But an even bigger change is expected in the spring of 2015 when Microsoft unveils updates for Xbox One, Windows and Windows Phone under the codename "Threshold." They will share common elements, but won't be completely unified.
Microsoft Executive Vice President Terry Myerson reportedly mentioned Threshold in an internal email regarding his engineering group's plans for a unified operating system. The internal email was confirmed by two sources who talked to Mary Jo Foley in a report in ZDNet on Monday.
Xbox One, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 already share a common kernel, but Threshold would reportedly support even more commonality, keeping with the theme of "One Microsoft" that CEO Steve Ballmer announced in July.
Somewhat separate from Threshold, Microsoft could be creating a hybrid OS of both Windows RT and Windows Phone, according to various reports, although many analysts have been hoping Windows RT will eventually die out, given the poor performance of early Windows RT tablets.
Various reports and blogs have indicated that recent public comments by Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's executive vice president of devices and studios, should be interpreted to mean that Windows RT will die, as Microsoft works to reduce the number of operating systems it now supports.
Gold said Microsoft may keep Windows RT alive for a while to work as a hybrid with Windows Phone although he supports ending Windows RT. One factors favoring Windows RT's continued life is its reliance on ARM-based processors (used in the Surface RT tablet from Microsoft, for example). ARM-based processors also power most smartphones, meaning there's a solid connection between Windows Phone and Windows RT already.
The pathway to operating system convergence at Microsoft could take much longer than 2015, which further imperils the future success of Windows Phone, with its slim market share.
Microsoft statement looks ahead
Microsoft wouldn't say when Windows Phone 8.1 will appear nor would it confirm any of the Threshold details. But a spokeswoman issued a somewhat mysterious statement to Computerworld when asked about the future of Windows RT and details about Threshold. Usually, Microsoft will simply say it doesn't respond to rumors, but this time added to that response a hint of future possibilities.
"We have nothing to share [regarding Threshold or a convergence of Windows Phone and Windows RT], but look forward to the opportunities ahead," the spokeswoman said.
A bit of Windows Phone optimism?
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