The rumor mill has been working overtime with regards to the what, how, why, and when of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 9 client OS, which has also been given the Microsoft codename of ‘Threshold.’ Thanks to some solid reporting by Tom Warren over at The Verge (and some of his sources), we now know that Microsoft is planning a press event in late September to release some additional details about Windows 9.
So what exactly will Microsoft be discussing at the Windows 9 preview event? Warren suggests in his post that it isn’t likely that the final name from the product will be announced then, but that Microsoft may release an early technology preview that will give “…developers a first look at the new mini Start Menu in Windows 9, alongside the removal of the Charms bar feature and several UI changes.”
Initially shown at this year’s BUILD conference, a revised Windows Start menu (shown above in BUILD form) will be one of the key new features in Windows 9. (Image: Microsoft)
There are some other features that have been rumored for Microsoft’s next update to the Windows client, including a version of the Windows Phone ‘Cortana’ voice assistant technology. Warren mentions that Microsoft may release an early technology preview version of Windows 9, primarily for developers, soon after the September 30th press event. Warren’s information aligns well with an earlier report by Mary Jo Foley that indicated that a tech preview of Windows 9 would be available in late September and that the preview would be available to end users as well.
Expected New Features in Windows 9
While detailed information on what new features Windows 9 will contain is still hard to come by, here’s a summary of features that are more than likely to find their way into the next release of Windows.
- Revised Start menu: This was initially shown at the Microsoft BUILD developer conference earlier this year in a very enigmatic presentation by Microsoft’s Terry Myerson. During BUILD, Myerson said that Microsoft would “…be making this available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update. We think [there will be] a lot of happy people out there.” While Myerson’s vague comments seemed to indicate that the new Start Menu would be included in an update to Windows 8.1, the consensus is that this feature will show up in Windows 9.
- More improvements for desktop users: Besides the omission of the start menu, the duct-taped together feel of the the new “Modern” touch-based Windows UI with the traditional Windows desktop in the first release of Windows 8 wasn’t well-received by consumers or corporate IT departments alike. Microsoft has taken some steps at improving this in the several updates to Windows 8.1, but we should expect Windows 9 to boot to desktop by default for mouse and keyboard users, and to the touch-based Windows UI for touch-based tablets.
- Cortana voice assistant: Tom Warren has mentioned that this feature might make its way from Windows Phone to Windows 9, and I think it’s a smart move. Windows Phone is still struggling for smartphone relevance against Android and iOS, and moving one of the most promising new features of the platform to the desktop (and laptop) can only help both Windows Phone and Windows 9, in my opinion.
- Virtual Desktops: News of this feature comes to us from Brad Sams at Neowin, who suggests that Microsoft will be adding virtual desktops to Windows 9, not unlike the same feature used in Mac OS X and in Ubuntu. This should also help improve Windows usability on the desktop, which many users and IT staff think is long overdue.
- Removal of the Charms bar: The Charms bar is a Windows 8 feature that nobody seems to like: It’s confusing, it’s not very intuitive, and it looks like it will be heading to the recycle bin when Windows 9 ships. Mary-Jo Foley has more info on the rumored demise of the Charms bar over at ZDNet.
Petri IT Knowledgebase Contributing Editor Russell Smith has written about a few things he’d like to see in Windows 9, but I’d love to hear from Petri readers as well. What new features would you like to see in Windows 9? Please send me an email with your thoughts, or you can also contact me on Twitter or Google+. You can also catch up on my posts in the Petri IT Knowledgebase forums.