Microsoft exec hints at fewer versions of Windows

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) envisions a future where it offers fewer versions of its Windows operating system, according to a senior company executive.

That would be a departure from Microsoft's current strategy, which stretches across Windows Phone 8 for smartphones, Windows 8 for new Intel-based PCs and tablets, and Windows RT for ARM-based PCs and tablets (the RT version is similar to Windows 8 but has been criticized for lacking support for many Windows 8 apps).

"We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three," Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's device and services chief, said at the UBS Global Technology Summit last week, according to a Microsoft transcript of her remarks. "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."

ZDNet has reported that Microsoft is planning to cut its operating systems down to two versions, though possibly not until the spring of 2015.

Microsoft Executive Vice President Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft's converged operating system division, hinted at such convergence in September at Microsoft's analyst day. "Windows RT was our first ARM tablet," he said then. "And as phones extend into tablets, expect us to see many more ARM tablets, Windows ARM tablets in the future." Indeed, Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) new Lumia 1520 6-inch phablet, which runs Windows Phone 8, is the first step in that direction.

Microsoft still has a long way to go in mobile. According to research firm Gartner, Windows Phone captured 3.6 percent of the global smartphone market, tiny compared to Android and iOS, but up from 2.3 percent in the year-ago period.

At the conference, Larson-Green was asked what Microsoft needed to do to gain more momentum in the mobile market. She noted that the company is seeking momentum "outside the United States in places like Italy where Windows Phone is approaching 20 percent market share." Echoing what other Microsoft executives have said in the past, she said that Windows Phone is performing better in markets where carriers do not subsidize the cost of smartphones, as most do in the United States.  

"There's thinking around business models," she said. "And there's also thinking around what kinds of devices are the future? So it's not just about phones and PCs. Phones are being costed down and disposable. There is an inflection point coming, that is something else beyond phones and tablets."

For more:
- see this Microsoft transcript
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET article
- see this PCWorld article
- see this ZDNet article
- see this PC Magazine article

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