Microsoft's future: Windows everywhere or Windows nowhere?

Two very different rumors have been making the rounds in the wake of a recent speech at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2011). One rumor has Microsoft putting Windows code on every device possible, from smartphones to tablets, PCs, TVs, and beyond. Another has Microsoft biting the bullet and giving up the Windows name entirely. Which is more likely to happen?

The speculation was set off when Microsoft Windows Phone President Andy Lees gaver a speech and said that Microsoft planned to have a "unified ecosystem" for all devices. Here's what Lees said:

One of the key important things here, though, is the change that's yet to happen, but it's about to happen, and that is the bringing together of these devices into a unified ecosystem, because at the core of the device itself it's possible to be common across phones, PCs, and TVs, and even other things, because the price drops dramatically. Then it will be a single ecosystem. We won't have an ecosystem for PCs, and an ecosystem for phones, one for tablets. They'll all come together. And just look at the opportunity here.

The key question is what"unified ecosystem" means. It's a nebulous, vague phrase that means many different things to many different people. Mary Jo Foley reports that rumors have been circulating for quite some time that Microsoft hoped that it would soon make its "Windows Everywhere" mantra a reality. Lees' statement backed up those who thought it would be coming soon.

But a blogger at the thisismynext site has heard rumors that say Microsoft will eventually abandon the Windows name:

Our sources also tell us that Microsoft is seriously considering ditching the "Windows" brand name...The idea is to rebrand this new super-OS with something that better fits with Redmond's vision of the future.

I'd bet that Microsoft will never give up Windows, and the company is more likely to actually put a variant of Windows code on every device, rather than abandoning Windows' name or Windows code. After all, at WPC 2011, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had this to say in his keynote:

Windows is the backbone product of Microsoft. Windows PCs, Windows Phones, Windows slates. Windows Windows Windows Windows Windows.

Don't expect Microsoft to abandon Windows soon -- or ever. It's the horse the company rode to success, and even though the horse may be getting tired, Microsoft plans to keep riding it.

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