The Windows 8.1 Update 1 express train is chugging along, while at the same time in some secret nooks and crannies of the Redmond offices, engineers are also hatching early plans for Windows 9.
But while the upcoming refresh of Windows 8.1 may boost performance, enhance reliability, and bring in some usability and UI changes, it is the next major version of the operating system that will play a more vital role in charting Microsoft’s future.
For this reason, and this reason alone, it is absolutely vital that it gets Windows 9 right.
Speaking of charts, the company earlier today confirmed that it had sold more than 200 million licenses for Windows 8 since release. The modern operating system achieved this milestone in 15 months. In contrast, Windows 7 crossed the 240 million milestone in 12.
Sure the current state of the PC hardware industry has a lot of say in this, as is the relentless mobile assault from tablets and smartphones. But Windows 7 had that added advantage of direct upgrades, as Windows XP and Vista users bought copies of that OS off the shelf and upgraded their systems.
If you take a retrospective look at it, the less than stellar performance of Windows 8 (and the industry criticism that followed) was the primary reason of the hurried exit of Steve Ballmer. In fact, there are some that think that Satya Nadella’s performance as a leader will depend on the success of Windows 9.
The new CEO would want to solve all issues and make the new OS a success. And while it is hard to see him resigning just because of an operating system that disappoints, it would surely not make this the best way for him to get his new gig as Microsoft CEO underway.
At the end of the day the One Microsoft initiative is much more than just corporate restructuring. Services like Bing, SkyDrive, and Skype run the risk of losing out unless Windows succeeds. Even Office carries this risk, even if just on the consumer side. Relentless mobile assault is relentless, after all.
While Microsoft’s corporate standing is great, market watchers and analysts have, for good reason, talked about why it is crucial for Microsoft needs to stay relevant in the consumer end of the spectrum. Competitors like Google, Apple and more will pounce at any openings they see from Redmond.
It is becoming clear that for Microsoft to really make Windows 9 as successful an operating system as Windows 7, it will have to pay due attention to the desktop, which in turn should have a positive effect on the desktop and laptop user base. But again, mobile is not an area, the company can take lightly now.
By the time Windows 9 comes around, Nokia will be fully integrated, the third generation Surface tablets ought to be out, and both Intel and AMD would have put newer, powerful solutions. A merger of Windows RT with Windows Phone, then has the potential of assisting Windows 9. And vice versa.
A combination of all these factors, along with some positive impetus from hardware vendors and OEMs to launch a variety of Windows powered devices could go a long way in making the next version of the most successful operating system of all time.
Which is what Windows 8 vanilla should have been.
Microsoft have a noted history of correcting their mistakes, and while we will have to wait for BUILD 2014 to get a better idea of what the company is preparing for Window 9, there is every chance that it will bring the goods this time around.
If not, then at least the proverbial Chatty Cathy will have ample material to talk about.