Microsoft commits to 'many more' Windows RT tablets

Surface RT with Andy Rathbone
Andy Rathbone

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Don’t count Windows RT out yet: Microsoft executives said Thursday that customers should expect “many more Windows RT tablets” in the future.

As part of its 2013 financial analyst meeting Thursday, Microsoft assembled its key leaders to field questions from Wall Street analysts, most dealing with strategies on individual products. Questions about Microsoft’s Surface strategy essentially served as a prologue to Microsoft’s Surface event next week, where the company is expected to launch the next-generation Surface 2, based on an Intel Haswell processor.

And although Windows RT and the Windows RT-powered Surface have had their detractorsas well as their fans (like the one shown above)—RT-powered tablets will apparently remain in the conversation for some time to come.

Terry Myerson, executive vice president in charge of all of Microsoft’s operating systems, said that his job was to exploit commonalities in design, silicon, and interfaces to enable consistent experiences across different platforms.

[Related: Microsoft to analysts: consumers are the gateway to cloud, enterprise usage]

Specifically, Myerson said that he had three key beliefs: one silicon interface for all devices, one API for all devices, and all apps should be available on all devices. Moreover, all devices should be cloud-powered, with core services enabling all devices. And all devices should have the same, tailored experience, Myerson said. A core team will bring those silicon interfaces together, he said. Another team will deliver services, and a satellite team will help out the others.

Windows RT will also play a role. ARM devices continue to have incredible share in phones, Myerson said, apparent justification to continue building tablets around them.

“Expect to see many more ARM tablets,” Myerson said. Windows RT 8.1 also supports the next generation of ARM chips—presumably foreshadowing tablets built around the emerging 64-bit Cortex architectures that ARM is developing, although Myerson didn’t confirm this.

Julie Larson-Green, who runs Microsoft’s Devices and Studios business, also endorsed Windows RT and its future.

Larson-Green, who will report to Nokia’s Stephen Elop when he returns to Microsoft as part of the Nokia acquisition next year, was also asked about how Surface is progressing, providing some insight into how Microsoft will launch the new Surface next week. “What we’ve learned is that you need to have balance in the market: great hardware, great software, great apps and services to allow you to win,” she said.

Larson-Green said that the original Xbox had few games. Within Surface, the team is working on all aspects; software, services, and hardware, to improve it holistically, she said.

Apps are a significant area of focus for the leadership team, Myerson said. “We have a plan, we have a focus... and we think we’ll be a leader here as we execute our plan,” Myerson said.

Virtually all of the top 50 apps are on Windows Phone, Myerson said. Microsoft has worked to lower its fees for app development and publishing, and introduced competencies to highlight certain developers. “We really are working all angles on this: globally, locally, how the virtuous cycle works on other platforms, how they should work on our platforms,” he said.

Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise business, added that there’s no application that gets built today without a cloud element—a key advantage for Microsoft and its Azure technology.

The Nokia benefits

Myerson also pointed out that Microsoft should benefit, engineering-wise, from the Nokia acquisition. “There are times you get to the hardware-software boundary, and sometimes that boundary gets in the way of collaboration,” Myerson said.

”Sometimes that seam has slowed progress or hindered what could get done,” Myerson added. “Removing that seam will enable new things. Not just first-party devices from Microsoft....I see even more compelling software and services from our platform and more epic hardware from Nokia.”

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