As Microsoft prepares to combine its Windows RT tablet operating system with Windows Phone, Microsoft executives are stuck with a tricky decision on branding for an upcoming OS that runs across both tablets and phones. Apple has iOS and Google has Android, and both operating systems run across tablets and phones instead of laptops and PCs. Microsoft has Windows RT which runs on tablets, Windows Phone for phones, and Windows 8.1 for tablets and PCs. It’s a bit of a confusing mix for consumers to understand, but there are signs Microsoft might be moving away from using lots of different Windows names.
Microsoft’s latest commercials for the Lumia 930 don’t even mention Windows Phone at all. In fact, Microsoft refers to Windows Phone simply as Windows. Microsoft enthusiast Michael Gillett noticed the unusual ad, but there’s plenty of evidence elsewhere. HTC’s new One M8 for Windows also drops the Windows Phone name in favor of just Windows. Likewise, Microsoft’s latest Cortana ads don’t even mention Windows Phone apart from a small URL during the entire 30-second spots. Promotional videos for the latest Lumia 530, Lumia 730, and Lumia 830 handsets also fail to mention Windows Phone. Either Microsoft has learned that mentioning Windows Phone doesn’t matter to consumers, or it’s experimenting with branding ahead of a decision on the name for the combined version of Windows RT and Windows Phone.
Does the Windows numbering scheme matter anymore?
Further hints at a simplified naming scheme can be found in Microsoft’s plans for future Windows updates. The software maker is currently preparing Windows Threshold, which is expected to debut as Windows 9. The upcoming release will place a large emphasis on delivering regular updates to Windows 9 rather than preparing big successors like Windows 10 or Windows 11. While many expect the upcoming release to be called Windows 9, Microsoft could simply switch to just using "Windows" instead of a numbering scheme. It would be a surprising move, but with Windows client moving away from big releases towards regular updates it would make a lot of sense. A numbering scheme could still be present, but not marketed directly to consumers. Microsoft has already moved towards just using Windows in marketing videos instead of Windows 8.
At the moment the combined version of Windows RT and Windows Phone is referred to internally at Microsoft as "Windows mobile." That might hint at Microsoft’s thinking for the new operating system, but it would be surprising if the company opts for the same branding it used on its smartphones before Windows Phone was released. Whatever Microsoft ends up naming its next versions of Windows, there’s still the age old argument that the company should just drop the Windows brand entirely for consumers. With Microsoft moving towards a separate Windows for tablets and phones, and a traditional Windows for your PC or laptop, it now has the opportunity to decide.