There was a lot of good news at Microsoft Build yesterday. First, Microsoft announced Windows 8.1 Update and Windows Phone 8.1. Windows 8.1 Update will include better support for mouse and keyboard and boot users straight to desktop. The Windows Phone 8.1 update will address most of what we didn’t like about Windows Phone 8 and more. Microsoft also announced that both operating systems are now free for devices with displays lower than 9 inches. Meaning manufacturers will no longer have to pay licensing fees to bundle Windows operating systems on any of their sub 9-inch display devices. Combined with the fact that Windows Phone 8.1 will support low-end Qualcomm-based hardware, this can only mean cheaper Windows-based devices for consumers.
Nokia also announced 3 phones built specifically for the new Windows Phone 8.1. They are the Lumia 930 flagship (essentially an international version of the Lumia Icon) and the budget Lumia 630 and its 4G variant, Lumia 635, which will both have Dual SIM variants – a first for any Windows Phone device – and even more interestingly, will cost between $159 and $189. That’s N30,000 at most.
But all these were not the high points of the evening. The high point of the evening was Microsoft introducing Universal Apps. Basically, developers can now build single apps that will work across all windows devices – phones, tablets, game consoles and desktops. This is Microsoft finally inching closer to what they had hoped to achieve with the “failure” that was Windows 8 – convergence.
Convergence is the concept of bringing separate technologies to work together as one. In computing, it is the idea that there should be only one operating system to run across all device form factors – desktop, tablet and mobile. Perhaps the coolest realization of this concept in computing is the Ubuntu Phone OS project, which was proposed to flag off with the Ubuntu Edge. The Ubuntu Edge was no doubt destined to change mobile computing forever but sadly, the project never kicked off.
Before the introduction of Universal Apps, Microsoft was kinda getting it all wrong. How they believed they could simulate convergence with 3 distinct OSes is beyond me. But what Microsoft has now is much better. It is not the end game, but they are getting there. The introduction of Universal Apps will also encourage developers to make better Windows 8 apps. Because let’s face it, most Windows 8 apps suck. And now, with Windows RT all but dead, I can better imagine a future where Windows and Windows Phone will become the same OS. Full convergence is imminent. Android and Apple best pay close attention.