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Future Devices Will Run One OS – It Just Won’t be Microsoft’s

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Recently, Microsoft Windows Phone president Andy Lee spoke about the future. As Liliputing tells us, he declared that one day all computing devices will run the same operating system. He said that PCs, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and televisions would all be united. While we wouldn’t disagree that our future could be going in that direction, he is obviously inferring that Windows (or some future Microsoft OS) will be the One OS to Rule Them All. Sorry, Andy – it isn’t happening.

Do you get the sense that Microsoft is missing something?

Who’s Leading?

Microsoft has already shown signs of moving in this unified direction. We know that Windows 8 is going to be tablet-optimized, and have a tile-oriented look similar to Windows Phone 7.

There’s only one problem: the days of Microsoft leading the charge are over. Yes, they still dominate desktops. PCs all the world over still run some version of Windows over any other OS by a large margin. But – disregarding some drastic shift in current trajectories – it won’t be desktop software that bleeds onto mobile devices. It will be the other way around.

Why would this be? After all, desktop operating systems are more advanced. No mobile device can run a full version of Photoshop or edit Hollywood feature films. Shouldn’t the more advanced software be leading the pack?

Logic may dictate that, but – in this case – that logic is wrong. It’s the mobile software that is leading the way. This has nothing to do with horsepower or capabilities – it has to do with money and passion. And those are flowing towards mobile devices. They’re flowing to mobile devices because they’re more personal.

Mobile devices are more personal than any PC has ever been. We carry them in our pockets. We use them to communicate with our loved ones, snap our treasured photos, and listen to our favorite music. Our mobile software connects with us on a human level. Desktop software just gets the job done.

A PC gives us a Powerpoint presentation with bullet-points of functions it can perform. Mobile devices enhance our lives.

In terms of these mobile operating systems that are leading the way, Apple is driving the car and Google is riding shotgun. Microsoft is locked in the trunk, bound and gagged – coughing up pieces of Vista and Windows Mobile.

Denial

Microsoft is in a state of deep denial over their loss of stature. Vista launched in 2007 – the same year that the iPhone did. The rest is history.

It’s apparently a history that Microsoft is still pretending didn’t happen. Five years ago, if Microsoft had gotten on stage and declared that one operating system would one day be powering every device that we have, we wouldn’t have disagreed that it would be some version of Windows. Today, they look like a washed-up former high school quarterback telling the three losers who still follow him what his next big plan is.

The iPhone happened, and Microsoft was caught with its pants down. This is what CEO Steve Ballmer had to say about Apple’s phone in 2007 (thanks to CNET from their great retrospective of quotes):

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.

That software that he was envisioning in 60-80% of consumers’ phones was Windows Mobile. Four years later, WinMobile is extinct and their new smartphone OS, Windows Phone, is their (better late than never) attempt to catch up with Apple’s OS. You know, the one that was going to have a piddly 2-3% market share. Ouch.

So don’t blame us if we aren’t convinced that Microsoft’s vision of the future is going to go as planned. The untouchable empire of the Bill Gates era is gone, and the Ballmer reign is shaping up to be one of slow reflexes, denial, and desperation. Yes, Microsoft, we will likely have all of our devices powered by the same operating systems one day. Unfortunately for you, it will be iOS or Android.

Having previously written for Android Central and Android Police, Will is shifting his focus to iOS at GottaBeMobile (without neglecting his old pal Android, of course). He lives in Chicago with his wife, Jess, and is on Twitter at @willshanklin

43 Comments

  1. Tim

    07/14/2011 at 7:02 pm

    most likely some Google OS or Microsoft OS, not Apple, since Apple products are largely used by a small, albeit noisy fanboi niche

    • bmovie

      07/14/2011 at 7:15 pm

      Tim doesn’t read very well. Does he?

    • Kavin Nguyen

      07/14/2011 at 8:53 pm

      Tim, you’re an idiot.

    • Kavin Nguyen

      07/14/2011 at 8:53 pm

      Tim, you’re an idiot.

      • Dingleberry

        03/23/2012 at 12:55 pm

        If he’s a fan-boy, wtf does that make you? Ballmer is right on, just ahead of the curve. Doesn’t mean Apple is going anywhere or won’t be making loads of $$ on great products, but if you consult people who look into this stuff for a living (i.e., Gartner, Forrester) you’ll see they agree, and for good reason. Check the margins on carriers once they started carrying iPhones…they have compressed. They would welcome a lower cost Quality alternative because their shareholders will F-ing demand it. Will MS be able to pull it off? We’ll all know by year end.

        • Dingleberry

          03/23/2012 at 1:37 pm

          The ‘article’ is asinine, of course.

  2. matt

    07/14/2011 at 7:07 pm

    Not going to happen

  3. MM

    07/14/2011 at 7:19 pm

    Funny on how you just say its terrible without commenting on any of the features, updates, or apples ridiculous prices. Also, IDC still predicts that WP7 will overtake apple  by 2015 because of nokia (Spending over $127 million on advertising, creating incredibly cheap, awesome looking phones.) I agree that they will have some trouble with google, but Microsoft’s got the home ground – as long as Windows 8 doesn’t screw up. How can you say that it will ‘bleed’ onto the new operating systems, when currently windows is the only one compatible will all of them? Mac-iphone, Google – Android. No one would change to a different OS for less compatibility (well, a few ‘small, albeit noisy fanboi niche’) as Tim puts it.

  4. Zwdesigns

    07/14/2011 at 7:19 pm

    Granted phones lead the way with personal usage. However in the computer and gaming end Microsoft still has the hold. Windows and Xbox are still the most used in those areas. SO…. I don’t think Microsoft is off by feeling they could come out on top with.

  5. Hobbes80

    07/14/2011 at 7:29 pm

    There will not be one OS… not in the US. There are too many conspiracy theorists that would not let that happen because that would be a *dramatic pause for evil word* Monopoly.

    There will be at minimum two competing OSs out there. My money is that Apple, Google, and MS will be still be the major players for years and years to come. I do agree that the mobile experience is driving “personal computing” as it were… but I think what we will see instead of a unifying OS, we will see unifying application structure. Why write a program to run on a specific device if you can write a program that runs on all the devices using a common interpreter? HTML5 is looking like it will be the first player in that market and MS will be further ahead than everyone else when Windows8 hits, unless Google makes a major revision when it brings the Android versions together.

    One OS to rule them all? I doubt it. Universal Application structure? Bet on it.

  6. Bryan Lee

    07/14/2011 at 7:37 pm

    “Our mobile software connects with us on a human level. Desktop software just gets the job done.”

    That sums up how pointless this article is.  I’ll bet an awful lot of “communicating with our loved ones” is done on a PC, and if you like making music as a hobby or creating an invitation for your kid’s birthday party, that will be a lot easier on a desktop.  My wife’s dad shares “treasured photos” using PhotoShow, and I would bet anything those shows weren’t made on a smartphone.

    In any case, nothing in this article explains how mobile software is supposed to “bleed” over to desktops.  In fact I’m even doubtful that there will eventually be one OS from phones to desktops, other than in name only.  Windows CE was released a long time ago, but the fact is the form factor for mobile devices is so different from a desktop that you can’t really run your desktop applications on a small phone-sized device, removing much of the benefit of having the “same” OS.  Trying to put a mobile OS onto a desktop would be even more pointless.  The only thing I would be able to do is play Angry Birds all day.  If there eventually is one anything across phones, tablets, gaming consoles, TVs, and desktops, it will probably be the web.

    There’s only one thing that I agree with in this article -  Ballmer was dead wrong on the iPhone.  

  7. bmovie

    07/14/2011 at 7:40 pm

    Whose to say that Microsoft can’t buy out Android? They are already making hardware manufacturers shell out $5, $10, $15 licensing fees per unit for Android.
    There’s an article that says that Amazon’s new tablet may hurt Google more than Apple. With Bing on this tablet, Google is lost.
    Microsoft buying Android from Google will make Microsoft king again and save Google’s legal butt. Then it’s “I’m an iOS and I’m an Andorid” commercials all over again.

    • Hobbes80

      07/14/2011 at 7:48 pm

      that would be like MS buying Linux. It is ‘cheaper’ to make their OS feature competitive and use their existing PC market share to dominate inter-device functionality…. and they know it, and they are working on it. They are behind Apple and behind Google for certain, but being the last one to the table isn’t always the worst move when it comes to change.

      Motion controllers were brought to you by Nintendo. MS came with Kinect within a few years and it blew it away. So much so PS-Move is a footnote to the release of Kinect. I am not a huge MS fan, but never underestimate their ability to come from behind.

    • Dingleberry

      03/23/2012 at 1:35 pm

      Why would they buy it when they get the milk for free? And already own their own cow?

  8. John Strever

    07/14/2011 at 7:41 pm

    Quote:   It’s quite odd you pitch Apple and Google working together to take down the big bad MS.   When in reality MS and Apple joined forces to buy Nortel’s patents, thus blocking Android form some much needed IP for pending lawsuits.      Just an observation …

  9. phil

    07/14/2011 at 7:44 pm

    With all those PC’s out there and Apple’s ABSURD prices, you can bet a one operating system world will be powered by some version of windows.

  10. Anonymous

    07/14/2011 at 7:55 pm

    “In terms of these mobile operating systems that are leading the way, Apple is driving the car and Google is riding shotgun. Microsoft is locked in the trunk, bound and gagged – coughing up pieces of Vista and Windows Mobile.”

    Apple is driving jack squat except Apple sales and locking in drones anymore. Keeping with your analogy, Apple is taking a nap while Google finishes up, and MS is watching what they’re doing and daydreaming from the booster seat in the back about being old enough to drive.
    If Apple put their OS in the broad variety of hardware that Google and Microsoft have, they would lose their competitive advantage tout de suite. Windows is normally slower and bloated because it needs to work without much issue on a truly stupid range of hardware or some moron or company who wants their crap from 15 years ago to still work will sue and probably win. Android isn’t optimized anywhere nearly as much as it could be because of the slightly different hardware that must be validated and that have different hardware add-ons with everything needing to go through carriers and manufacturers instead of coming straight from the tap.For this one OS future to happen, hardware would need to be all but standardized across devices (Think Cell) with a clear design winner that everyone would use with only niche adjustments (think better/more powerful units for sound, more processing units for graphics, less for number crunching) differentiating brands.  

  11. Anonymous

    07/14/2011 at 7:58 pm

    I really disagree with the assumption here… Windows still powers an overwhelming majority of computers and iOS isn’t making inroads on Windows on the PC… its making inroads in a brand new space that will not replace PCs for the majority of people out there… and unless Apple starts licensing iOS to other companies so people can buy cheaper hardware that runs iOS it will never become that single OS… and Android will ALWAYS have problems with fragmentation if it remains open source and allows every vendor to complicate the landscape of hardware with different UIs for their software.  If they don’t, and Android becomes locked down and all Android devices run and indentical looking OS you take away half the reason that HW manufacturers are looking to Android… couple that with the fact that companies now need to pay Microsoft for Android it will really start to lose appeal with HW manufacturers.

    This article takes a 10 year outlook and puts only the last year or so worth of trends forth as the reasoning… I rushed out and bought and iPad and now it sits and collects dust on my desk while I use my notebook and phone instead of it.  Touch screen tablets will have a very hard time replacing PCs with keyboards… there is a chance that a product will come along that really works well as a PC & tablet… but right now if i have need to type out a short email response I do it on my phone… if I need to type something longer I will always move to my laptop before my iPad… the iPad is truely mostly a consumption device… not becuase of computing power but because of the way you have to interact with it.

    Look… OSX isn’t making inroads on Windows and until that happens or they move iOS to a laptop that is affordable then the average consumer will still be using Windows based machines for the most part.

  12. Anonymous

    07/14/2011 at 7:58 pm

    I really disagree with the assumption here… Windows still powers an overwhelming majority of computers and iOS isn’t making inroads on Windows on the PC… its making inroads in a brand new space that will not replace PCs for the majority of people out there… and unless Apple starts licensing iOS to other companies so people can buy cheaper hardware that runs iOS it will never become that single OS… and Android will ALWAYS have problems with fragmentation if it remains open source and allows every vendor to complicate the landscape of hardware with different UIs for their software.  If they don’t, and Android becomes locked down and all Android devices run and indentical looking OS you take away half the reason that HW manufacturers are looking to Android… couple that with the fact that companies now need to pay Microsoft for Android it will really start to lose appeal with HW manufacturers.

    This article takes a 10 year outlook and puts only the last year or so worth of trends forth as the reasoning… I rushed out and bought and iPad and now it sits and collects dust on my desk while I use my notebook and phone instead of it.  Touch screen tablets will have a very hard time replacing PCs with keyboards… there is a chance that a product will come along that really works well as a PC & tablet… but right now if i have need to type out a short email response I do it on my phone… if I need to type something longer I will always move to my laptop before my iPad… the iPad is truely mostly a consumption device… not becuase of computing power but because of the way you have to interact with it.

    Look… OSX isn’t making inroads on Windows and until that happens or they move iOS to a laptop that is affordable then the average consumer will still be using Windows based machines for the most part.

    • Anonymous

      07/15/2011 at 12:55 am

      Actually OSX is making inroads on windows, they made it to number three with 10%+ marketshare, in the US behind HP and Dell in units sold according to IDC and Gartner.

      True 10% is still a small number but Apple seems to be one of the few top companies growing in the laptop/pc space, estimates for Apple’s worldwide laptop/pc growth vary bewteen 13% to 33% with an average around 20%. They will likely be moving in to the top 5 vendors worldwide with around 5% market share.

      How ever if you count iPads along with laptops and pcs, Apple would suddenly be the number one or number two company worldwide with 15% to 19% market share. HP has a little over 17% market share and depending on what Apple announces next week they could suddenly be at the top.

      When you look at the overall picture, Apple is definitely a major player and will be for some time. Especially considering the lock-in they gain once people start spending money on iTunes content, how many people will be willing to throw away all the money spent on apps and other media if they switch to a new platform ?

      On the corporate side more and more apps are moving to the internal cloud which means the main tool is a browser, as a result IT departments are less able to dictate hardware and OS. Apple devices (Macs, iPhones and iPads) are making inroads where Apple was non existent.

  13. Warren LaFrance

    07/14/2011 at 7:58 pm

    Will we end up with a mobile OS (mOS) that requires nothing more than a browser UI and the actual phone, tablet or pad device OS (dOS) will be hidden from the users and will only deal with the hardware… So all UI interaction will be via a html 5 compliant mOS on top of any dOS…    LOL.. ;)

    Then the battle will be who creates the best tools for creating the mOS interface.

  14. Warren LaFrance

    07/14/2011 at 7:58 pm

    Will we end up with a mobile OS (mOS) that requires nothing more than a browser UI and the actual phone, tablet or pad device OS (dOS) will be hidden from the users and will only deal with the hardware… So all UI interaction will be via a html 5 compliant mOS on top of any dOS…    LOL.. ;)

    Then the battle will be who creates the best tools for creating the mOS interface.

    • Anonymous

      07/14/2011 at 8:03 pm

      And I’m pretty sure MS is the one working on a dOS that is running HTML5 apps… and we can only assume that future versions of WP will as well…

    • Anonymous

      07/14/2011 at 8:03 pm

      And I’m pretty sure MS is the one working on a dOS that is running HTML5 apps… and we can only assume that future versions of WP will as well…

  15. Tony Ugando

    07/14/2011 at 8:04 pm

    On the contrary, HTML5 will actually prevent one OS from dominating the market.  I agree with “Hobbes80″.  HTML5 will become the standard application development platform, and since it is an open and non-proprietary platform, it won’t matter which OS you are running.  HTML5 will break us free from being locked into one OS.

  16. Mike Echo

    07/14/2011 at 8:16 pm

    You know, being a jerk can get you places in this world sure…but you don’t stay popular for very long when you act like an insufferable S(n)OB.

    Too many of the critics of every bit of news that comes out of Redmond just do what they blame Microsoft of doing. Clearly passing ships in the night…everyone should try cleaning the glass on their houses before they throw stones through Redmond’s windows. Seven is not the same as 8, CLEARLY and if they are building the OS from the ground up to be usable on a tablet, not merely touch-capable but touch-focused with desktop-capable functions (for desktops) then logically everyone else is mistaken with regards to the slate comparison. As far as what Lees was saying, I understand what he means, which is totally not what everybody says he is saying! Please get an education monkeys… =|~)  

  17. Cuhulin

    07/14/2011 at 8:37 pm

    Is the last sentence of the prior comment supposed to be an example of the first sentence?

  18. Anonymous

    07/14/2011 at 8:52 pm

    As a Mac/iPhone user, I still think this is a ridiculous premise.

    For one, Windows Phone 7 is, shockingly enough, not bad.  Doubly so when you consider the 80% of all mobile users who are *still* using feature phones.  Each and every one of those users is a candidate for smartphone conversion, and Apple only has about 16% of the smartphone market!  Even Nokia, for all of the flaws in Symbian/Meego, has about double that.

    Windows Phone 7 is, for all intents and purposes, a better smartphone OS for featurephone graduates AND for businesses, at least for as long as MS is willing to work to tie it into enterprise environments properly.  The iPhone has more apps, and Android certainly has more power user appeal, but Microsoft has the enterprise compatibility edge, and the global marketshare.  If Windows 8 actually ends up as a truly tablet-friendly OS for once, and they manage to build a consistent UI across the board, then we all have something to worry about.  On the numbers alone, Microsoft has a huge opportunity to take over the market, and it’s definitely way too early to count them out.

  19. Anonymous

    07/14/2011 at 8:52 pm

    As a Mac/iPhone user, I still think this is a ridiculous premise.

    For one, Windows Phone 7 is, shockingly enough, not bad.  Doubly so when you consider the 80% of all mobile users who are *still* using feature phones.  Each and every one of those users is a candidate for smartphone conversion, and Apple only has about 16% of the smartphone market!  Even Nokia, for all of the flaws in Symbian/Meego, has about double that.

    Windows Phone 7 is, for all intents and purposes, a better smartphone OS for featurephone graduates AND for businesses, at least for as long as MS is willing to work to tie it into enterprise environments properly.  The iPhone has more apps, and Android certainly has more power user appeal, but Microsoft has the enterprise compatibility edge, and the global marketshare.  If Windows 8 actually ends up as a truly tablet-friendly OS for once, and they manage to build a consistent UI across the board, then we all have something to worry about.  On the numbers alone, Microsoft has a huge opportunity to take over the market, and it’s definitely way too early to count them out.

    • Dingleberry

      03/23/2012 at 1:33 pm

      You’re absolutely dead-on, of course. Nokia’s unmatched reach into global markets is also an incredible asset to MS. They assume none of the true hardware costs but gain a leading global distribution platform. Nokia designed the Lumia 900 like its life depends on it, and it does! MS leveraged that desperation (and Nokia’s strong design history) to great effect. Someone will get squeezed, likely android more than IOS, though carriers may play a more deciding factor than people think due to the enormous, margin detroying subsidies they dole out for the admittedly awesome iPhone. Michael Buffer, make the ring announcement…

  20. Anonymous

    07/14/2011 at 8:55 pm

    Wow, I guess any bozo can write a tech article and claim expertise. No bias in this article whatsoever.  You stink!!!

  21. Anonymous

    07/14/2011 at 8:55 pm

    Wow, I guess any bozo can write a tech article and claim expertise. No bias in this article whatsoever.  You stink!!!

  22. Cuhulin

    07/14/2011 at 9:03 pm

    I think it is too early to judge the outcome of Microsoft’s effort to cover all bases with Windows 8.

    There are distinct reasons for worrying about Microsoft’s future, sure.  Clearly, IOS and Android have all the momentum right now.  If HTML5 becomes the sole development tool, Windows becomes largely irrelevant, and Microsoft’s patents slowly time out, and with them the company.  

    Yet, the battle isn’t over.  Microsoft may have a formidable task in front of it, but Microsoft has been able, at times, to do what needs to be done.  They proved they can be cool (XBox and XBox 360).  They proved they can come from behind (IE, after Netscape occupied most of the browser market.)  They proved they can execute a plan after a public humiliation (Win 7 after Vista.)  I think Microsoft is going to need to be near perfect in designing, deploying and marketing Windows 8, if they are going to be the one OS to rule them all, but they have a very real shot at doing so.

    Steve Ballmer’s errors regarding the Iphone and the Ipad will probably become business school case studies of how not to respond to a potential competitor, but he has a clear chance at redemption next year.  It’s going to be interesting to see whether he can achieve it.

  23. Cuhulin

    07/14/2011 at 9:03 pm

    I think it is too early to judge the outcome of Microsoft’s effort to cover all bases with Windows 8.

    There are distinct reasons for worrying about Microsoft’s future, sure.  Clearly, IOS and Android have all the momentum right now.  If HTML5 becomes the sole development tool, Windows becomes largely irrelevant, and Microsoft’s patents slowly time out, and with them the company.  

    Yet, the battle isn’t over.  Microsoft may have a formidable task in front of it, but Microsoft has been able, at times, to do what needs to be done.  They proved they can be cool (XBox and XBox 360).  They proved they can come from behind (IE, after Netscape occupied most of the browser market.)  They proved they can execute a plan after a public humiliation (Win 7 after Vista.)  I think Microsoft is going to need to be near perfect in designing, deploying and marketing Windows 8, if they are going to be the one OS to rule them all, but they have a very real shot at doing so.

    Steve Ballmer’s errors regarding the Iphone and the Ipad will probably become business school case studies of how not to respond to a potential competitor, but he has a clear chance at redemption next year.  It’s going to be interesting to see whether he can achieve it.

  24. Anonymous

    07/15/2011 at 12:15 am

    “one day all computing devices will run the same operating system. He said that PCs, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and televisions would all be united”

    Very likely on the non server side with ecosystems around Microsoft, Apple, Google and maybe one or two more.

    I would not count out Microsoft just yet, they do have a footprint in all these areas with mobile and tablet being the weakest two but things can change very fast in the tech world as the last couple of years has shown with the rise of both IOS and Android.

    I would not be surprised if Microsoft makes a come back in both the tablet space and the mobile space as a stong number three, possibly even play for second place in one or both markets in a few years.

    If you add Microsoft’s PC, XBox and enterprise presence, they are far from being out of the game, especially considering they are still and will continue to be one of the most prifitable companies in the world.

    I will personally not be surprised if they manage to take at least 15% to 20% market share in both the tablet and smart phone market by the end of 2015.

  25. Elias Griffin

    07/15/2011 at 12:59 am

    This article is absolutely ridiculous. iOS was and is based off of Mac OS X so mobile follows desktop. Money also follows PC. iOS is a financial drop in the bucket compared to all PC’s (any OS) running business and consumer apps with associated market value of that ecosystem across the world.

    Software and OS development work having a full featured framework/OS and then trimming it down tailored for each platform. Not the other way around.

    The only things that are back ported from mobile devices is the UX to tie in the brand, strengthen market share, and build the platform out, all while unifying the experience. Things are sycned but that’s not feature innovation or driving anything in and of itself. No major iOS features have been back ported to Lion.

  26. Bezerkus

    08/01/2011 at 10:59 pm

    Whoever owns the information will win, the end user OS won’t own it.

    Apple made in roads because the OS was dumbed down for mobile, and is capitalizing on being closed and simple.  But they will not have the market on simple much longer…Google and Microsoft are owning the internet portal and converging business networking and social in the cloud.  Device OS will be more about whether you Google/Apps for Business/Google + or Bing/MS 365/Facebook, and will be optimized for that.  Apple along with WebOS will try to go their own way and sue to gain more openness (irony is killing me here) from either MS or Google so that it can provide the same features in their devices .  MS and Linux own the server farms in the cloud.  Businesses have always wanted to own the portal and now they will, but we will choose it.  If I were Apple I’d start cozing up more to MS (as they are more alike than Google).  Apple Open. What what will happen to most people’s experience in computing is going to coin a phrase that means something else today… “You’ve been Googled.”  Although MS’s hold on high end computer processing platforms (games/end user and servers/cloud) may be all the advantage they need.

    I will jump back into my Delorean now.

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