Microsoft working on unified app platform across its operating systems


Microsoft may soon have a common platform for apps across its operating system ecosystems.

Microsoft uses a common interface style across its operating systems on Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox, but the company has yet to unify its app ecosystem. That could soon change, however, according to statements made by the man now overseeing the company's operating systems.

At the company's financial analyst meeting Thursday, Terry Myerson, who was recently named the head of Microsoft's operating systems division, implied Microsoft may soon work toward a common app platform for all its operating systems.

In outlining his "three key beliefs" for how Microsoft's operating systems should work, Myerson said the company's operating system groups have been working together for the past two months.

"The first of those [beliefs] is that we really should have one silicon interface for all of our devices," he said. "We should have one set of developer APIs on all of our devices. And all of the apps we bring to end users should be available on all of our devices."

Myerson went on to say apps should be tailored to a specific device, noting that Microsoft wants "to facilitate the creation of a common – a familiar – experience across all of those devices, but a fundamentally tailored and unique experience for each device." Microsoft already has several APIs in place that are shared across its operating systems, though Myerson said the company "should have one set of developer APIs on all of our devices."

One of the main criticisms of Microsoft's mobile strategy has been the lack of a common store between Windows tablets and Windows Phone products. While Myerson didn't say outright that a unified store would come to its operating systems, his statements seemed to foreshadow its inevitability.

Another point Myerson made was the importance of cloud services in the company's apps and operating systems. Microsoft will use its Azure cloud computing infrastructure more heavily going forward, he said.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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Same here.

When MS was developing RT and posting all kinds of blogs about it, people were already questioning these issues.
Also the RT name/SDK was found to be confusing for customers and programmers alike. What happened? The commenters were right ;-P

It doesn't make any sense to have 3 separate OS's.

For ARM tablets, phones and phablets there's RT/Metro (+ phone addon). The phone addon should pick up phone specific app calls <no pun intended>
Oh... no desktop on these things anymore.

And for Intel tablets there's W8+RT/Metro.

Program 1 app, and it will run on all.

Problem solved I would say... ;-)

I cannot understand why they didnt do this in the first place, untill something is unified they are going to continually lose customer base.

Presumably they wanted to release something that works rather than put Window RT/8 and Windows Phone on hold while they work on a unified solution. It's a real shame to have two stores and to have to buy apps twice and it's a pain for developers to have to make multiple versions of their apps but you know what they say, Rome wasn't built in a day.

I meant windows runtime, but windows RT as a phone-os would also be a solution.
Because it has gotten a little silent around windows phone I guess they already picked one of these strategies.

LegendaryRamzi said,
Just put winRT on WP9 and you are really close.

Nice, but its not needed,. It would be easier in the short term to extend RT to run WP8 apps.

Deviate_X said,

Nice, but its not needed,. It would be easier in the short term to extend RT to run WP8 apps.

You could do that but they'd be limited in how they look, basically they'd be running in a app-v type VM/emulator. Besides, can they scale past what the max res of the WP devices are right now? Remember when the iPad first came out and it only ran upscaled iPhone apps because they didn't have any native iPad apps yet? Those just looked all sorts of wrong on a bigger screen.

Now, metro apps by default tend to scale just fine but I don't know how well that applies to phone apps or just big Windows 8/RT apps. Still, if all you get is a snapped 1/3rd type view of a phone app on your tablet/PC that'd be a nice thing for many people I bet.

LegendaryRamzi said,
I meant windows runtime, but windows RT as a phone-os would also be a solution.
Because it has gotten a little silent around windows phone I guess they already picked one of these strategies.

WinRT, the runtime, is already on the phone, the problem is that it's WinPRT as in Phone RunTime and not the full desktop RT. So things are the same, maybe like 90% or so, but that last 10% (just guessing on the split btw) is different between the two. Still, if you can code for one you can code for the other, it's just extra work for now.

You are correct gp007, but 90% seems optimistic. Instead of the winrt xaml framework on winrt, you have silverlight 3.5ish on winprt. That makes it impossible to make 1 app for both platforms, and very annoying to share code.

A "Steam" for Windows software would be fantastic.

I have legal program installers and license info. all over the place. Would be lovely to keep it all together, have it all available to download in one location, have easier access to updates etc.

King Mustard said,
A "Steam" for Windows software would be fantastic.

I have legal program installers and license info. all over the place. Would be lovely to keep it all together, have it all available to download in one location, have easier access to updates etc.

If win32 developers want to host their apps on the windows store for a small fee and let the OS handle them like it does metro apps already then there's no reason why this isn't possible, even now. But so far they're only letting you list your desktop app for free but it's no on the Windows Store servers.

That could all change, and I see no reason why it wouldn't be used by developers if the cost is small.

wrack said,
Was bound to happen. W10 would be too late. W9 would be the choice is it is up to me.

Pretty sure this will happen at the end of 2014

HighwayGlider said,
Seems too big to be done by EOY14.

Not really, RT 8.1 can already run on 8" and maybe as low as 7" devices, WP8 GDR3 will support up to 6 and maybe even 7" devices so they're already pretty close as far as hardware support goes. It's not hard to see the next version of RT and WP just be RT for everything from 8" down to 4" phones. THey'll still call it Windows Phone probably, from a branding perspective but it's going to be Windows RT really.

HighwayGlider said,
Seems too big to be done by EOY14.

W8.1 is done.
WP8.1 will be done soon.
XBO is done.

From now to next one year, what will they work on? Refining them even more? both 8.1 are the refinement already. All the major tasks for w/wp/xbo are already done.

Now the major thing they will focus is the merge.

Also, this is how they will name these I believe:

Windows 9 - for phones and arm devices (wp + wrt)
Windows 9 Pro - for x86 devices (wp(!) + wrt + win32)

Being able to buy a metro app once and then use it across phone, pc, tablet and xbox would be a really cool thing.

Crimson Rain said,

For devs too because they will be able to target users of 3 platforms using one development.

Right, the target market automatically expands and your development time and costs shrink. Still what smart developers can do is code some extra device specific features and recharge users for that to get some more money out of it.

Crimson Rain said,

For devs too because they will be able to target users of 3 platforms using one development.

Only if you develop your app for the lowest common denominator and don't attempt to harness the strengths of the respective platforms, then yes, you are expanding your market with minimal cost incursion.

However, all four platforms are very distinct and have different input methods, as well as vastly different potentials. If your app is to harness these differing platforms to their full potential, then this is going to cost the developer a bit more because there are a multitude of differing requirements to developing a native solution that works across all platforms that feels right, rather than an afterthought.

Consider the platforms for example:
Xbox One
* Utilises a controller and/or Kinect for navigation.
* Very powerful.
* Text input is a pain (Ignoring the chat keyboard accessory here).
* Often has a huge screen with imprecise selections. This means most items need to be rather large if using thumbsticks.
* Input most likey to be limited to sequential navigation.
* Almost purely consumption based.
* Not sure about pricing, but it wouldn't be at PC levels. I'd wager tablet or lower levels.

Tablet
* Needs to be optimised for touch; Keyboard + mouse input optional extra, but not mandatory; controller optional extra.
* Often less powerful than the PC.
* Text input can be a pain.
* Can't be too dense, otherwise the hit area is too small.
* Smaller screens, though often large enough to be comfortable for use.
* Mostly consumption based, though has sufficient scope for production.
* App pricing often expected to be closer to phone pricing, though can be higher. Typically not as expensive as PC applications.

PC
* Keyboard + mouse input; Touch optional extra; controller optional extra.
* Very powerful.
* Text input excellent.
* High levels of precision available, so items can be densely packed. Sparsely packed items waste space.
* Large screens available.
* Acceptable pricing can be significantly higher than most other platforms, depending on functionality and purpose.

Phone
* Touch is virtually only input method (Ignoring stylus' for this purpose).
* Least powerful of all platforms.
* Text input is often a pain.
* Very small screens.
* Virtually pure consumption.
* UI cannot be dense; must be highly simplified compared to other platforms, else user may get lost, or be unable to actually use the application.
* Consumers conditioned to only pay next to nothing for apps.

This is a quick list, but as you can see, there are a multitude of variations each platform brings that a developer must cater for. This costs the developer more money for extra platforms, in order to ensure the strengths of each one are properly utilised by the application. They must also actively support and maintain the application on the platforms, which costs further. Pricing of apps have been so firmly ingrained in consumers minds that if it costs more than a few dollars, it's often not purchased. If consumers see a price approaching what is realistic for universal platform support, they're most likely going to be unwilling to purchase it, even if it works on every platform.
What happens if the consumer demands a price reduction because they're only using it on one platform? This is also an inevitability.

Conversely, if developers can only expect to receive a few dollars at most from a consumer for their app (Buy once, use everywhere), they may not even bother releasing it on the other platforms, or may not even bother maximising the potential of the other platforms, because there's no incentive to do so. Essentially, pick a platform to target as your primary platform, but allow all others, and if it sucks on the others, well, that's life.

When you pay per platform, you're actively supporting the developer's efforts to port the application to that platform. To demand universal platforms, but pay once, and no doubt expect to pay phone app pricing, would end in disaster.

Edited by Ideas Man, Sep 27 2013, 2:21pm :

I blame this on Sinofsky, who wouldn't collaborate with other divisions (incl. Windows Phone). If they had this vision, when they first designed/built the Windows Store in Win8 they should have based it on the same infrastructure (i.e. same Store...etc), rather than building an entirely new one. Especially given Win8 and WP8 had the same timeline, same core... etc. A missed opportunity to do things properly.

I believe it's already said that the Xbox one will be able to use the same apps you make for windows 8, you just compile/publish them do Xbox one in VS instead

"Windows RT" will soon be known as "Windows." What we now know as "Windows 8" (with the desktop) will eventually be retired... probably by Windows 10. In the meantime, anything with the desktop will probably become "Pro"--sort of like Coke "Classic."

RT is going to become more and more powerful, and it's going to power phones, tablets, laptops... and eventually desktops... all by itself.

-adrian- said,
That is something that should have been done with the introduction of WP8 W8 and Xbone

It's interesting that you use the obvious contractions for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 yet use 'Xbone' instead of 'X1'. It just strikes me as rather immature, as it's obviously used to make a statement rather than for brevity.

cybersaurusrex said,
"Windows RT" will soon be known as "Windows." What we now know as "Windows 8" (with the desktop) will eventually be retired... probably by Windows 10. In the meantime, anything with the desktop will probably become "Pro"--sort of like Coke "Classic."

RT is going to become more and more powerful, and it's going to power phones, tablets, laptops... and eventually desktops... all by itself.

We'll already be old by then.

-adrian- said,
That is something that should have been done with the introduction of WP8 W8 and Xbone

Quite right. All these platforms run .net which is meant to make cross-platform easy! Its incredible that they actually released Windows Rt without the ability to run WP7/WP8 apps!

Edited by Deviate_X, Sep 20 2013, 1:26pm :

theyarecomingforyou said,

It's interesting that you use the obvious contractions for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 yet use 'Xbone' instead of 'X1'. It just strikes me as rather immature, as it's obviously used to make a statement rather than for brevity.

It reveals a lot about a persons age and maturity if they actually write or say "Xbone." Don't even continue to read comments from people who think that is funny.

So.. please guess my age maturity and please my mother tongue. also please explain why xbone has a negative impact on you. because of boner? or maybe it is a way of saying xb one. or maybe you are all just having father issues with that word. probably yes. are you fanboys said if someone uses this word? oh boy. hope i will not get one of those fanboys when my XBox One arrives at home.

Avatar Roku said,
It reveals a lot about a persons age and maturity if they actually write or say "Xbone." Don't even continue to read comments from people who think that is funny.

Nailed it.

I agree, RT it definitely the way forward. It's surprising Just how many people do not have the foresight to see this is the case!

Avatar Roku said,

It reveals a lot about a persons age and maturity if they actually write or say "Xbone." Don't even continue to read comments from people who think that is funny.

Good example here of too much political correctness in society. Honestly, who cares if someone calls it Xbone or not? I've only used it because it's an acronym and never thought it was funny or demeaning. In that case, we minds well go after "iSheep," "Fanboys", and the like.

So what does Xbone show about my maturity? Give me a hint. What does Xbone show about someones maturity. You are so superfical and telling me something about maturity.

theyarecomingforyou said,

It's about maturity, not political correctness.

I disagree. What about Xbone demonstrates immaturity? It's a acronym for Pete's sake.

briangw said,
I disagree. What about Xbone demonstrates immaturity? It's a acronym for Pete's sake.

Most acronyms are condensed to their shortest form. In this case that could be XO, XBO, X1 or XB1, which would be in keeping with the acronyms used for other consoles (X360, PS3, etc). The term Xbone is immature since it is used to create a completely unrelated word (i.e. X-bone).

If you want to pretend that it's not immature then go ahead but you're not fooling anybody.

theyarecomingforyou said,

Most acronyms are condensed to their shortest form. In this case that could be XO, XBO, X1 or XB1, which would be in keeping with the acronyms used for other consoles (X360, PS3, etc). The term Xbone is immature since it is used to create a completely unrelated word (i.e. X-bone).

If you want to pretend that it's not immature then go ahead but you're not fooling anybody.

shortest form? Join the military, acronyms are often not that short. Xbone, xb1, XO, they're all acronyms. I called my Xbox 360, xb360. So this fits just as well. Maybe not official but acronyms nonetheless. Seeing how you have yet to prove to me that this is immature because you haven't stated any supported facts to justify that it is immature (and subsequently change my mind), your argument holds no basis.

HawkMan said,
Ummm no it's not, XBO Is an acronym.

No, that's not an acronym. Acronyms can be pronounced like a regular word (NASA, RAM). If you need to pronounce individual letters to say it (FBI, CIA), then it's an initialism.

Most of the abbreviations you guys have called acronyms here are in fact not acronyms, but initialisms.

HawkMan said,
well XBO is just as pronouncable as XBOne, only one is longer.

and you still need to have the XBO capitalized


Both of those are abbreviations, but not acronyms.