Microsoft Moonshot: Windows 9 Will Unify PC, Xbox, Phone, and Tablet OSes
June 2, 2014 9:38 AM
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(Source: Nazmus Khandaker)
New cross-platform OS project is unprecedented, arguably largest software project in history
A new report
The Seattle Times
interviews some of Microsoft Corp.'s (
) top executives who describe the company's inspired new design direction.
With Windows 9, Microsoft is plotting quite literally the largest software project in history; combining operating systems from at least five platforms, cloud services, and dozens of software projects into one
tightly integrated cross-platform
bundle of software.
It's an incredible vision. And it's one that could change the entire industry.
I. The Path to Unification
A major part of why
Windows 8 had so many
rough edges was because it was an exercise in porting. But much as Windows Vista was -- in some ways -- a necessary stepping-stone to the more polished and beloved Windows 7, Windows 8 (
) was necessary as a stepping-stone on the path towards unification.
There was always a fair amount of code exchange between the mobile and PC OS trees of Windows. But in
the era of Windows Mobile
(2000-2010) that process was more infrequent and sporadic, with development of the two branches largely independent. With the
launch of Windows Phone
in 2010, Microsoft found its design direction -- the Modern (Metro) UI.
With Windows 8 and Windows RT, Microsoft looked to have greater code sharing between its various products. But internally the situation had not substantially improved. While Microsoft had a unified design and a number of share core features across its platforms, it now had four separate code trees -- Xbox, Windows RT, Windows, and Windows Phone. Each platform's OS group had a separate design and software team. When a change was made to core APIs or Modern UI in one of these platforms, it was a time consuming process to port them to the others.
The first change came late last year with
a leadership shakeup
unified Microsoft's OS design teams
under a single common banner. With
Windows Phone 8.1
(and the Xbox One), Microsoft began the Herculean task of
unifying pieces of its API
. But much work remained.
[Image Source: Windows Store (Wallpaper App)]
That work is reportedly culminating with Windows 9, Microsoft's first family of consumer-facing operating systems (OSes) to feature fully unified and synchronous development. According to
The Seattle Times
, Windows 9 will be a watershed release for Microsoft.
On the backend, Microsoft is approaching maximum unification for APIs. Form factors (touch, small screens, big screen TVs, etc.) mandate some specialist code, but for the most part Microsoft is reportedly aiming to give customers one look and feel across the smartphone, Xbox, tablet, PC, and tabletop computer (Microsoft's Perceptive Pixel offerings).
II. The Men Behind Microsoft's Moonshot
Two corporate vice presidents are leading the unification effort. On the software front, David Treadwell, 47, is leading the update. On the user interface (UI) front, Joey Belfiore (a
veteran manager of the Windows Phone team
), 46, is leading the effort.
Both VPs report to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group. In terms of consumer-facing products, one major result of the shifts in leadership was the emergence of the OS group as the leader in development direction -- a seemingly intuitive shift for a company who became a superpower thanks to its MS-DOS and Windows operating systems.
Terry Myerson, Microsoft EVP of OS Group
Mr. Myerson gushes about his two lieutenants:
Joe is just a magnificent painter. Dave is much more a plumber or electrician. Together we all come together and build this fabulous house that is Windows.
Joe Belfiore, Microsoft OS Group VP of UI Design
From now on, says Mr. Treadwell, expect a release to bring updates to all of Microsoft's major platforms. He describes this revolutionary approach -- which no other OS maker has achieved yet -- stating:
We had to finish Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1, Xbox One. Now that those are done, we are now on the same logistical schedules. We’re going to have one common OS schedule and everything’s going to be aligned with that. We’re doing common planning now, common priority, common release schedules.
David Treadwell, Microsoft OS Group VP of OS Development
What's more, the report quotes Mr. Treadwell as describing how earlier this year an internal memo circulated to nearly all of Microsoft's teams, generating a consensus set of features for the next generation multi-platform operating system. Mr. Treadwell describes:
Before, there was a Windows team, a Windows Phone team, an Xbox team. While there was general agreement of the value of (having a) common core and consistency of design, there were organizational lines that we had to cross to achieve that. There just aren’t these barriers now.
And these efforts weren’t limited just to the OS developers. They also worked with Microsoft's software and enterprise teams, including the teams responsible for Azure, Office, Bing, and Skype. The result is that Windows 9 should be giving each Microsoft software project the tools it needs to create a next generation experience.
The software side of things has already come to bear with
Microsoft's "Universal Apps"
, which offer
quick porting of a single app
across the PC, (HD) tablet, smartphone, and Xbox, with common permissions and bundled customer purchase options.
III. Why Windows 9 is a Game Changer
Steve Ballmer's 14-year reign
as CEO of Microsoft, there were
some high notes
, but in terms of market direction Microsoft undoubtedly
lost some of its glow
to consumers and investors. Companies like Apple, Inc. (
) and Google Inc. (
) emerged as real threats to Microsoft's hegemony of personal computing.
with Satya Nadella
tireless commitment to cloud-back services
and a unified Microsoft -- his "One Microsoft" vision -- Microsoft appears poised to be producing the most massive and efficient multi-platform project in history.
Both Apple and Google are headed in a similar direction.
OS X 10.10 is expected to take design cues
from iOS 7. But neither company appears as far along as Microsoft. What Microsoft is planning -- a singular cross platform update for large computers, consoles, PCs, tablets, and smartphones -- is unprecedented. It's never been done. Microsoft is also working to tightly integrate its packed stable of consumer software offerings into these updates, and it's an incredible vision from a technical perspective.
While casual consumers can look forward to a higher degree of polish, there's plenty for power users and enthusiasts to eagerly await, as well. Microsoft has already stated that either Windows 8.2 (an interim release) or Windows 9 will feature
the return of the Start Menu to Desktop Mode
. What's more, Microsoft engineers have hinted that Windows 9 may at last introduce multiple switchable desktops, a much beloved feature from Linux.
Microsoft is bringing the sexy Start Menu back. [Image Source: Redmond Pie]
Windows 9 is on pace for an
April 2015 release
. Windows for tablets and smartphones is expected to
continue to be free to OEMs
a major edge over Google's Android
of $5-15 USD per device
Needless to say, if Microsoft delivers what its promising with Windows 9, it could be a game changer for the entire industry, the effects of which could be felt for decades to come.
The Seattle Times
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
Nice marketing piece.
6/2/2014 11:41:02 AM
This article reads like Microsoft marketing. Is it a sponsored article?
"New cross-platform OS project is unprecedented, arguably largest software project in history"
"Microsoft is plotting quite literally the largest software project in history"
"Windows 9 will be a watershed release for Microsoft."
"Microsoft appears poised to be producing the most massive and efficient multi-platform project in history."
"if Microsoft delivers what its promising with Windows 9, it could be a game changer for the entire industry, the effects of which could be felt for decades to come."
My wife and I used to joke about every new release of a Robert De Niro movie. Why? Because it was always promoted with quotes from critics saying something to the effect of "De Niro's finest performance ever!" The movie companies kept coming back with that line over and over with every new release. It begins to lose its meaning, especially when it's not true. You end up not believing. It becomes rote and a joke.
That's Microsoft today and glowing articles like this one. "Microsoft's finest X to date!" Microsoft's problem is philosophical, and no API unification is going to fix it.
RE: Nice marketing piece.
6/2/2014 11:46:14 AM
Is it a sponsored article?
LOL I'm kidding...but sometimes I wonder :)
RE: Nice marketing piece.
6/2/2014 1:05:17 PM
"Microsoft's first family of consumer-facing operating systems"
I am one consumer who would rather not be 'faced' by an operating system. It sounds too painful.
RE: Nice marketing piece.
6/2/2014 11:35:29 PM
Especially when you consider there is nothing "unprecedented" about this. Ubuntu has been doing the same thing long -before- Microsoft with its Unity project -- one OS from phones to desktop.
In all truth, Microsoft is late to the party; except, Windows 8 was already their first attempt to unify across the markets! 8's rough edges had nothing to do with porting, and simply trying to force everyone to use a tablet optimized OS with weakened multitasking and without room to fully customize it to be efficient in other scenarios.
Windows 9 is obviously -more of the same-. Nothing new, nothing innovative, nothing earth shattering in that regard. At least so far as we see here. I really take exception at this "unprecedented" claim.
RE: Nice marketing piece.
6/3/2014 9:55:49 AM
No the idea isn't new. Ubuntu did it, as my son showed me with his Ubuntu desktop, laptop and phone, and so did Apple to a degree with the release of their first iPad. OSX for desktops and laptops was still different, but you had the same OS on both your phone and tablet. That was something that I thought really hurt MS since you had a similar but different OS for your phone, tablet and PC.
So the idea isn't new, but the approach and vision for what MS is doing here is. MS isn't just phones and PC's, they are also tablets and game consoles. They are a software company that also produces hardware. If they pull this off, they could in theory bring this same vision to SmartTV's and other electronics.
No it's not new and they are certainly not the first to try to do this, but they will be the first to expand it to so many different products in an attempt to truly unify all devices. If it works, and if they do it, it
really be something amazing.
RE: Nice marketing piece.
6/4/2014 11:30:23 AM
Ubuntu has been the only one to pull this off so far... but then again they are Ubuntu, which is a Linux distro that pretty much all of my Linux using friends have disowned over the last 4-5 years (though I have to admit that I like it even if they don't). While a great technical leap forward, Ubuntu is simply never going to have enough of a market to matter.
But outside of Ubuntu? Pretty much nobody.
Google is slowly merging Chrome OS, Google Chrome, and Android; but unless they are going to come out with an unexpected announcement then I would guess that progress is not coming along all that well.
Apple has essentially said that they have no interest in merging iOS and OSX, saying that it is fine to have different OSs on different devices so long as the services and features are portable. If anything Apple will continue developing their ARM chips to offer iOS laptops and all-in-ones for the consumer market, and just leave OSX to the 'professional' market. Sort of a win98 vs winNT differentiation... but without all of the security issues.
But MS has been working towards this goal for a long time. Development on WP7 and win8 was the real start of things where they were attempting to come up with a UI that would work in spite of screen sizes and input methods, and while there are sacrifices, the MetroUI has come a long ways towards being useful, and may succeed at that as they continue to refine it. But with Metro came not only an interface, but a roadmap towards unifying development across the board. Each and every release/update after WP7 has brought more and more parody across platforms, and with win9 they will finally be done bringing parody so that they can push the platform in a direction (hopefully forward... but this is MS).
But to say that MS is behind on this when they are actually ahead of all of the other big players, is a bit silly.
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