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Microsoft "Menlo" may put desktop Windows on mobile devices

updated 11:30 am EDT, Tue May 4, 2010

MS Menlo would drop Win CE for Win NT core

Microsoft is engaged in a project that would bring the core of its desktop OS to smartphones and other mobile devices, an investigation revealed today. The strategy would replace the Windows CE core used in Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7 and Zune HD with the same Windows NT foundation that has persisted even up to Windows 7. A graphics layer known as Experiment 19 would scale the experience down to handheld sizes.

A number of current and former Microsoft Research members have identified themselves as part of the Menlo team.

How the implementation would work isn't known, but the incentive to switch to the NT core would likely come from apps, as it would finally let Microsoft use a similar platform across all of its devices. In spite of using the Windows brand for its phones, Windows CE and desktop Windows apps are fundamentally different as they support different processor architectures and have different frameworks for the apps themselves. A unified system would still need app changes to accommodate touchscreens but could port a desktop app to the phone or back relatively quickly.

How soon it would launch, or if it would launch at all, is a mystery. Sources have told ZDNet that Microsoft might not necessarily require a whole architecture change and could instead tell Windows Phone 7 developers to simply focus on Silverlight, which runs on top of Windows CE and can be ported to the desktop without necessarily having to restart the app from scratch.

An OS of the sort is a potential advantage for Microsoft, which suffered two setbacks to its tablet ambitions last week and may need a new OS initiative to recover. The HP slate may have been killed precisely because a full, conventional Windows 7 release was too complex for a tablet and required a power-hungry Atom processor. In turn, Courier was shelved for unknown reasons, but its rumored Windows CE-based, dual-screen UI may have been deemed impractical.

Apple has sold over 1 million iPads in its first month of sales and is often thought to be credited precisely because it uses a mobile OS optimized for a larger screen size rather than a shrunken desktop OS. Menlo may strike a balance between the two by allowing a mobile UI but desktop-quality apps.

by MacNN Staff



  1. rvhernandez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I Can't Wait to...

    Install Norton Anti-Virus on my Windows smartphone!

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not so crazy

    Wouldn't this be doing more or less what Apple did with the iPhone OS? The iPhone (and iPad) OS sits on top of a "OS X" architecture. Presumably Experiment 19 is a different UI that sits on the Windows NT foundation. More Redmond "innovation through imitation."

  1. Woode

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Nope, not crazy

    except for the part about putting it on that shining paragon of security that is Windows.

  1. iKode

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I'll believe it when I see it.

  1. tsmelker

    Joined: Dec 1969


    one word:

    yippee. :|

  1. phillymjs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Still trying to find a winning mobile strategy...

    ...when they've already lost.

    By the time they get WM7 out it will already be too late, and now they're gonna pin their hopes on its successor???

    Between Apple, Google and RIM, Microsoft is gonna be permanently relegated to the "Other" slice of the mobile OS pie chart.

  1. loudpedal

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Crisis of Leadership

    I really wonder who's steering the Microsoft barge. Every week or month, there's a new story about some new direction for future MS products. If that's anything more than Microsoft trying to stay in the news, Ballmer should go. On second thought, he should stay and drive Microsoft over the falls.

  1. qazwart

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wait a freaking second...

    The Windows 7 Phone isn't even out yet, and they're going to overhaul it in order to base it on Windows NT core?

    This sounds more like an internal power struggle going on. The Zune guys got the Windows 7 Phone and all the mobile platform glory. The Windows CE team found themselves on a dead end career path. Now, suddenly there's a project Menlo that will take the NT core OS and put it on the mobile platform (which I thought was what Windows CE originally was). I guess the Zune guys should start freshening their resumes.

    No wonder Microsoft looks like a bloated sinking ship. Microsoft simply has to get rid of much of the bureaucracy the weights it down. The Windows 7 Phone platform actually has some promise. Unfortunately, it might not be too scalable. Kill Windows CE. Keep Windows 7 a desktop OS, and work on WIndows 7 Phone to make it scalable for devices like the HP Slate. Some day, Windows 7 Phone might become a desktop based OS much the same way the iPhone OS might become the basis of the next generation of Mac OS X.

  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Why would someone want this?

  1. kerryb

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What's that in the air?

    Answer: Vaporware

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