Microsoft's little-loved Windows RT OS could get a second wind by merging more closely with Windows Phone and targeting so-called "phablet" devices, according to hints from the company. The OS, which puts Windows 8 on ARM chips but which has been criticized for its confusing software support in comparison to the "full" x86 version of the platform, failed to challenge iOS and Android on tablets as Microsoft initially hoped, but according to comments at the company's Financial Analyst Meeting this week, the answer might be in the similarities Windows RT has with Windows Phone, rather than Windows 8.
Asked about Windows RT's future, Executive Vice President Terry Myerson - head of Microsoft's operating system division, which was recently combined to bring mobile, desktop, and gaming software under one roof - commented that more ARM hardware running Windows is in the pipeline.
"Windows RT was our first ARM tablet," he said in response, ZDNet reports. "And as phones extend into tablets, expect us to see many more ARM tablets, Windows ARM tablets in the future."
One of the benefits of ARM-based hardware, Myerson pointed out, is that it can deliver considerably more battery life than x86 chips manage, particularly when it comes to phones. The distinction between what is considered a phone and what is a tablet has been blurring, he argued; that's the segment that the industry has begun to refer to as "phablets", with screen sizes anywhere between 5- and 7-inches.
Currently, Windows Phone has been generally found on devices smaller than their Android counterparts, though that has begun to change in recent months. Windows RT, meanwhile, is best known for appearing on Microsoft's own Surface, which was criticized for so closely resembling the x86-based Surface Pro that would-be buyers were confused as to what functionality their slate might actually support. Windows RT lacks compatibility with full x86 applications, only supporting so-called Metro style apps.
In fact, despite the aesthetic similarities, Windows RT is arguably closer to Windows Phone in its underlying architecture than it is to Windows 8. The two platforms share the NT core, and Myerson also commented that he sees greater convergence as essential:
"[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. And all of the apps we bring to end users should be available on all of our devices" Terry Myerson, EVP Operating Systems, Microsoft
When exactly - and indeed if - Microsoft begins putting RT on smaller devices, and how it might brand them- as tablets or big phone - remains to be seen. Rumors of a roughly 7- to 8-inch Windows RT slate have persisted since shortly after the original Surface launch.
Meanwhile, an event on Monday, September 23 in New York City is expected to see the Surface 2 debut, though insiders claim a smaller version won't be appearing at the show.