Threshold. That’s reportedly the working name of the next major wave of Microsoft operating system releases according to a December 2nd article by Mary Jo Foley of ZDnet. The article quotes unnamed sources and discusses Microsoft's intent to develop a "wave" of new operating systems that better span the company’s three major platforms -- Windows for computers, tablets and phones, and gaming devices including the Xbox One.
Foley suggests the 'Threshold' release date is being targeted for the spring of 2015. Microsoft declined to comment on the speculation and our own sources have not yet been able to verify details.
While there do not appear to be plans for the three platforms to converge into one, there are expectations that more common elements will be shared between them. The Threshold name -- derived from a planet mentioned in the huge Xbox hit game Halo -- refers not to one release but to the coordinated release of all three.
There are several Microsoft initiatives underway, according to Foley, to move the three platforms closer, including development of a single app store and of a developer toolset that has more similarities between the three operating systems. Potentially, developer skills that can be reused across platforms, and a single Microsoft commercial outlet for developers’ efforts, could increase the appeal of Microsoft platforms for companies creating applications.
Merging Phone and RT?
There had been speculation that the company, in its next full release, might try to merge the two operating systems that are based on ARM processors, the RT version of Window and Windows Phone. Some reports have also suggested that the next Windows Phone will be able to support 7-inch to 10-inch tablets, although possibly only ARM-based devices.
Additionally, there is speculation by Microsoft-watchers that the company will integrate or at least make the workflow similar for such common tasks as document creation/management, search-related functionalities, and IT management of devices.
In July, for instance, outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer noted in an e-mail to company employees that Microsoft, going forward, will leverage its strengths across PCs, Xbox, Office, and enterprise -based products like Windows Server and Exchange, with a set of services across “a broader set of devices” instead of its previous emphasis on “packaged software.”
Whatever the actual OS rollout in 18-20 months, Microsoft certainly has reasons to be thinking big. The Windows 8.1 update, released in October, has helped Windows 8 move forward, but the total market share for Windows 8/8.1 is still modest.
According to industry research firm Net Applications, both versions gained only 0.05 percent of market share in November, from 9.25 percent to 9.30 percent. Inside those figures, Windows 8.1 adoption increased slightly while the adoption of Windows 8 declined. By contrast, the older Windows 7 rose from 46.42 percent to 46.64 percent during that period, more than versions 8/8.1 together, while the veteran Windows XP still holds nearly a third of the market. In its first year of release, Windows 7 took 14.5 percent.
Since Windows 8.1 was launched in October, the OS has increased market share only by about .3 percent. Additionally, the Windows Store’s count of new apps dropped from five months of double digits to 3 percent to 5 percent growth in August through October. In other words, the adoption rate of the company’s newest OS, and the related developer interest, remains fairly stagnant.