"Microsoft needs to consolidate its platforms, at least from an application perspective, so that developers don't have to maintain separate applications. I would expect this will be a priority for Microsoft going forward," IDC analyst Al Gillen said via email.
The importance of the future and strategy for Windows has been heightened by Microsoft's US$7.2 billion deal to acquire Nokia's smartphone business, which is expected to close in late April.
Bringing the development of future Nokia devices into the Microsoft fold is expected to yield better products because Microsoft will be in complete control of the hardware, software and services. Clearly, the operating system powering these devices, as well as the applications running on them, are key elements for achieving that success.
Nokia will hold a press conference at Build where it presumably will offer details about upcoming Windows-powered devices.
So far, indications from Microsoft executives point to a uniform code-base strategy for Windows from smartphones through servers, making the platform more attractive for developers building applications and IT professionals managing enterprise systems.
"That seems to be the path they've had for Windows for a while," Silver said.
Gillen doesn't think there will ever be a uniform set of APIs (application programming interfaces) running the gamut from phone to server. "But there could be a subset/superset scenario," with a few core APIs along with specific ones for different platforms, he said.
Microsoft's strategy is different from the one taken by its biggest rivals, both of which have separate OSes for mobile devices and PCs.
Apple has done well with iOS for iPhones and iPads, and Mac OS for desktop and laptop PCs. Likewise, Google has Android for smartphones and tablets, and ChromeOS for Chromebook laptops and desktops -- although there have been persistent rumors that Google will at some point merge those two operating systems.
However, Gillen said that Microsoft's case is different from its competitors', so its strategy for Windows doesn't necessarily need to follow someone else's model.
"Apple has a different audience and ecosystem than Microsoft has, and I think it is oversimplifying to compare and contrast the two companies in this manner. Microsoft needs to do what is best for its ecosystem," Gillen said.
Back in September, Terry Myerson, the executive vice president of the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, talked about this vision of a uniform Windows experience from the handset to the data center.
"We really should have one silicon interface for all of our devices. We should have one set of developer APIs on all of our devices," Myerson said during the company's meeting with financial analysts. "And all of the apps we bring to end users should be available on all of our devices."
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