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Monday, December 02, 2013, 10:54 am PT (01:54 pm ET)

Microsoft's project 'Threshold' to further converge PC, phone & Xbox platforms

Microsoft plans to continue to blur the lines between its traditional Windows PC platform, its Windows Phone mobile platform, and its Xbox One game console operating system with a forthcoming update codenamed "Threshold," according to a new report.

Surface


Alleged details on Microsoft's plans for a spring 2015 release were revealed on Monday by Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet. Specifically, Microsoft is said to be planning updates to all three of its major operating system platforms to share even more common elements between them.

"Threshold" will not represent a single Windows OS, but instead will reportedly add the same core set of "high value activities." These are said to potentially include products such as Office, Bing, Intune and more.

The Redmond, Wash., software company is also said to be planning to deliver a single application store that will work across its Windows OS, Windows Phone and Xbox One platforms.

Microsoft has been aggressively working to create a common experience among all of its operating systems, giving users of the Windows ecosystem a common look and feel on Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows PCs. Specifically, all three major platforms now feature Microsoft's tile-based "Metro" user interface as their primary method of input.

metro


That's a very different approach from Apple, which has so far kept the interfaces of its Mac operating system, iOS mobile platform, and Apple TV very distinct. Certain elements have been borrowed from each, but Apple has focused more on creating cross-platform services, like iTunes and iCloud, rather than, say, extensively replicating the feel of iOS on a Mac.

Microsoft's convergence strategy has gone beyond software and includes hardware, such as the company's first-party lineup of Surface tablets, aiming to bridge the gap between notebooks and tablets. Third-party vendors have also been releasing so-called "convertible" PCs as well, which can serve as both a traditional laptop and a touchscreen tablet.

This fall, AppleInsider spent some time with Microsoft's new Surface 2 tablet running the Windows RT platform, which is designed for ARM processors and cannot run full-fledged Windows apps, and found that the device works better as a potential netbook replacement rather than a competitor to Apple's iPad.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has panned such attempts at convergence by Microsoft and its partners, saying such attempts are "not pleasing to the user." He compared hybrid tablet-notebook devices to that of selling a refrigerator with toaster functions tacked on the side.

"Anything can be forced to converge," Cook said. "But the problem is that the products are about tradeoffs. You begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone."