Microsoft: Just two Windows versions is the goal

Microsoft is aiming to cut Windows confusion by trimming its three-strong OS line-up for mobile devices to tow, streamlining some combination of Windows Phone, Windows RT, and full Windows. Windows RT, the little-loved version of Windows 8 that Microsoft cooked up for ARM-based tablets, was insufficiently differentiated from full Windows, Julie Larson-Green, Executive Vice President of Devices and Studios at Microsoft, said last week, ZDNet reports. While Microsoft's exact plans weren't detailed, long-standing rumors indicate the company may integrate Windows Phone and Windows RT in future.

According to Larson-Green, Microsoft's goal with Windows RT had been to balance control and flexibility, but a trio of platforms is unlikely to be how it remains. "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three" she said during the UBS Global Technology Conference.

"We do think there's a world where there is a more mobile operating system that doesn't have the risks to battery life, or the risks to security. But, it also comes at the cost of flexibility. So we believe in that vision and that direction and we're continuing down that path" Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft

What the exec did concede was that Microsoft hadn't done enough to show consumers the ways in which Windows RT and Windows 8 are the same, and in which ways they're different. Referring to the original Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, Larson-Green admitted the similarities may have hurt Microsoft more than it helped sales.

"They looked similar. Using them is similar. It just didn't do everything that you expected Windows to do" she said. "So there's been a lot of talk about it should have been a rebranding. We should not have called it Windows. How should we have made it more differentiated? I think over time you'll see us continue to differentiate it more."

That differentiation may well include a hybrid version of Windows RT and Windows Phone which Microsoft could deploy on both handsets and tablets. That would not only allow Microsoft to offer developers a single set of APIs but to jumpstart the Windows RT app market with titles carried over from the smartphone platform.

According to ZDNet's sources, Microsoft is likely to use the Windows Phone OS core for this hybridized platform, factoring in elements of Windows RT, rather than the other way around.