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Microsoft’s ‘Threshold’ initiative will further unify Windows across mobile, desktop, and Xbox One

After bringing the Windows core to Windows Phone and the Xbox One, Microsoft is planning even further integration between all of its platforms in a few years: Say hello to codename “Threshold.”

As ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reports, Microsoft’s operating system head Terry Myerson recently referred to the Threshold codename in an internal e-mail regarding his plans for a new unified OS engineering group. Threshold refers to a new slew of upgrades coming to Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the Xbox One, and not a single new operating system project. (And just like Microsoft’s upcoming Cortana virtual assistant, Threshold is a name taken from the Halo game series.)

If you’ve been following Microsoft’s software plans for the last few years though, none of this comes as a surprise.

Microsoft has been putting the pieces in place for a truly unified experience ever since it made Windows Phone’s live tiles and flat design the centerpiece of Windows 8’s look. With last year’s Windows Phone 8 release, Microsoft brought the Windows 8 core to its mobile devices (killing compatibility with Windows Phone 7 devices in the process). The recently released Xbox One also includes Windows as one of its three operating systems (it runs apps like Skype and Netflix).

And of course, the company announced its new “One Microsoft” reorganization this year to push all of its services to work better together.

Expected around spring 2015, the Threshold imitative will reportedly enable all Windows-based devices to perform “high value activities,” including expression and documents (likely including Office); decision-making and task completion; IT management; and “serious fun.” While I don’t expect Microsoft to make Office a major new selling point for the Xbox One, Microsoft has room to make the integration of its services more seamless across different devices.

I’ve written before that the Xbox One may be Microsoft’s boldest attempt to unify all of its services, and after spending countless hours with the console since its launch, I’ve found it to be an even more telling view of Microsoft’s future. The Xbox One searches and browses the web just as well as any PC, and you can even multitask (on your television!) by “snapping” apps to the sides of the screen (a feature very familiar to Windows 8 users). With the Threshold wave of releases, we can expect the Xbox One to even act more like a PC.

While Microsoft is spending considerable efforts on unifying all of its operating systems, we haven’t heard much about Apple’s and Google’s plans to do the same. Apple seems content with having its mobile devices powered by iOS and its desktops powered by OS X (though eventually, Apple will have to figure out some way to bring touchscreens to its laptops). Google, meanwhile, has dominated mobile with Android, but it doesn’t have much to show in terms of a desktop OS. (Then again, Google’s services are used on just about every platform.)

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