In an odd twist, Microsoft may be looking at replacing its Windows Phone operating system with that of Windows RT. In the past, the company has stated that Windows Phone was strictly for phones that that Windows RT was built for tablets, like Windows 8. However, the lines may be blurring as Windows Phone manufacturers, like Nokia which Microsoft is acquiring, are eyeing devices with even larger screens that straddle the line between phone and tablet. In this new “phablet” market, Microsoft may be looking at consolidating its ambitions for both the tablet and smartphone market with one operating system.
“Windows RT was our first ARM tablet. And as phones extend into tablets, expect us to see many more ARM tablets, Windows ARM tablets in the future,” Microsoft’s Terry Myerson said at the company’s Financial Analyst Meeting last week.
Microsoft has already begun work on unifying code between Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Windows 8 and there had been rumors in the past that more unification between the platforms would happen in the future. It looks like in this case, Microsoft may be planning to merge both Windows Phone and Windows RT into one platform in the future.
If this does happen, it may spur more developer interest in Windows RT and Windows Phone as developers may just need to code for one and have their apps scale and be available to a larger audience of smartphone, phablet, and tablet users. Right now, apps for Windows Phone still require some minor code tweak to work on Windows RT or Windows 8.
This would make sense as rival Apple uses the same iOS operating system on its iPhone and iPad product lines and Google’s Android OS can scale either computing category.
Merging the two platforms would also help Microsoft expand its market share by combining market shares from each platform. Windows Phone is growing, though its growth has been slow and Windows RT has had limited success in the market to date. Though Windows RT on the tablet looks very similar to Windows 8, RT is powered by microprocessor designs from ARM Holdings and therefore cannot run the full catalog of legacy Windows programs whereas the x86-powered Windows 8 platform can.
In terms of Windows-based phablets, Nokia is rumored to be planning a 6-inch phablet called the Lumia 1520. The line is continuing to blur as Microsoft’s partners are planning tablets in the 8-inch space.
Still, it’s unclear if Microsoft will be using its Windows RT branding in the end on all mobile products or if it will be going with Windows Phone. At least on the phone, the platform already has seen various name changes before Windows Phone. Palm PC, Palm-Sized PC, Pocket PC, and Windows Mobile all preceded Windows Phone. Whatever the case, it’s good to hear that Microsoft is not leaving Android and Samsung unchallenged in the phablet space. Samsung is largely leading the phablet category with its Galaxy Note, a surprising hit considering how polarizing the device’s size was when it debuted.