Windows Phone, Windows RT reportedly getting merged in time for Threshold

Rumors that Microsoft will merge its two ARM-based operating systems – Windows Phone and Windows RT – have swirled for about a year, though it hasn't been clear when the new OS would be released. According to a new report by ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, the combined OS will be part of Microsoft's "Threshold" wave of updates, expected to launch early next year.

Foley states that Threshold will see Microsoft's Windows operating system fit devices based on their needs. Computers, for instance, will focus on the desktop, as reported earlier today by Neowin, while hybrid devices such as Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 tablet will keep both the desktop and Start screen depending on whether a keyboard is attached. Foley says that the "Threshold Mobile" variant will be the OS used on "ARM-based Lumia phones, ARM-based Windows tablets and, I believe, Intel-Atom-based tablets."

Threshold Mobile will eschew the desktop entirely, but it will keep Windows RT and Windows 8's ability to run apps side by side, if Foley's report is accurate. It's not clear, however, what features of Windows Phone may replace or supplement Windows RT features. It seems likely that Windows Phone's standout features, such as Cortana and the notification center, will make their way to the combined OS, otherwise it would appear to be a step behind Microsoft's current smartphone offerings.

Microsoft has been moving toward a unified OS since the launches of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and more recently by announcing universal apps that will work on both platforms. Numerous hints have also been dropped since late last year that more cohesiveness between the two operating systems would rapidly begin to be implemented.

Source: ZDNet

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You can broadcast mobile to another computer screen.

I was thinking more along the lines of plugging your phone straight into a monitor and using it as an RT computer.

Justin Luna said,
That could make them rename Windows Phone. As it's not just for phones anymore.

I'd assume they'd just call the operating system Windows (but the devices themselves may still be called "Windows Phones").

acrodex said,
I just hope that the wp7->wp8 disaster won't happen again.
Why would it? They're not changing any hardware requirements for 8.1 to Threshold.

Why do people think this is good? Where exactly is the benefit of the same OS on different devices? A phone is not a tablet and a tablet is not a phone.

I personally use both devices very differently in different situations. Universal apps is all I need. But will Threshold enable phone apps on tablets? Please not!

And I also hope that they keep the desktop optional for tablets as it can be very useful when using an external display. They should also make it possible to disable the desktop on x86 machines per user to provide a simpler experience for kids or grand parents.

You ask "Why is it good?", so I'll answer: For apps and developers primarily... which is ultimately good for customers.

Right now, if a developer or company wants an app on Android tablets and phones, they have to write one app ("Android"). If they want an app on iPhone and iPads, they write one app ("iOS").

But if they want it to run on Windows Phones and Windows Tablets? They have to write TWO apps... one for WP 8 and one for Windows 8.

And that's just too much of an investment, for too small of a user-base (currently).

Microsoft needs to have ONE set of APIs and Frameworks, using ONE development environment, that allows developers and companies to create ONE app that runs across all Windows Phones and Windows Tablets.

Right now there are a TON of apps that are only on one or the other... so it's confusing to the consumer (why can I have this app on my phone, but not my tablet?!?), as well as hurting the ecosystem by splitting it, and dividing the resources that can be devoted to it.

I definitely want phone apps on my tablet! There are a TON of games and other apps that I have on my phone, that are simply not available in the Windows 8 app store for my tablet! That's ridiculous!

pmbAustin said,
But if they want it to run on Windows Phones and Windows Tablets? They have to write TWO apps... one for WP 8 and one for Windows 8.

That is not true. A developer can built a universal app that runs on Windows Phone (8.1), Windows RT and Windows. Xbox One support is coming soon. It is one single Visual Studio solution with a shared code folder and can optionally have code or UI elements specifically for each platform.

You forget the most important part here: Windows runs on tablets and every other PC device. Apple has two different app models for iOS and OS X. Google has Android and Chrome OS winch aren't compatible just yet.

What exactly is the benefit of having the same OS? Tell me please. I'm not talking about the same game or same app - which is already possible. Why the same OS?

And I also prefer the ability for developers to create special apps that are designed to work specifically on one kind of device. A phone app that is fast and fluid because it doesn't need to support all the features that my phone doesn't even have!

Windows Phone 8.1 already starts to feel slow, with a lot of loading screens. I don't like this direction TBH.

Windows 8.1 Update 1, and Windows Phone 8.1 provide the ability to write "Universal Apps".

But even these "Universal Apps" are just a subset of the total vision of being able to write one app that runs across the entire breadth of the Windows line (Phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, Xbox).

So yeah, what I wrote is absolutely true. "Universal Apps" is just one small step in fixing the issue. But it's not the completed picture. It's a stop-gap until they can get the unified platform and features across both phones and tablets via "Threshold".

If you can't see the benefit of having the same APIs, feature-sets, frameworks, etc. then I can't help you, because you're just being willfully blind to the blatantly obvious.

Obviously the UIs will be tweaked for each platform and form-factor (just as they are with "Universal Apps").

I still don't understand why you think this is a bad thing. This is a VITAL and NECESSARY thing that will benefit EVERYONE. There's nothing bad here, other than your own confusions and misunderstandings and bad assumptions.

pmbAustin said,
I still don't understand why you think this is a bad thing. This is a VITAL and NECESSARY thing that will benefit EVERYONE. There's nothing bad here, other than your own confusions and misunderstandings and bad assumptions.

I can give you real world examples why I believe this is the wrong direction.

One is to look how terrible Android runs on tablets. The UI is just scaled up from the phone UI and so are many apps. The on-screen buttons take up so much screen real estate on an Android tablet in landscape mode, for example.

Another example is how slow apps are loading on Windows Phone 8.1: Microsoft starts to separate even the core apps like Calendar and Music from the system because they think they will have to update them more often than the system itself (which is stupid, BTW). At the end of the day a user sees lots of loading screens. Not a great experience when you are on the go. And with on the go I mean literally walking. I use my phone like this, but not my tablet.

I don't want Windows Phone to become another slow Windows Pocket PC OS. And I don't want Windows RT to become a scaled up phone OS.

For the first thing, the WP/Modern APIs have built in scaling, and have to be designed for multiple resolutions and ratios and such already. But in addition, the tools provide easy ways to customize UI views to screen sizes. So this isn't as big an issue as you think it is.

And they're working on minimizing the loading screen time. That isn't really a function of what you seem to think it is either.

Basically I think your objections are misinformed and based on misunderstandings.

And why does Android run horribly on tablets? Surprisingly, it has more to do with the horrible hardware on tablets (especially low-end tablets) compared to phones. Look at the HARDWARE specs of low-end tablets - most Android PHONES have better hardware than low-end tablets. Those same low-end tablets are, unfortunately, quite representative of what is selling in terms of Android tablets - compare the ASUS MeMo Pad with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (yes - I deliberately specified the Tab 2 - which is older than the MeMo Pad). It's not that higher-end tablets can't sell - it's the low-end tablets that are making up the majority of sales numbers entirely due to price. To be honest, I'd rather run Android on an older ex-XP PC - which is, in fact, doable, and doable today. (Cost - maybe $6 for a USB stick, and that's it, and no, I'm not kidding.) Android is not a BAD operating system; however, some decisions that Google has stuck with since Froyo have gimped Android from what it could be.

There is also an incessant fear that Windows on OTHER than x86 hardware will take away from the desktop application development trend. Hello - desktop- application development already HAD issues merely due to XP's overlong overhang. Worse, despite XP actually being Officially Dead, the corpse of XP is still hanging around being the Lowest Common Denominator in terms of CURRENT applications. To add insult to injury, why is x32 application development being done AT ALL? Atom certainly supports x64, and today - so much for Atom being an excuse. Steam? Get real - x64 became the default/majority bitness of Steam on Windows with Windows 7; in short, 8 and later have squat to do with it. So if it's not the hardware, and not the software, why is x32 hanging around Windows like a sea-anchor? Just this week, I actually fired Firefox and replaced it with Waterfox - x32-specific issues had me hand Firefox its walking papers. (That's right - I said x32-specific issues; the SAME add-ons and plug-ins in their x64 iterations don't have the problems the x32 versions do.) Even more embarrassing, I don't exactly have a ton of RAM - I have just 4 GB of RAM today. Yet x64 is kicking x32 butt - how much MORE does x64 do when it has more RAM to play with?

Security blankets become sea-anchors at some point - and then you have to let them go, as distasteful as the idea may sound.

recursive said,
Does this mean Sinofsky is coming back? Last I checked he was bored at home writing blog posts that no one reads.

He's done so much damage to windows they are still trying to fix, I think he's banned from the premises.

Edited by warwagon, Jul 1 2014, 2:30am :

If "Threshold" can't run on Windows Phone devices being sold this year (such as the 630, 635, 930, and all the new phones coming out between now and Threshold), it will be a disaster.

They did this between WP7 and WP8... WP7 devices could not run WP8 OS.

If WP8.1 devices cannot run "Threshold" OS, then they will simply lose. The market will no longer trust them. Current customers will abandon ship, and new customers will go elsewhere.

They had better bend over backwards to make sure all WP8.1 devices can run Threshold OS and Threshold apps.

tiadimundo - that may not have been the case five years ago; however, the multimodal device is the norm, not the exception. That means that the OS on those devices has to fit any possible use case; it can't afford to be locked into just one. Windows itself recognized it with XP Media Center Edition back in - get this - 2002. Android is a multimodal OS (while the vast majority of Android hardware is single-mode, that is due to single-mode devices being cheaper and easier to make - it has nothing to do with the OS itself) - anyone that has used Android on a TABLET (let alone a phablet) knows this. iOS is ALSO multimodal - like Android, tablets (and in particular the second-generation and later iPads) actually get it; single-purpose devices (such as iPod nanos, and even most iPhones) don't use everything the OS can do. In short, the barriers - even with Android and iOS - are artificial, and don't really benefit users at all; why in the heck would those same barriers be of any benefit to Windows users? Windows (as an OS) is successful due to the LACK of barriers (compared to Linux distributions, UNIX, OS X, etc.) - why would you want your OS basically locked down more than it has been historically?

What would be locked down? I don't need mouse support on my phone. So why should I ask for the same operating system?

The differentiation made more sense on Microsoft's platform than on the others from Google and Apple in my opinion:

On the go, one hand use > Windows Phone
On the couch or lap or table, two hands or keyboard > Windows

It is only the execution that was flawed. Not the concept. The desktop was needed in Windows RT but it should have been optional.

This sounds like their hardest challenge yet! I'm sure its not hard to get Windows Phone to run on an RT tablet. It's only an issue from a visual perspective as WP is potrait and RT tablets are landscape.

However you cant ''upgrade'' an RT tablet to WP without first getting an of the RT apps and features in WP. Which would make WP a very heavy OS. I just cant see it work. What I fear this will be is them visually upgrading WP to run on a tablet and look 'sort of' like Windows 8. It would have most of RT's apps but it would lack the desktop and the full version of office. Not to mention using the desktop as a file explorer and all the goodies such as the driver support that allows RT to connect to all of Windows 8's hardware.

This is not good imo.

Windows Phone is far ahead of WIN RT technically and API wise. It would be backwards to move windows phone entirely to WINRT subset. If anything they should integrate both into one.

* I am a windows phone and windows 8 developer.

So wait, will I still be able to buy a surface in the future then that is still FULL true Windows for running all of my desktop apps, OR is MS going to make all Surface and phone devices run on RT?

I had hoped RT would simply go away and the phones would run the same Windows that Surface and desktops use, just with a different GUI? Wouldn't that make more sense? Why all this RT/ARM processor ######?

92GTA said,
So wait, will I still be able to buy a surface in the future then that is still FULL true Windows for running all of my desktop apps, OR is MS going to make all Surface and phone devices run on RT?

I had hoped RT would simply go away and the phones would run the same Windows that Surface and desktops use, just with a different GUI? Wouldn't that make more sense? Why all this RT/ARM processor ######?


Could not agree more... I ordered a Surface 3 with an Intel processor and running Windows in it full glory, I was not interested on a Tablet running ARM and RT. Personally I do not think that full Windows will disappear from Tablet devices.

92GTA said,
So wait, will I still be able to buy a surface in the future then that is still FULL true Windows for running all of my desktop apps, OR is MS going to make all Surface and phone devices run on RT?

I had hoped RT would simply go away and the phones would run the same Windows that Surface and desktops use, just with a different GUI? Wouldn't that make more sense? Why all this RT/ARM processor ######?


Learn to read. Windows RT is what's on the Surface RT and Surface 2, that's what would be going away in favor of Threshold. The Surface Pro 3 runs full windows not Windows RT.

92GTA said,
So wait, will I still be able to buy a surface in the future then that is still FULL true Windows for running all of my desktop apps, OR is MS going to make all Surface and phone devices run on RT?

I had hoped RT would simply go away and the phones would run the same Windows that Surface and desktops use, just with a different GUI? Wouldn't that make more sense? Why all this RT/ARM processor ######?

Nothing changes if you buy a tablet running 'full windows' such as the Surface Pro and just about all tablets by OEMs. The only tablets effected by this are those running Windows RT which are the regular Surface and Nokia's tablet.

What you hoped for seems impossible. Do you really expect phones to run 'the same Windows that Surface and desktops use'? Windows 8 is light compared to Windows 7 but it's still a heavy OS compared to mobile systems such as iOS, Android and WP.

Instead what appears to be happening here is Microsoft creating one light OS to run on all of their ARM-based devices (phones and cheap tablets). I imagine this new operating system would be much lighter then Windows RT, allowing OEMs to build very cheap Windows tablets in the future.

I do wonder what this means for owners of Windows RT tablets. Are the eligible for this ''upgrade''? Or will Microsoft exclude them since this upgrade is also a downgrade (I imagine it wont have many of the features RT brought over from full Windows).

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