With the sluggish reception of Windows 8, the rumors (nothing official yet) are flying about Windows 9. (I suggested a few weeks ago that Microsoft needs to be working on Windows 9 now—although I felt that it should be a super Windows 7.) It appears that Microsoft has gotten part of the message from the consumers with the release of Windows 8.1, a planned Windows 8.1 update, and work on Windows 9—codename “Threshold.”
Since there has been no official Windows 9 announcement, people are dependent upon leaks. However, there is no shortage of speculation. Here is a look at some of the guesses about Windows 9, but first a look at the Windows 8.1 update which is due out soon.
Windows 8.1, Update 1
Microsoft isn’t giving up on Windows 8. Having just released Windows 8.1, it’s planning a major update for either March or April release. (I guess it will then be time for me to come out with a ninth edition of Misunderstanding Windows 8.) This time the concentration is on making the operating system and its Modern apps more mouse and keyboard friendly for PCs.
In particular, it looks like it will be possible to pin Modern apps to the Desktop Taskbar (see Figure 1). This is consider a step toward Windows 9 where the speculation is that it will finally be possible to run the Modern apps in a window on the Desktop thereby eliminating the need for the annoying full screen views.
These images are from WZor, a Russian leaker of early Windows builds considered reliable by many and thought to have contacts inside Microsoft.
Figure 1. This leaked image of Window 8.1 Update 1 shows a Modern app pinned to the Windows Taskbar.
For those of us who habitually click the right mouse button when exploring, a right-click menu is being added to the Modern interface. See Figure 2. This is an important step toward making Windows 8 Windows-like again.
Figure 2. This leaked image of Window 8.1 Update 1 shows the right-click menu in the Modern interface.
Other changes include easier access to search and shutdown of Modern apps with an X in the upper right-hand corner of the apps. These are interim steps toward Windows 9 which may represent a move toward a little more separation between the Desktop and Modern interface for the different Windows platforms: smartphones, tablets, Xbox, and the PC.
Windows 9 Rumors
Microsoft is not abandoning the combined tablet/PC model nor touch technology, but it may be tailoring Windows 9 more for each type of operating systems. All versions will continue with the same underlying Windows NT core. This produces compatibility between the different products making it possible to produce apps which will run o\in all Windows systems. The Windows store will continue to be a prominent part of the systems for delivering new apps.
It looks like there may be three versions of Windows 9, one for Windows phones and devices, another for Xbox, and the last for computers.
Give Me Back My Start Menu!
Probably the most hoped for change in Windows 9 might be a greater de-emphasis of the Modern interface with the return of a functional Start Menu. While Windows 8.1 has added a Start button to the Desktop Taskbar, it is far from a true Start Menu. Now people who are heavily dependent upon the Start Menu and replacing it with utilities such as Stardock’s tools or Pokkie Start Menu you won’t need to add a third-party Start Menu to the Windows 8 Desktop. (I personally don’t use an add-on Start Menu, because I’ve found it more convenient to use my QuickLinks AutoHotkey app tailored for my personal use. I use it on all of my various Windows computers. But that’s just me.) If Microsoft brings back the Start Menu in Windows 9, then the business market may be convinced to give it a try.
Right now it is businesses, even more so than individual users, who are resisting Windows 8. What may seem like a minor adjustment to many computer users is a major obstacle for a business looking to upgrade a multitude of machines. The learning curve that comes with the Modern interface may seem enormous to any enterprise which would need to retrain virtually everyone—especially when you consider that many corporations have no use for the Modern apps. Those apps only represent an annoyance. If businesses upgrade at all, they are likely to stick with Windows 7 which will run their old reliable Windows software without distractions caused by the Windows 8 the Modern interface. If Microsoft produces a Windows 9 which eliminates the bulk of the current Windows 8 learning curve, then they will likely have a winner with businesses.
Modern Apps Running in a Window on the Desktop
The other major change leaked which could provide more separation between Windows 8 and the PC version of Windows 9 is running Modern apps in windows which can float on the Desktop. This could completely eliminate the need for (or at least the forced use of) the current Modern interface which is the major source of irritation for Windows users. Suddenly, there would be a newly branded version of Windows which sheds the difficulties of Windows 8 while including its improvements. Learning to work with the Modern interface would become an option in Windows 9, rather than mandatory as it is currently in Windows 8.
Windows 9 April 2015
The word is that Windows 9 will be released to the general public in April of 2015 (although there are reports that it could be as early as October of this year). There is no word on whether there will be pre-release versions such as those for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, but I suspect that Microsoft may want the mass beta testing. A preview of Windows 9 is expected in April of this year at Microsoft’s developer’s conference.
Who Wants New Coke?
This Windows 8 scenario reminds me of the fiasco caused by the introduction of New Coke in 1985. The top brass at Coca Cola who felt that the brand was stagnating encouraged both innovation and risk taking within the organization. One project was to reinvent the Coke formula based upon taste tests of hundreds of thousands of people. After the tests were completed New Coke was introduced as a replacement.
The uproar was unbelievable. People rushed to the store clearing the shelves of the old Coke. Coca Cola was inundated with complaints. People cried, “If I wanted something that tastes like Pepsi, I would buy Pepsi.” The corporate staff received numerous letters which included many comments about their personal lack of intelligence. Eventually, the old Coke was brought back as Coca Cola Classic. Today, New Coke is nowhere to be found.
Ironically, the whole ordeal turned out to be a marketing coup for Coca Cola. The excitement and media attention pushed the Coke image and business to a new level which never would have occurred through an advertising campaign. When asked if that was actually the plan along, the CEO responded with “We’re not that smart.” or something to that effect.
Although they are also not that smart, ironically Microsoft may benefit in similar fashion to Coca Cola. Whether people like it or not, Windows 8 is an innovation in the operating system market. But people want their old Windows back. My guess is that’s exactly what Microsoft will deliver in Windows 9, only with many of the good things (performance) which have come from Windows 8. Windows 8 may be another throwaway operating system (although it’s not all that bad) which will pave the way for the best of all worlds in Windows 9—an operating systems that works like “real” Windows, plus access to a library of optional tablet-like apps.
What Should I Do?
The answer to the question, “What should I do?” depends a lot on your situation. If you own a business with a number of computers which need upgrading, then I would seriously consider installing Windows 7 on those machines. While there are some speed and performance advantages to Windows 8, the problem of teaching everyone in the company how to use Windows 8 will be more daunting than migrating the users to Windows 7 from an earlier version. While some people take to Windows 8 and love it, there are others who just won’t comprehend the change. Of course you can set up a Windows 8.1 computer to boot directly to the Desktop and use tools such as AutoHotkey (which works in all versions of Windows including Windows 8) to make the working environment for your business easy, but changing to Windows 7 from Windows XP or Vista is much smoother than jumping to Windows 8 and the Modern Start screen.
If you’re getting a computer for yourself, then the decisions depends upon how you see yourself. If you’re a quick learner and like a little adventure, then I would probably recommend Windows 8. (That’s what I would do for myself.) It is a good operating system—just different. However, if it took you a good while to get to your current level of computer literacy while learning your current version of Windows—and you like it—then you might be better off sticking with Windows 7.
If you’re currently using Windows 7 (or even Windows XP) and feel no compelling reason to upgrade right now, stand pat and wait to see how Windows 9 turns out. Since Microsoft generally gets every other Windows version right, Windows 9 should be next up in the queue.