At last week's Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft detailed it's ongoing strategy to bring a connectedness to all the different types of devices in its product ranges. This makes sense to a certain extent as a unified interface across Windows PCs and tablets, Windows Phone, Xbox and other devices makes considerable sense and is what Apple is currently doing with iOS and OS X.
Now, website This is my Next is claiming a Microsoft insider is telling them that sometime in 2015 or 2016, ie. around the time Windows 9 will be due Microsoft will make a switch to put it's core operating system on all their devices. This would put it around the right time for a next generation Xbox to be introduced.
The plan, will mean there will be just one operating system across all these devices. They are also saying that Microsoft is 'seriously considering ditching the Windows brand name in favour of something new when this all goes down'. So let's have a look at what's realistic and unrealistic here and try and put it all into some perspective.
It makes complete sense for Microsoft to want to bring a unified interface to all its devices. This helps people get up to speed with them easily when they've used the interface on one device. There are limitations to this however as there's only so much porting that's appropriate and workable. The Windows 8 tablet interface isn't suitable for day to day desktop working, and that won't be going away by 2016.
It also makes complete sense to put one OS on all their devices, after all Apple have already been doing this for years. The timing of this all boils down to which version of Windows finally pulls all the legacy code from its kernel. If it's Windows 8 then we can expect this to happen quite quickly, and indeed the CEO of Intel hinted way back in January that they will be making phones running Windows 8.
If this doesn't happen for Windows 8 though, and we'll find out for certain in September when the OS is unveiled, then it will definitely happen for Windows 9. By this time we'll see a unified launch for new Windows, tablets, smartphones and the Xbox. This means that the first of these two rumours is nothing more than an educated guess that anybody with just a little current product knowledge would come to.
As for the other rumour, the ditching of the Windows brand, this is much less likely. A couple of years ago if someone had suggested this then it might have been taken seriously. At this point in time the Windows brand was mud after years of security scares with XP and the debacle that was Vista. Now though Microsoft have pulled it around and, even though people thought using the brand on their new smartphone OS, after all the bad publicity Windows Mobile had received over the years, was a terrible idea, it doesn't seem to have done them much harm at all.
Windows is a very strong brand with worldwide recognition, it's up there with Coke and Ford. It's very unlikely then that Microsoft would want to drop the brand. The sole exception here would be in gaming. Xbox is also an incredibly strong brand so if there was to be a move to a single brand either Windows or Xbox would have to go.
I think it's more likely that we'll see the unified interface, and the same underlying OS, and the names remaining the same. This is what Apple are doing with OS X and iOS and it's not doing them any harm at all.
It's is possible that Microsoft might bring back the name Windows Next however, which was the codename used for Windows 8. If they were moving towards a unified platform and major a interface overhaul across their devices then this branding would make sense.
The thing to remember with these rumours though is that any discussions within Microsoft on branding will be taking place in quick words exchanged between meetings. It's simply far too early to decide what a product is going to be called, especially given that it will only exist in a very early Alpha at the moment, if at all.
A unified platform is a very exciting prospect though that can only have benefits for everyone, and we'll no doubt hear much more about this in the next three years.
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