An interesting question is circulating online kicked off by Microsoft watcher Michael Gillett last Saturday: What will Microsoft name the next version of Windows? I know, that doesn't sound very interesting since people ask this question every time a new version of Windows is on the horizon. Besides, we already know the next version of the OS will be called Windows 9 (codenamed Threshold) just like we "knew" Windows 8 was the name for the follow-up to Windows 7.
But there might be more to it this time around. Could Microsoft be getting ready to dump all its various numbering and naming schemes and just say that all of its products are running Windows?
Not Windows 8.1, Windows 9, Windows Phone, or Windows RT—just "Windows." Gillett, who is based in the U.K., brought this up after noticing that a Lumia 930 commercial for the British market never mentions Windows Phone. The OS is referred to simply as "Windows" and uses that name to refer to Windows Phone, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT.
As The Verge recently pointed out, you don't have to go far to find more examples of Windows brands morphing into plain old Windows—at least on the Windows Phone side. HTC's newly designed One (M8) for Microsoft's OS is simply called the HTC One for Windows, not Windows Phone.
But then when you visit WindowsPhone.com, you see Windows Phone branding everywhere on the U.S. version of the site.
Nevertheless, there are interesting reasons for Microsoft to just call all its various operating systems plain old Windows, regardless of device. First off, Windows Threshold is widely expected to merge Windows Phone and Windows RT into one platform for smartphones and ARM-based tablets.
In mid-2013, Microsoft kicked off its Windows Everywhere campaign, which also didn't make mention of Windows Phone, RT, or 8.1. Everything was just Windows. It was an explicit attempt, as Windows watcher Mary Jo Foley explained at the time, to blur the boundaries between device types. "One experience. On every device. For everything in your life," went the campaign's tag line.
More recently in July, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Windows would converge and be "one operating system that covers all screen sizes," perhaps suggesting again that the naming convention for Windows may be consolidating, and not, as some took it to mean, that Microsoft would produce one OS to run everywhere regardless of screen size or processor architecture.
Ultimately we won't know what Microsoft's branding plans are until more Windows Phone devices come out minus the "phone" part. We may also see hints of the future when Microsoft reveals Threshold/Windows 9; Microsoft is expected to launch a public preview of the new OS before the end of September.