August 6, 2013
What if Microsoft (MSFT) merged its struggling Windows RT and Windows Phone operating systems into a single software platform for tablets and smartphones? That concept, which Mary Jo Foley proposed toward the bottom of a recent blog, makes a ton of sense for Microsoft’s partners, developers and customers. Here’s why.
In a recent blog about Microsoft’s commitment to Windows RT, Foley wrote:
“Windows Phone runs on ARM. Windows RT runs on ARM. Both use the NT core. And Microsoft is trying to unify the programming interfaces, frameworks and dev tools across these platforms. … What if the Windows Phone OS and Windows RT both evolve so they become, for all intents and purposes, one OS that can run on mobile devices without a desktop?”
Foley is onto something here. Consider the bleak reality:
Microsoft in July announced a $900 million write-down for unsold Surface RT inventory.
Total sales of Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets since launch is under $1 billion.
Windows RT had 0.5 percent tablet OS market share in Q2 2013, while Samsung tablet sales running Android were skyrocketing, according to IDC. Translation: One in 200 tablet sales for Q2 2013 ran Windows RT.
In the smart phone market, Microsoft had about 3.9 percent operating system share for Q2 2013, Gartner estimates. The bulk of that Microsoft market share surely involves Windows Phone.
With those market share realities in mind, it’s time for Microsoft to simplify its message to partners, developers and customers. Both Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 are struggling to attract native applications vs. Apple iOS and Android. Instead of forcing developers to choose between Microsoft’s tablet and phone offerings, it’s time for the software giant to give developers one code base upon which to write apps.
Microsoft has been down this path before. Anyone else remember how Windows 95 and NT Workstation gradually looked more and more alike in the 1990s? The end destination was Windows 2000 (on the NT code base) at the close of the decade.
It’s time for Microsoft to steal a page from its own playbook. Converge Windows RT and Windows Phone. Surely, one struggling (but promising) OS is better than two — correct?
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