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.

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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.

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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. Most, if not all desktop programs would not function worth a hoot on a phone – that’s why they are trying to promote Universal Windows Apps – then your dream will be met.
    If your friend was obsessed with desktop & phone looking the same and running the same programs why did he go OSX and iOS? WP, even in the state it’s in now has a more similar GUI and has some universal apps.

  2. Really? There should be the normal Windows and a lighter windows for phones? That’s what W10M is…. The Lighter Windows 10. The Action Centre is there, the settings look and are organized the same way as the PC version, Live Tiles are on both and as Universal Apps evolve, they will be the same apps you use on both devices and other Windows devices. The only real difference is the layout to fit on a mobile screen. Both the Mobile and Desktop W10 use the same Kernel (for the first time ever) and it IS the same Windows except being a lighter Windows for Phones…. Exactly what you are asking for. If you looked at the Calender, Mail, Photos, and Office apps (the universal ones) you would see that they are laid out the same on both the desktop and the Mobile. The only difference is that while you see three columns of information on the desktop, you only see one on the phone and have to either swipe or push a button to jump to the others. This is more evident with various presentations of Continuum when they show these apps switching from the phone to the monitor.

    You say there has to be ONE Windows and yet describe two versions of Windows but both essentially need to be the same….. That’s what we’re getting. The Desktop, Tablet, Laptop, Notebook, Xbox Version…. And the Lighter Version for Mobiles.

    Geez you just can’t please people.

  3. what a horrible article. Btw my friend is now on ios and mac… I almost threw up. For the person writing this article trying to explain what pc in the pocket means and then to bring up Apple has some major issues. For one Windows 10 on desktops and laptops/tablets is the only official version of windows 10 available. Windows 10 mobile, windows 10 on Xbox and windows 10 on halolens are only in beta. The pocket pc experience will come from universal apps. There are already a slew of companies lined up to make these apps. Once the apps are available you will get the pocket pc experience. I as well as the majority of the public like the idea of plugging the phone into a dock to get desktop experience. I couldn’t imagine running every app on a 5-6″ screen

  4. This article so stupid, your basically complaining that windows mobile 10 won’t have a giant keyboard, mouse, and screen. Wouldn’t be a phone anymore would it? You get the full experience you just interact with it differently on your phone genius. There is no better solution than what they are offering. I just hope when they say full windows 10 they really mean it. If I can install any program I grab off the web I’ll be super happy.

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

    But… an iPhone can’t run OSX apps the same way that an iMac does. I guess your friend changed their mind completely about what they wanted. Apple doesn’t and likely won’t ever have app continuity between their two platforms. They even decided to keep their iPad “Pro” running the mobile OS instead of a full one.

    > 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. Or did you miss that memo too?

    How about you check back in with reality and then write another article. It sounds like you talked to your friend in 2006 and just assumed that everything is the same now as it is then.