It's official: Microsoft will consolidate Windows development

On the heels of its quarterly results announcement yesterday, Microsoft announced a plan to unify the creation of disparate Windows versions for phones, tablets, and consoles.

According to Seeking Alpha's transcript of the quarterly earnings call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella specifically talked about a plan to "consolidate overlapping efforts"—meaning "one operating system that covers all screen sizes and consolidated dual use productivity services that cross life and work."

Nadella added, "We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes. We will unify our stores, commerce and developer platforms to drive a more coherent user experience and a broader developer opportunity."

During the Q&A portion of the call, Nadella elaborated further, noting that Microsoft will continue to offer multiple flavors, or SKUs, of Windows while despite unifying things at the "engineering" level:

Yes. My statement Heather was more to do with just even the engineering approach. The reality is that we actually did not have one Windows; we had multiple Windows operating systems inside of Microsoft. We had one for phone, one for tablets and PCs, one for Xbox, one for even embedded. So we had many, many of these efforts. So now we have one team with the layered architecture that enables us to in fact . . . bring that collective opportunity with one store, one commerce system, one discoverability mechanism. It also allows us to scale the UI across all screen sizes; it allows us to create this notion of universal Windows apps and being coherent there.

So that’s what more I was referencing and our SKU strategy will remain by segment, we will have multiple SKUs for enterprises, we will have for OEM, we will have for end-users. And so we will – be disclosing and talking about our SKUs as we get further along, but this my statement was more to do with how we are bringing teams together to approach Windows as one ecosystem very differently than we ourselves have done in the past.

Microsoft had already announced universal Windows apps at its Build conference in April. As the company said at the time, developers will be able to write applications that can run on all of Microsoft's current consumer operating systems—Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, and the Xbox One—with a different user interface for each one.

In November 2013, Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green also dropped some not-so-subtle hints about Windows consolidation. The Devices and Studios head said, "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three." However, her statement seemed to point to a future with two Windows versions—for mobile and desktop—rather than just a single one.

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