One Microsoft Push May Leave a Unified Windows in Its Wake

Microsoft is looking to consolidate its Windows PC and mobile ecosystem. Does it spell the end of Windows RT?

Discounting its enterprise-flavored server offerings, the Windows ecosystem currently consists of Windows RT and Windows Phone for ARM-based mobile devices and Windows 8.1 for x86 systems. According to Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green, executive vice president of Devices and Studios for the tech titan, the company is looking to pare down that trinity as it continues its massive "One Microsoft" corporate reorganization.

Responding to a question about the Microsoft's Surface RT strategy during last week's UBS Global Technology Conference, Larson-Green hinted at a unified Windows platform. "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three."

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker is already showing signs that a single Windows ecosystem is the way forward. Microsoft recently ramped up efforts to unify Windows and Windows Phone app development. A newly instituted developer registration scheme effectively gives Windows Phone developers access to Windows Dev Center resources, and vice versa.

And Microsoft needs to streamline its Windows portfolio if it hopes to continue to make gains in the mobile market, according to Canalys Research Analyst Pin Chen Tang. "Having three different operating systems to address the smart device landscape is confusing to both developers and consumers alike," Tang said.

Microsoft's Surface RT tablet, which runs the ARM-compatible Windows RT version of Windows 8, failed to live up to expectations, let alone pose a threat to Apple's iPad. Despite its splashy launch alongside the company's Windows 8 operating system in 2012, the consumers largely gave the device the cold shoulder.

In July, the company announced that it had taken a $900 million write-off due to the underperforming tablet. Surface RT represented a big blemish on otherwise strong financials for the company's fourth quarter.

Larson-Green shed some light on what may have gone wrong. She said that Microsoft sought to deliver a device that delivered "the full power of your Windows PC, and the simplicity of a tablet experience that can also be productive." Microsoft didn't drive that message through. "I think we didn't explain that super-well," she said. Explaining why consumers possibly balked, Larson-Green added, "It just didn't do everything that you expected Windows to do."

Larson-Green also offered an insider's view on the state of the "One Microsoft" reorganization efforts. Cross-team collaborations are nothing new to Microsoft, she claimed, citing Bing and Xbox music and video on Windows as examples. Yet there was room for improvement, she suggested, saying "the incentives in how you worked, we had different ship cycles, we had different P&L [profit and loss] goals. There was no mal-intent, it was just we were busy with our own things."

"Now we're busy with one thing," added Larson-Green. Efforts to align Microsoft's business units include weekly leadership team meeting and off-site product leadership session where execs work on cross-company scenarios, she said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...