Three versions of Windows 8 will merge, says device chief

Microsoft has had a clear vision to observers for Windows 8; one platform which spans devices; creating a familiar experience for customers, and a unified OS for easier development.

The “Modern UI” interface is one built for usability across desktop, tablet, mobile, and now console. Live tiles give the platform simplicity; whilst retaining function. And the “flat” interface is thought to have even inspired the likes of rivals Apple and Google to follow suit.

Whilst the Redmond-based giant may have succeeded in providing their vision to customers (particularly after the many fixes in the 8.1 update based on user feedback) for developers it’s been another story…

Speaking at the UBS Global Technology Conference last week, Microsoft’s head of devices, Julie Larson-Green, hinted they are finally working to merge their current three operating systems: "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three,"

As of writing, apps released on Windows RT (the OS aimed at ARM-based devices) can be downloaded on the full (Intel-based) version of Windows; whereas apps released for the full Windows cannot be executed on Windows RT. Confused? It certainly did many customers.

One of the biggest issues facing the Windows 8 ecosystem, particularly RT which is still in its infancy, is its lack of applications. Only recently a few apps which the industry deem “essential” such as Facebook, Foursquare, and Instagram have launched on the platform.

Windows chief, Terry Myerson, spoke at Microsoft’s financial analysts meeting to say he believes the smartphone will be where the growth lies for Windows RT: "The ARM devices, in particular in phones, have incredible share given their battery life and the connectivity options available with the system-on-a-chip ecosystem," said Myerson.

He continued: "Surface RT was our first ARM tablet. And as phones extend into tablets, expect us to see many more Windows ARM tablets in the future."

A hurdle which Microsoft has already taken steps to solve is the current separate Windows and Windows Phone stores – the new, unified solution for the company where apps are purchased rather than through third parties the new-generation of kids won’t know existed.

New developers, or existing ones renewing, will now pay a single annual fee of $19 to register as a Windows and Windows Phone developer. Existing developers who are registered to both stores will receive a code with a free one-year renewal.

Sensors and the Cloud are another current focus for Microsoft moving forward… devices like the new Kinect which has shipped with the Xbox One will play a part; the motion-sensing peripheral can now even read your heartbeat… creepy, right?

"Just as the mouse was an invention, touch was an invention, there will be the next new way to interact", explains Larson-Green. "And that's why we've been focusing on natural user interface for a while."

With a rumoured smartwatch, and a Google Glass competitor supposedly in testing, it won’t be long before Microsoft shows us their vision for the future.

Do you think it’s about time the three versions of Windows 8 combined?

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