Steve Ballmer confirms that Windows 8 is coming to phones [Update]

It has been speculated for some time that Microsoft would deliver Windows 8 to all of the devices in its portfolio. At the annual shareholder meeting, Steve Ballmer said "We are driving Windows down to the phone with Windows 8" according to Business Insider

The unification of all of Microsoft's many platforms has been speculated for years. But, this new information from Ballmer would, on the surface, indicate that Windows 8 will be deployed across nearly all of its platforms to create one, massive, ecosystem.

BI speculates that this does not mean that the next version of Windows Phone will look exactly like Windows 8 that we know today, it most likely means that the two platforms will share the same NT kernel. 

This move should make it easier to port applications from the desktop to the phone environment as Microsoft will only have to maintain one kernel for its various platforms. Of course, this could all be retracted by Microsoft much like they did with Ballmer's last big reveal that the next version of Windows will be called Windows 8

[Update] It appears that it was a closely worded section of Ballmer's speech that gave the misinformation. The transcript, from BI, is posted below:

We've got broad Windows initiatives, driving Windows down to the phone with Windows 8, you'll see incredible new form factors powered by Windows, from tablets, small, large, pens, smaller, bigger, room-sized displays.

The pause in the speech or no pause in his speech is what caused the confusion. While hopes may be dashed, we doubt this will be the last we hear about this topic. 

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Whether they move to the NT kernel for WP8 or not is fairly irrelevant at this point, as the upper level subsystem will probably not change much. Microsoft would probably still keep the .NET and Silverlight based UI and XNA interface for WP.

NT at the core would open up more opportunities for Microsoft to add more functionality by exposing more upper level constructs without the isolation model that is needed in the current generation for security. But that doesn't mean they would go this direction. The main advantages would be the richer audio/video/networking stacks and security as needed as the platform evolves.

Windows Phone will someday be using the NT kernel, but how soon is the real question and how much additional upper layer functionality Microsoft wants to provide on the phone, as NT would allow the subsystems that most people 'see' as Windows today to run on the devices, but whether this is a good idea or not is another debatable subject.

NT and WinCE will converge before long, as WinCE shares parts of it architecture from NT. The HAL model, NT's object oriented kernel model, etc. However, WinCE is not as rich as NT, especially when it comes to security and more advanced computational architecture models.

As processing power has increased in the past few years, NT is now a viable option, that when WinCE was designed wasn't possible to get NT on a tiny processor with 2-4mb of RAM running well.

With forks leading up to Vista and Win7, the MinWin project restructured NT, and it has been revised back to strict matrix layering, and it can be segregated in ways to provide very basic functionality without dependence on upper layer systems as NT 4/2K/XP needed. This makes the footprint and performance options for NT very light and fast, more like WinCE, yet with the base things that make it NT.

(As NT exists now, even in the Win7 fork, it can be broken apart to a very tiny footprint that is smaller and faster kernel than Linux, which says something for the flexibility NT offers.)

I think Ballmer tried and failed to announce a unified approach to the next version of Windows.

We've already seen various different SKU's of the same "version" of Windows since Windows XP (tablet edition, starter edition, embedded etc etc).

And for the record, it's about time they did it!

Microsoft needs to do something about the lack of apps for Windows mobile phones, that's what is killing them. Android and iPhone have plenty, Microsoft is meh. Nobody wants to develop for them, not sure why. They need to start an incentive program. You always see websites "get our free mobile app!" and it's always for iPhone and Android, no Windows. That my primary reason for switching to Android for my next phone anyways :\

/blog

no-sweat said,
Microsoft needs to do something about the lack of apps for Windows mobile phones, that's what is killing them. Android and iPhone have plenty, Microsoft is meh. Nobody wants to develop for them, not sure why. They need to start an incentive program. You always see websites "get our free mobile app!" and it's always for iPhone and Android, no Windows. That my primary reason for switching to Android for my next phone anyways :\

/blog

Why would anyone want to develop for windows mobile, we got windows phone. Big difference.

no-sweat said,
Microsoft needs to do something about the lack of apps for Windows mobile phones, that's what is killing them. Android and iPhone have plenty, Microsoft is meh. Nobody wants to develop for them, not sure why. They need to start an incentive program. You always see websites "get our free mobile app!" and it's always for iPhone and Android, no Windows. That my primary reason for switching to Android for my next phone anyways :\

/blog


There is certainly not a lack of apps for WP7. It's still only a year old so of course it won't have as many apps as iOS and Android. However most of the really popular apps already exist for WP7. And I can't see how MS could give more incentive than they're already doing. They're doing a fantastic job, but getting the attention of developers is going to take time.

no-sweat said,
Microsoft needs to do something about the lack of apps for Windows mobile phones, that's what is killing them. Android and iPhone have plenty, Microsoft is meh. Nobody wants to develop for them, not sure why. They need to start an incentive program. You always see websites "get our free mobile app!" and it's always for iPhone and Android, no Windows. That my primary reason for switching to Android for my next phone anyways :\

/blog

The WP7 Apps 'need' is growing, as companies are seeing the necessity to provide WP7 Apps that weren't even considering it just six months ago.

As for functionality, there are few core Apps missing from WP7 that the other platforms are able to offer right now, and WP7 is young in the App world. Skype being the biggest missing piece, and with Microsoft now in control of Skype, it will happen for sure.

WP7 is easy to develop for, and the developers that have taken on WP7 are finding that they are making good money from WP7 as the advertising model for free Apps provides more income than iOS or Android, and the paid Apps see a higher rate of return with the try/buy model than Android, and almost as high as iOS if not higher in some circumstances.

The Android App development area is hurting by the overrun of Apps and the copy cat Apps that Google lets be deployed unchecked. This is why Android developers can't count on sales, as often copycat versions of Apps appear in a few days that are free or because the original coding came from OSS is available to be mimicked for free. This is what has keep the big names from developing for Android, and will eventually kill off a lot of developers that are not just providing an App that combines with other services, like a DirecTV app for example that they don't intend to derive any revenue from.

Unless Google reigns in their marketplace and puts in place some serious testing and app requirements, developers can't trust Android for revenue, and end users on Android can even be assured by Google that Apps int he Marketplace aren't filled with malware. Which is sad and amazing that Google doesn't have a better testing/screening process.

I don't know much about modern OS design, but my understanding is that the kernel just manages the IO of the system as pretty much the last layer. The API layer is several layers up and that is what would be required for the vast majority of Windows applications to be 'easily' ported to phone. I would argue that you probably don't need to have the same kernel to have great compatibility between desktop and phone.

It sounds like Windows-8 will oriented towards phones and tablets. Laptop, notebook, and desktop users will need to remain with Windows-7 if they want to keep their keyboard productivity.

TsarNikky said,
It sounds like Windows-8 will oriented towards phones and tablets. Laptop, notebook, and desktop users will need to remain with Windows-7 if they want to keep their keyboard productivity.

Have you even *tried* the Developer Preview?

Or are you listening to all the Fear (not even UnCertainty or Doubt) about Metro?

Asd someone that dual-boots with the Developer Preview today (and has *current* applications (not to mention current games) installed on it), and has a traditional keyboard and mouse (no touch-screen, and this is a *desktop PC*), I can speak with some certainty that the concerns about "lost productivity" are largely overblown.

The so-called *must-have* features being raved about by all the fear-mongers as being present in Windows 7 (but that the Developer Preview lacks) were either missing entirely from Windows XP (which only recently left extended support) or are still present in Windows 7 (which won't go away just because Windows 8 enters RTM) - Windows 8 is *not* a mandatory upgrade. For anyone.

TsarNikky said,
It sounds like Windows-8 will oriented towards phones and tablets. Laptop, notebook, and desktop users will need to remain with Windows-7 if they want to keep their keyboard productivity.

Really? Metro is more productive for a keyboard user than a touch screen user. I assume you haven't used it, or you would know better.

The developer preview of Windows 8 Metro also doesn't include the mouse and keyboard navigation updates, which change mouse behavior considerably.

Keyboard users already can arrow key to anything, and do instant searches and flip between apps, all easier than they can in Windows 7.

Metro is based on ease of use for limited input devices, and has been successful in things like the XBox and Windows Media Center - which was designed for a remote control to fully navigate, which is basically, 4 arrow keys, an enter button, and a back button for complete operation. Metro on Windows 8 is just as easy, and if someone sitting across the room can use Metro in Media Center with a remote control, I can assure you someone sitting at a full keyboard can use it too.

It's not "Windows Phone 8 = Windows 8", but "Windows Phone 8 kernel = Windows 8 kernel".

And the signs have been on the wall for a while. If Microsoft ever wanted to run a version of Windows 8 on phones, it had to maximize power savings and increase system responsiveness.

All of that work leads to one single statement: "Any app you buy on the Windows 8 store will work on your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or HTPC". It basically solves the app problem in a rather huge way (all Windows 8 apps are required to support a sidebar view which would be perfect for smartphones).

dagamer34 said,
It's not "Windows Phone 8 = Windows 8", but "Windows Phone 8 kernel = Windows 8 kernel".

And the signs have been on the wall for a while. If Microsoft ever wanted to run a version of Windows 8 on phones, it had to maximize power savings and increase system responsiveness.

All of that work leads to one single statement: "Any app you buy on the Windows 8 store will work on your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or HTPC". It basically solves the app problem in a rather huge way (all Windows 8 apps are required to support a sidebar view which would be perfect for smartphones).

Not qutie.
Windows Phone 8 == Windows 8 Kernel + WinRT (formerly silverlight).
If you've looked at the developer preview there are about six lines of code a developer needs to change before rebuilding the xap for phone or desktop.
If MS can get rid of those required changes to truly have one xap for all platforms, great!!!

dotf said,

Not qutie.
Windows Phone 8 == Windows 8 Kernel + WinRT (formerly silverlight).
If you've looked at the developer preview there are about six lines of code a developer needs to change before rebuilding the xap for phone or desktop.
If MS can get rid of those required changes to truly have one xap for all platforms, great!!!


I remember a Silverlight-example that was heavily changed to compile for WinRT…

MFH said,

I remember a Silverlight-example that was heavily changed to compile for WinRT…

Yes but the 'silverlight' for wp7 more closely aligns with WinRT than classic desktop silverlight.

Indeed. What he actually said is this:

"We are in the Windows era. We were, we are, we always will be. Er... that's kinda what we get paid to do.

We've got broad Windows initiatives, driving Windows down to the phone; with Windows 8, you'll see incredible new form factors powered by Windows - from tablets small, large, [unintelligible], smaller, bigger, room-sized displays...

We are in an era in which the range of smart devices is continuing to expand. That's a fantastic thing for Microsoft, that is a real opportunity. That is an opportunity that we will pursue, by leveraging and sharing and driving Windows in new ways."

So although the words "driving Windows down to the phone" and "with Windows 8" are adjacent, the way he says it doesn't put those two elements together. "Driving Windows down to the phone" is clearly just a summation of the "Windows Everywhere" initiative; it doesn't actually mean that Windows 8 will be on phones, but the Windows brand, design language, development infrastructure and ecosystem will extend to phones. That's not the same as "Windows 8 will be on phones".

Once you listen to Ballmer actually saying the words, his meaning becomes much clearer. It still leaves room for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 to share a kernel and to have heavy underlying commonalities, but I don't see anything here that implies that Ballmer was indicating that the Windows 8 product would itself be on phones.

~Johnny said,
£5 bets that this is simply a mis-quoting or a misunderstanding.

WMPowerUser reported that WP8 would be based on the Windows 8 kernel a week or so ago. They claimed that their source was someone from Microsoft with inside knowledge.

~Johnny said,
£5 bets that this is simply a mis-quoting or a misunderstanding.

Not that I'd really ever trust WMPoweruser to have any reputable source, but it seems it was a mis-quote anyway. There doesn't really seem much point in Microsoft going to WinNT with Windows Phone anyway.

I think this is misleading. What Ballmer meant was Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will share the same NT kernel. The OS itself will remain very similar to Windows Phone 7.5.

england_fanboy said,
I think this is misleading. What Ballmer meant was Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will share the same NT kernel. The OS itself will remain very similar to Windows Phone 7.5.

Which means the ecosystem will still be fragmented.

uhh didnt we all know this already?

windows 8 for: desktops, laptops, netbooks, ultrabooks, servers, tablets, xbox, phones, etc.

ShareShiz said,
uhh didnt we all know this already?

windows 8 for: desktops, laptops, netbooks, ultrabooks, servers, tablets, xbox, phones, etc.

No we did not, we suspected it but we did not know it

Sraf said,

No we did not, we suspected it but we did not know it

And from listening to the thing, I'm not sure that he actually admitted to this, and may have just been listing products off

alexalex said,
Does it mean the Win8 OS on a phone will need minimum of 16GB of disk space to install ?

That's some weak trolling even for you.
Never heard of scalability?

alexalex said,
Does it mean the Win8 OS on a phone will need minimum of 16GB of disk space to install ?

The NT kernel is only about 25 MB. Ever heard of MinWin? Go back to your cave.

floopydoodle said,

The NT kernel is only about 25 MB. Ever heard of MinWin? Go back to your cave.

He only eats Apples in his cave, so you cannot expect smart reactions from him

alexalex said,
Does it mean the Win8 OS on a phone will need minimum of 16GB of disk space to install ?

Monkeys can do better than you...

floopydoodle said,

The NT kernel is only about 25 MB.


Good luck running your entire Windows desktop with just the NT kernel lol.

JPXi said,
No thanks. I'm perfectly happy with Windows 7.

And you know sugar dimples you can use the desktop on Windows 8 just like Windows 7.