Microsoft has a lot going on in 2012 with a variety of major products and platform rollouts. Windows 8 and the accompanying Windows RT are expected to launch this fall, and many suspect that Microsoft will also introduce Windows Phone 8 around the same time. Instead of making Windows Phone 8 available, though, Microsoft should move its smartphones to Windows RT.
There has been a tremendous amount of chaos and confusion lately about Windows Phone 8 and what it means for existing Windows Phone customers. Will current Windows Phone models like the recently launched Nokia Lumia 900 be upgraded to the new version? There are mixed reports, and the answer seems to be leaning toward “no”.
If that’s true, Microsoft will be shooting itself in the foot…with a shotgun. It’s bad enough that Android users with cutting edge smartphones or tablets often have to wait months to get the latest update. But, at least most eventually get it. It’s not good practice to sell “cutting edge” hardware that is obsolete before it’s unboxed.
It may not change the reality of whether or not existing Windows Phone smartphones get upgraded, but Microsoft could remove some of the confusion and build a stronger mobile platform in general if it got rid of Windows Phone altogether. Just move Windows Phone devices to Windows RT.
There are differences in features and capabilities between an iPhone and an iPad–but they both run iOS. There are differences in features and capabilities between a Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone and a Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet–but they both run Android.
As it stands now, Microsoft smartphones will ostensibly run Windows Phone 8, and Microsoft tablets will run Windows RT. But, both are variations of a Microsoft Windows theme using a Metro interface, and designed to run on ARM-based hardware architecture. Why bother developing and maintaining both?
Onuora Amobi, editor of Windows8Update, agrees that consolidating Windows RT with the upcoming Windows Phone 8 “Apollo” OS makes sense in theory. However, Amobi thinks it’s a Herculean strategic shift that Microsoft isn’t prepared for. “I have to assume that a successful dual OS (RT and Apollo) would require a lot of internal reorganization within the Microsoft Windows development team structure. I don’t see any signs of that happening anytime soon.”
Wes Miller from Directions On Microsoft, says that it has been widely predicted that Windows Phone 8 will switch from Windows CE to the Windows NT kernel. He points out some tactical hurdles Microsoft might face trying to consolidate Windows Phone with Windows RT, though. For example, Metro on Windows Phone is strictly portrait, while Metro on Windows RT is strictly landscape. Also, Microsoft has announced that Windows RT will include versions of the key Microsoft Office apps, but the smaller display on a smartphone is too small to run those adequately.
Miller is correct. But those are the same sort of differences in features and capabilities that exist between iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. There are better ways to handle the variations in hardware capabilities than creating entirely separate mobile platforms for each.
Maintaining both Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 simultaneously seems like a redundant waste of resources for Microsoft, a burden for developers to create separate apps for both platforms, and a confusing disconnect for users that could hinder the success Microsoft smartphones and tablets.
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