Dear Microsoft, we ALWAYS Wanted Windows in our Pocket, but When do we get it?

by: - Last updated on: October 12th, 2015

This is not Windows!
Yes, it is.
No, it is not. It does not look and work the way it does on the desktop!
Obviously. This is meant for phones!
See, I told you it was not Windows!
No, no, this is Windows, but it is meant for phones. Designed differently for smaller screens…
I don’t WANT it designed differently. Why cannot they just give me the REAL Windows that’s on my PC on a phone?

That conversation took place when a gentleman I know was trying to buy a smartphone. He had been delighted to know that there were phones running Windows and had gone to a store hoping to buy one. People suggested other platforms, but his rationale for wanting Windows on a phone was simple – the same OS and apps on his phone and his desktop. “I can keep switching between the two,” he told me happily, as we walked to the store. When he DID see Windows on a phone, his reaction was one of extreme disappointment, leading to the conversation above.


Oh, and did I mention that this was in 2006?

The stark fact is that people have been wanting an EXACT copy of their desktop computers that they can easily carry around for years now. Notebooks sort of met the need, but for all their lightness, remain relatively bulky and cannot fit into pockets the way a handset can. Yes, smartphones and PDAs have been around for a while, but while they could do what a computer could – and we use the term ‘computer’ here to describe the desktop PC – they did them rather differently. For instance, while you could edit documents and send and receive e-mails from a Symbian or a BlackBerry device, there was a certain learning curve involved as things worked rather differently as compared to how they did on a computer.

Which is why people like my friend were yearning for a phone that worked exactly like their computers did. In simple terms – they wanted Windows XP with a dialer!

Of course, Microsoft did have a version of Windows for mobile devices – in fact it had two, a normal and a professional one (for touchscreens) – but the problem was that while these were Windows in name, they were not very similar to their desktop counterparts in many regards, even though they shared the same icons. Using them was a very different kettle of fish, although you did get to see familiar “friends” like Internet Explorer and MS Office right out of the box, even though they did behave very differently in actual usage. Then there was also the headache of getting apps – you did not get carbon copies of the apps you were so used to on desktops on your handset. So no, you could not get Adobe Photoshop Express to run on your phone and there was even a school of thought that insisted that QuickOffice was a better office suite than MS Office itself when you were using Windows Mobile!

And it is this dichotomy between its mobile and desktop version that has been plaguing Windows for a while. Even today, a number of Indian consumers who walk into a store to purchase a Windows Phone device actually think that a platform called Windows Phone will, well, deliver Windows on their phones. And for them, Windows remains the OS that runs at home on their desktop or on the notebooks in their backpacks – indeed, thanks to its overwhelming popularity, that is what Windows is to most people. People do not have the same expectations from an Apple device because the company has managed to name and position its mobile and desktop operating systems differently. But Google might understand the Redmond company’s pain – far too many Indian consumers think that Chrome is only a browser and cannot understand how it could be an OS.

Now, while a geek might understand that the hardware required to run a desktop or notebook OS is very different from that needed to run one on the phone, most users – thanks in turn to a lot of “phones are more powerful than computers were a few years ago” hype from manufacturers – do not have the patience for such explanations. What they do want is Windows on a phone. “REAL Windows”, as my friend said in 2006. And they have been wanting it for a while now for the simple reason that it simplifies everything – you only need to understand one interface and deal with one set of apps.

So when Panos Panay mentioned that he wanted to put Windows in our pockets, a small part of us actually – oh yes actually! – believed that we would be seeing something perhaps of the size of a Lumia 1520 running Windows 10 in all its glory, giving us our desktops and our laptops in your pockets.

At long last.


Ah well, then out came the $99 Continuum docks that let you connect your phone to a monitor, keyboard and mouse to deliver a Windows experience from your phone on to a larger screen, and we realised that what we had was closer to a PC-on-Stick, where you need a display and keyboard to get the Windows experience, even while the other hardware and software resides in a tiny device (well, a USB stick fits into our pockets a lot more easily than some of the phones these days). Yes, we loved the idea of being able to connect a phone to a television and keyboard and work on it as if it were a proper computer, but ah, it would have been so much infinitely better to have been able to get the same Windows experience right on a smaller screen, without having to worry about compatible apps for a while. Windows 10 with a phone dialler, so to speak – stripped down, not as enormously powerful as its desktop brother, but with largely the same functionality, features and apps. As one of my colleagues in the media put it rather bluntly, “For Windows to succeed on the phone, Windows Phone and Windows Mobile need to die. There has to be just one Windows – a lighter version of it for the phones, and the real thing for the computers. But in essence they should be the same.

It seems we will have to wait a little bit longer for that to happen. Microsoft does want to put Windows in our pockets, after all.

An update on my friend – he is now using an iPhone and an iMac.

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  1. A VERY gentle remark to a number of people out there – you ACTUALLY think someone will respond if you abuse them and call them stupid? Oh well, , the point of my friend’s moving to an iPhone and a Mac was not because he could run the same apps on them but because he could not get a Windows device – as he perceived it to be. At no place have I said that the iPhone or the Mac is better than Windows. The point of the final statement was to stress that Windows lost a potential customer. And yes, of course I don’t know anything. I am still learning. Carry on, gents.

    1. Are you suggesting that windows lost a lot of customers because Microsoft did not launch a desktop like experience on a phone?

      I do not agree with that.

      They were late to the market. They rebooted windows mobile several times, alienating the developer community. And not many people were a big fan of the tiles. Now the app gap is too big to draw in new customers.

      I think you took one customer’s experience, i.e. your friend’s, and simply stated that is what the market expected.

      Do you really believe a desktop OS in your palm will let you be productive? You won’t even be able to read the text on menu bars if you did that.

      1. Of course, you are free to disagree. And no, I did not base my statement on just the experience of my friend – a number of Nokia store sellers have agreed on the point that many people assume that Windows Mobile simply meant Windows on a smaller device.

    2. Hey Nimish,

      I’m just going to repost my comment up here (below the break, about W10) to see if you have any response to this. Not trying to abuse or say you’re stupid at all – just wondering what your perception of this was, since it seems like the things you’re saying should exist already do. As it is written, the article makes it seem like you’re ignoring facts about the Windows platform. But before we get to that…

      > he could not get a Windows device – as he perceived it to be.

      As you point out, perception is everything. If you expect a device to be one thing and it isn’t, then you’re not going to want it.

      As a counterpoint, Apple lost a potential customer (me) because they didn’t sell phones that had an operating system that is plug-and-play compatible with my desktop without the use of iTunes software, doesn’t accept an SD card, doesn’t use standard chargers, and doesn’t have an open OS. It also doesn’t have a battery that lasts 2-3 days.

      Of course this device doesn’t exist, never has, and nobody advertised that it did. But as it stands, I’m now an Android phone & Windows Desktop user (not sure if that is relevant though).

      > Windows 10 with a phone dialler, so to speak – stripped down, not as enormously powerful as its desktop brother, but with largely the same functionality, features and apps.
      > “For Windows to succeed on the phone, Windows Phone and Windows Mobile need to die. There has to be just one Windows – a lighter version of it for the phones, and the real thing for the computers. But in essence they should be the same.”

      This is *exactly* what Microsoft is doing with Windows 10. Unified apps = same apps to run on mobile and desktop.

  2. Then I would laugh hard at your friend. My Desktop/Laptop/Tablet/Phone that will all perform the same functions as the combo he selected will cost LESS. iPhone users really do like pain don’t they?

    I have a 8in Tablet, running skype. I have a skype number that is cheap as hell to get. Now I carry my $99 Lumia 640 that is every bit the phone the iPhone 6 is. My tablet was $180, is a full blown PC. With my phones data sharing, Tmobile, I get 7GB of anything I want, including…tada calls on my pc. When I don’t answer my phone, guess what gets called? That’s right…SKYPE. It is this revolutionary thing called, call forwarding that is free to use. Now this setup is less than 300 bucks. This setup allows me to do anything they do, and better imo, running both full windows and windows on a phone.

    Now last few months I updated to a used 1520, for 200 bucks, not a scratch on it. So now I have a phone that is on par with apple’s latest offering, even though it is 2yrs old. I have still spent less than a single new iPhone. In fact I could get unlimited skype for a few bucks a month and simply hand that out as my primary number/sms, and still pay over the course of 10years, longer than your friend walked into that store long ago…and still be CHEAPER than a iPhone 6 of today. That is insane.

    The point of this rant? Your friend is paying to be an apple user, paying out the rear. I could price a 640, tablet, good laptop hell even the surface book, probably for cheaper than what he is doing. And yes I own the 640, it is a terrific device. I have a 1020, 1520, 930, 925, 640, and others; my family has never been more productive and cheaper than the competition than ever before. We all have tablets, bought for under 300 ranging from 11.8in to 7in (I have 3 stream 7’s for the kids, full pcs that share a 3device Bluetooth keyboard and old monitor).

  3. Are you kidding me?

    A bunch of hackers loaded windows xp into a smart watch. So it is not that difficult to run a PC version of windows on a smaller screen. But let me ask you this: How will you control the app?

    A desktop app is designed for mouse and keyboard input. And a tablet or phone app is designed for touch input. Even apps have two different versions depending on form factor, imagine how much more an operating system needs to change between form factor.

    Just ridiculous. And I don’t know even one person who wants what you are asking for.

    Perhaps if Microsoft let win32 apps run through continum, on Intel based phones, I’ll want that.