Skip to main content

'Project Rome' makes Microsoft Cloud the OS for everything

Consequently, mobile app experiences dominate everyday personal computing. Microsoft's failure in mobile leaves it without the needed developer support to build an app ecosystem comparable to Apple's and Google's.

Thus, Windows PCs remain Microsoft's forté in a personal computing space that now has a mobile component dominated by non-Windows platforms and devices. Microsoft is attempting to leverage "Windows as a platform" to embrace these rival OSes and devices. "Project Rome" is Microsoft's strategy to use Microsoft Cloud to create a personal platform- and device-agnostic OS (opens in new tab) that enables seamless user and app experiences across all devices and platforms.

Simply put, Microsoft is positioning the cloud as the OS for everything.

Future of PC is intelligent cloud connecting family of devices

What is Project Rome?

Windows Timeline is part of Project Rome.

Project Rome is Microsoft's acknowledgment that most personal computing is now app-driven and transcends devices. And that switching between devices and platforms often creates a disconnect since app experiences are not inherently continued on all devices. Project Rome's goal is to "drive deeper app engagement by bridging silos between devices, apps, people and cloud services."

Project Rome's people-centric model of mobility differs from the device- and platform-centric models currently at work. It creates a cloud-based infrastructure that unifies the components that make up what has become a ubiquitous, or multi-device, computing experience. It embraces Windows, cross-platform and IoT devices.

Project Rome's goal is a device- and platform-agnostic personal OS.

Project Rome APIs allow devices to discover other devices either proximally or via the cloud. Launching and controlling apps on other devices is also possible. For example, a user listening to music on an Android phone can launch that music app (and current song) on his Xbox and control it via the Android phone.

The Android and iPhone SDKs for this evolving project were just released earlier this year. Thus, integration with Windows and the cross-platform capabilities of Project Rome will improve with time. Microsoft hopes OSes will become transparent as app experiences are surfaced via the cloud.

Project Rome, Windows 10 and Microsoft Graph

Microsoft Graph is the interconnected, cloud-based synergy of Microsoft services including OneNote, OneDrive, SharePoint, Outlook, Office, Active Directory, Teams, Cortana and more. Microsoft's steadily adding more services to the Graph which provides a unified experience for what was once a collection of siloed services. Graph provides a single API developers can use to connect their apps to this unified data.

Microsoft is the platform for everything; does it really need a phone?

The Fall Creators Update adds two new entities, devices and activities, to the Graph API set. Microsoft's goal is to make Windows PCs a hub for all devices. With Windows Timeline and Cortana notifications, for instance, Project Rome enables experiences to continue across devices.

Additionally, Microsoft's Surface and Windows 10 have inspired a range of OEM laptops, 2-in-1s and gaming PCs that are helping to keep the desktop relevant and exciting. This component of Microsoft's strategy positions Windows 10 PCs in people's lives along with the evolving Project Rome and Cloud "connective tissue" linking the desktop to users cross-platform app experiences.

Project Rome and redefining apps

We think of apps as programs that exist within the confines of our mobile devices. That perception is consistent with how the device-, platform- and app-centric personal computing paradigm evolved. In a multi-device computing environment, Microsoft wants to change how we see apps.

That redefinition begins with a shift to a user-centric perspective. Thus, "app no longer necessarily means something ... tied to given device, instead it can be something that exists between your devices and is optimized for the right device at the right time." The existence and support of app data in the cloud are critical to this objective.

Microsoft's Cloud currently functions as the backend for many cross-platform apps. Combined with its goals to be a cross-platform dev box through Xamarin, support of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and more, Microsoft's striving to enable app existence between devices.

The Cloud as the platform

Microsoft needs developers to embrace its cloud-as-the-OS-for-everything vision. Though the current app model isn't profitable for most, and app stores are massive warehouses with poor engagement, developers still cater to it.

As connected devices create the infrastructure for ambient computing there's a natural evolution toward the cloud-OS model Microsoft envisions. For instance, as AI and bots begin bartering our experiences their ability to do so will be supported by apps and personal data that reside in the cloud. Smart speakers like Amazon Echo and the Alexa Skills (opens in new tab) developers are building into it are evidence of a shift toward cloud-centric (rather than device-centric) transient app data.

Microsoft's rivals have developer support for AI-driven app engagement, the current app model and anything beyond. Microsoft is building the infrastructure for what will likely be computing's future, the cloud as the OS, but developer support is crucial to its success.

Developer support is also needed for UWP so that Windows devices maintain relevance alongside iOS and Android devices within Microsoft's cloud-based super OS.

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

62 Comments
  • I can already see one massive flaw in this vision, it will take just one trojan to propagate through a users entire network of devices and by being cloud centric would mean a constant and active data connection. Many places do not have reliable data coverage so people will use open WiFi spots, which are extremely risky due to man in the middle attacks therefore users are prone to malware attacks. They will need to seriously beef up security inside the O/S to avoid this from becoming common place. Windows Defender will not cut it, they will need something very, very robust. I figured that is what Satya Nadella was going for after he is a cloud guy and it's what he knows. The only way Microsoft will get developer support for UWP is ensuring focus on UWP first and foremost before ios and android. But I don't see that happening anytime soon.
  • Wouldn't worry: Microsoft have announced this - so, I'm sure, Alphabet or Apple will bring it to market first.
  • lol, I'm not worried about Microsoft being beat.. I'm concerned about the security implications as well as the reliability (given the number of service outages there has been recently), data retention and redundancy.
  • Security in the cloud is even more tight, I believe it is a great idea.
  • Nothing is secure, case in point the bug in WPA2 encryption.
  • Yeah the microsoft cloud is so secure that over 30tb of windows 10 source code was exposed just a few months ago.
  • It was NOT 30tb of source code.   Windows cannot possibly have 30 terabytes of source code.   The leak was just over a 1gb of code.  
  • Actually, those who stay within the Apple ecosystem have been doing all this for quite a while.
  • As you say, "those who stay in the Apple ecosystem have been doing this quite well." Project Rome is another animal entirely. It embraces all platforms and devices. Far more ambitious, complex and, if successful, has a far more meaningful effect on the industry since is user-centric. It's just better for users because few of us exist entirely in one ecosystem. Most smartphone users use Android, the remaining bulk use iPhone and most of these same people use Windows PCs. This approach doesn't try to force a users shift and embrace of an entire ecosystem that is unlikely to happen. In a more realistic approach, it meets them where they are. When in Rome....😉
  • What you just said is EXACTLY what the article is NOT talking about...
    ........
    Your comment is akin to Jason saying "in the future, those who have been eating apples will live much longer",,, and you reply "Great, because we've been eating oranges for years"....
    SMDH 🙄.... Did you read, AND comprehend, the article at all?
  • Cross platform, cloud based, apps, and computing, is not the same thing as staying within the confines of Apples native, and third party specific device installed apps.....
  • You know that Google has already made a cloud OS? It's called chrome OS
  • Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp have made really good use of the cloud specially on emerging markets where people does not have Internet data plans, they have made great partnerships with carriers so users pay a small fee every month to get unlimited Internet for using Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. If Microsoft sees these services as an advantage perhaps we can see better apps to collaborate with Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp users from any device regardless of the OS it has.
  • You just described the internet. Congrats!
  • If Apple gets there first then I guess that will allay your fears, huh...
  • Lets face it, Microsoft didn't fail at mobile.  They barely even tried, and then Satya just gave up because he didn't have the vision to make it successful.
  • Scott,  they tried again,  and again...and again....please take off the blinders. 
  • Launching without basic, expected features, frequent rebooting, sitting on their hands rather than swiftly updating the OS to support the latest hardware and slow OS development overall is hardly "trying".
  • In my books...it was trying...but a piss poor attept at trying.   They shot themselves in the foot for those reasons you mentioned.  But it was a try....
  • They tried, but they thought it would be easy. That's why the failed.  "What could go wrong" And then everything went wrong.
  • +1 Satya failed, not wp (it was at 20% in many Europe countries)
  • Incorrect, Ballmer had already failed.
  • Yawwwwn! Get over it. Time to move on. A user centric cloud based OS sounds amazing. Of course the devil is in the execution and getting developers on board.
  • Honestly as of yet I have not seen grade A apps for professionals from Apple iOS nor Google Android except for the PC (Apple Mac) and I am not sure if ARM are capable of create them at all. For regular consumers iOs and Android are ok, however for professional creators they are not there just yet OMO. What Satya is doing is reinforcing what is their main revenue (cloud and windows PC) while working in the background for a future come back regarding windows phone and UWP. At least that's how I see it. Time ago I was Microsoft fan to death but at the end of the day I will pick whatever is more convenient to me, that's why I do have an iPhone, but use the very powerful Windows and Microsoft ecosystem that is getting better and unique everytime.
  • I think that is due to input limitations. Small touch based interfaces limit your software experiences.
  • This may work if Microsoft partnerships with Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter and provides better way to interact with those services from any device. About 85% of population where I live does not have a data plan on their smartphone so all they can get for pre-paid credit is Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, if Microsoft embraces a partnership with these apps and makes better way for people to collaborate when using these services we can have Microsoft as a long period winner. Right now I'm subscribed to Facebook AI, machine learning groups and many people can collaborate but the apps are still very limited to provide real time assistance without a data plan.  For example help your colleague with a source code issue in a R script.
  • For Microsoft, world is america limited. They won't deal, advertise, spend money. They only sees how much they earn, if there is no return end of service.
  • So Microsoft is attempting to rename the cloud "Project Rome"? Are they just branding their cloud tools?
  • So it's ts another reboot of UWP?
  • Huh. What?..... How could that be even a thought, less know a question, in not only your mind, but anyone's in the universe?
    ..........
    UWP is NOT a cross platform cloud concept. UWP IS a cross WINDOWS device only concept.
  • well Jason you are a paid columnist, so I appreciate content pays the mortgage. i just can't believe anything that comes out of redmond anymore. satya, terry, dona and joe never stay the course on anything anymore. projects, bridges, bots, who cares.
  • Nobody can argue about that.
  • Your right, the only team at Microsoft who stays on coarse is the Cloud and Garage groups. Satya is a "One Trick Pony"....Cloud only. Microsoft needed a leader who could be versatile and multifascited. Everything a Microsoft has taken a back seat to his cloud vision. People can try to paint Satya as a visionary, but he's not; All he sees in the cloud which is the department he ran prior to becoming CEO. His actions show me that he's a part of the problem Microsoft alway had...No inter-departmental communication and selfishness. He seems to have promote this behavior more now than ever; It's his way or the highway and some thought Ballmer was bad...WOW. Ballmer prior to leaving started a reversal of the Siloh's that exitsted in Microsoft. Satya is selfish in his pursuit of his could vision and doesn't seem to value the opinion of the many talented people working at Microsoft; If your suggestion isn't tied to cloud or you don't agree with him your out!
  • While all of this is great, the thing that i cant understand is; who said that we want to continue our experiences across devices? i never felt the need to continue what i am doing on my phone to my PC for example, these to me are two different things. i use my phone mainly for my personal life, and my computer for my work life.... i rarely these see those two worlds collide.... maybe its the future, but personally i dont see that i need it.
  • This is just a guestimate, but I believe you're in the minority
  • This. This is actually a good direction MS is heading in. And I think right now they also have edge here. Microsoft Graph API is becoming center of all things Microsoft and I like the idea. Devices are only terminals and they are replaced time to time with newer form factors and currently the most popular form factor is one where MS has no say or control. They tried, they failed. So what can they do? Better position themselves for next shift. And I think that's what they are doing now. On the note of MS Graph API, they are going to use it for sets and timeline as well, I believe. Plus they have already declared support for PWAs, which, if becomes reality will fill in the app-gap. Infact it will actually make platform specfic apps obsolote, so I am not actually sure Google will support the vision through out. lets see.... Presence on competing platforms until next shift, embracing open source and rival technologies, keeping an eye on the curve and creating and experimenting with newer form factors; MS is not half bad as people here often say. They still have to capture mind-share of people they failed in last couple of years though. 
  • Project this project that I haven't seen any Microsoft project show succes in years. F*ck off with your projects, keep them to yourselves and surprise the world with a FINISHED product.
  • That would be nice, but let's face it, won't happen. I mean they can't get the onscreen keyboard to work properly...
  • Chances of the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team making this a reality if it has a consumer component?     ZERO!!!!  
  • The two biggest factors in holding this back is 1) It works through Cortana & 2) It currently is limited Windows 10 UWP apps. The fact that is relies on a Microsoft cloud-based app is not the problem, the problem is that this cloud-based app is named "Cortana". How do we get the non-techie & non-Microsoft fan to engage with and WANT Cortana?
  • The name isn't the issue, the issue is much of Microsoft is far too US centric. Case in point hololens only went 20+ markets this year. Cortana is available to some markets, her advanced feature set is also limited to smaller number of markets and some of those are limited to the US only.
  • Let's throw it against the wall and see if it sticks this time
  • ?
  • And so the Microsoftfication of other mobile platforms continues. Great to see! Microsoft embracing iOS and Android is the best thing to happen to consumers since the dawn of the modern smartphone. I know their hands are forced and that if things where different they would be completely focused on there own little island. But the death of Windows 10 mobile as Microsofts own smartphone platform in favor for a focus on getting regular Windows 10 to integrate best it can with iOS and Android is absolutely the best possible outcome for consumers (even the Windows Phone diehards, when where being realistic). It's simple when 90% of PC's start to play nice with 100% of smartphones there are only winners!!
  • You're actually wrong in that assessment. It's a massive blow to consumers. How is a lack of choice good for consumers?
  • There is no lack of choice.   We had 4 choices, we rejected Windows and BlackBerry.   The 2 leaders are enough for 98%.  The 2% needs to just Get Over It.   But I guess lack of choice is OK when YOUR choice is on top, right?   We have Windows and we have Mac OS X.  Again, the 2 leaders are enough for 98%.  
  • @naddy6969 There is more than just two in the desktop space, Linux (and it's many distros), Chrome, Mac OS and Windows. So there is choice, it's not about market rejection. In terms of phones, we have the many derivatives of android (similiar to linux with it's many distros), ios, sailfish, tizen but no Windows phones. However as i said it's not about market rejection. But active disparaging of an ENTIRE ecosystem in favour of a COMPETITOR's ecosystem. Say for instance you have your own parcel delivery business so instead of using your own vans, infrastructure you start using your competitors parcel delivery system to ship your parcels as if you were any other company. Yet, you are maintaining your drivers, infrastructure and vans with the occasional marketing. This is exactly what Microsoft is doing, in what way does this make any business sense to you? Another example all the third party youtube devs, have to stay on their toes as google is always constantly breaking something that renders their app useless. Google doesn't get the flack, the devs do. Twitter imposes a token reaction on third party devs, after that limit is reached by an app, no new revenue points from the aforesaid app. Unless the devs are savy enough to add in-app purchasing. But these can only be cosmetic changes. With ios and android, there isn't much leeway. With live tiles there was more scope i.e simple calendar. My point is, why on earth would you rely on another platform's userbase when you have your own. Which has been built up over several decades???
  • It’s all about percentages.   Windows and Mac OS X account for the vast majority of desktop/laptops.   Linux - in its hundreds of varieties - is less than 2%.  Why is there no office/OneNote/Outlook for Linux? Because the market is too small. iOS and Android account for the vast majority of phones.   Yes, it IS about market rejection.  The market soundly rejected Windows Phones.  Why should Microsoft continue to lose billions of dollars on phones that only a tiny percentage of people know/care about.   Microsoft is - after all - a software company.  Their software can live on, just on other hardware.   Just like Windows lived for 30 years without MS selling hardware.   Microsoft’s user base is desktop, not mobile.   The vast majority of mobile users rejected Windows phones.   “Yet, you are maintaining your drivers, infrastructure and vans with the occasional marketing. This is exactly what Microsoft is doing, in what way does this make any business sense to you?” It makes no sense, which is why Windows Phone is no more.  They are going to ship their parcels using UPS and FedEx, instead of maintaining Windows Phone Parcel Service.  
  • Remember Zac´s article about turning a Samsung Galaxy S8 into a "Microsoft Phone"? With Android it´s possible. But in the US half of the people are using iPhones, in Hong Kong or Singapore you also see iPhones over and over, Japan, Switzerland too. In the business sector iOS is dominant, many people get an iPhone as their phone for work. And now guess: Would it be possible to turn an iPhone into a "Microsoft Phone"? No. A "cloud OS" with deep integration into the device OS is only possible if the device OS allows this kind of deep integration. On devices from Apple this will simply never be the case. Plus not Apple and not Google are interested in allowing a real integration into their own ecosystems. They want to sell their own services. For now Android is quite open, but also remember that Google never liked Windows Phone and never supported it by offering their important apps for this platform. I doubt they will just sit and watch Microsoft overtaking Android and its ecosystem. That´s why Microsoft´s strategy will fail. You cannot expect a "cloud OS" to be successful without a device OS controlled by Microsoft. This is the major error in Nadellas strategy. So it will be a nice try, but definitely it won´t be successful.
  • That's where you are wrong. Google has planted their own seed by pushing PWAs which puts MS and everyone else not iOS or android focused back in the game.
  • Sort of.   Maybe.   Assuming anyone makes Progressive Web Apps AND assuming anyone wants them.   Write Once, Run Anywhere has been tried in the past.   It has never worked.  Only developers care about code portability.  Users don’t.  Users want the best app possible on whatever computer they are running.  Not compromises so it can run anywhere.
  • I'd really like all devices to include Linux desktops. OneDrive client needed.
  • Someone else will likely execute it better. Hot air.
  • Que the MS haters to crap on a great idea on paper.
  • Satya will make this happen. After 1 year he will think that it doesn't make money then close it. End of rome
  • Failure in cloud too!
  • Thanks Satya for ruining it all.
  • Nutella as Microsoft CEO is the best thing happening to Apple and Google.
  • This means Microsoft will never be a leader in innovation. Apps alone are not the only factor. without the hardware and the OS you will never achieve a real innovation. Surface for example, why Microsoft needed to create a hardware? because they want to create something innovative and not to rely on other OEMs to create such hardware. Microsoft will only be a follower in the mobile space, they will rely on what Apple and Google will allow you to access and acheive in the OS level.
  • Finished C# beginner training (refresher really), moving on to JavaScript, NodeJS, Electron, and React. I regret not taking this more seriously (complacent IT guy w/programming ability). 8 years ago I told colleagues IT was going to shift to (cloud centric, I didn't have a name for it then) services requiring the following three skills: 1. Consulting
    2. Project Management
    3. ***Software Engineering*** IT'S. HAPPENING! IT'S. HAPPENING! IT'S. HAPPENING! BEEN...
  • Sure. We will wait till they are done with it and ROME is used widely. MS is trodding behind. There is no "Microsoft Cloud the OS for everything". This is also technically wrong.  And, by the way, Amazon has an IoT Real Time OS (it's free).
    That is something really substantial. 
    And remember, IoT uses the cloud.
    And the free Amazon IoT RTOS is quite likely to utilize Amazon cloud. ROME is fluff. It is nice, and it will be used etc etc etc.
    We will know more in 3-5 years. .  
  • Good luck with Rome. Might even work if you have access to the net everywhere. Sadly for Nadella he seems to live in a first world where internet connectivity is ubiquitous but out here in the real world we need apps on our phones, tablets and laptops because we do not always have connectivity. So help me, Nadella is presiding over the first steps to MS' oblivion. Geez, I have been forced to Android and in the interests of integration and keeping up with just one platform, I am seriously considering, shudder, moving everything on to Apple.