer input for many years, on win32. There is no reason an app targeting win32 can't do touch friendly XAML using WPF with battery conscious coding.... I've done it myself for a point of sale front end.

          People speak of metro as though it were magical - it isn't. It is a thin veneer that itself rides above win32 (and is not its own subsystem) and isn't inherently imbued with any magical properties you can't also use in standard win32.
    • No room for both Windows Phone and Windows RT

      Personally, I think Windows Phone and Windows RT should become one-and-the-same. Just like there is one iOS for phones and tablets, there should be one Windows (called something new, not "Phone" or the monumentally stupid "RT") for all Windows mobile devices. The merged OS needs to be much better than the "RT" we have come to despise. It probably needs to run minimally modified Android apps. At that point, a tablet running it will make sense. Until then, no.
      • They Are Merging

        As a developer I get the impression that they are merging Windows RT and Windows Phone. They will not say it but under the hood it looks like they are. I would really like to see Mary Jo Foley comment on this.