Microsoft's next major update, code-named "Threshold," will begin paving the way for a more common experience across the Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox platforms, according to a new report.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reports that the three OSes will be tied together by a series of "high-value activities," which will apparently be apps shared across the three platforms: Office, Bing, IT management, and "fun" apps that presumably mean games of some sort.
Threshold is due in Spring 2015, Foley reports, following a spring 2014 update that will be known as an "Update 1" to Windows 8.1.
In some sense, Threshold simply extends the line that Microsoft has been drawing for the past few quarters. Microsoft Office now spans Windows, Windows RT, and Windows Phone, although its implementation on the latter mobile OS is rudimentary at best. (And, of course, it's a pretty dubious proposition to suggest that gamers will want to "play" PowerPoint on their Xbox One console.) We still don't know if Microsoft will axe Windows RT in favor of Windows 8; so far, it's still standing.
Nevertheless, as Foley notes, outgoing chief executive Steve Ballmer has outlined what he sees as commonalities across all three platforms in a strategy memo he released in June. In that memo, Ballmer talked about what he sees as the future of documents, collaboration, the core shell of Windows, and the notion of "serious fun." (We took more in-depth looks into Microsoft's "living document" strategy and its evolution of "smart search" earlier this year.)
If Microsoft is heading toward some sort of unified programming model, that's going to require possibly years of work. But other elements, such as the UI, services, and user data stored in the cloud, can be more easily manipulated. We're already seeing commonalities between the Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox One interfaces, including apps that stretch from the PC to the gaming console. Whether or not such commonalities will arrive in time for Microsoft to stave off Apple, Google, and other competitors isn't known. But Microsoft appears to be formalizing this trend, so much that it's worth wondering whether in a decade or so Microsoft-powered phones, consoles, and PCs will be largely the same thing.