The Road To Windows 9: An Evolution, Revolution Or Rewind?

The Road To Windows 9: An Evolution, Revolution Or Rewind?

So then, the big news for this brand new year is that Microsoft is ready to put some serious development work behind its new operating system, codenamed Threshold.

In the meantime, the Windows 8 platform has matured a lot with Windows 8.1.

Not only has Microsoft fixed many of the bugs and niggles in the operating system, it has also developed and refined its in-house apps. Third party developers are also in on the action and the Windows Store keeps on adding new apps and games.

As Things Stand

Friends and foes, fans and naysayers, will all agree on one thing, though. The Windows 8 launch could have been better. It could have been better handled in development, it could have been better explained in marketing, and it could have been better promoted in hardware.

The various hardware partners were, back then, still reeling from the shock of something this radically new, and still feeling the smite from the mobile assault and declining sales.

Things are somewhat better now, with a variety of devices available for purchase at all price points. And while the numbers are yet to come in, there is a general feeling in the air that the sales performance of devices powered by Windows has been somewhat satisfactory.

Or at least, not the sheer disaster that was reported this time last year with Windows 8.

Fresh Start

Luckily, Microsoft has also been building towards a fresh start. Talks of Windows 8.2 have died down, and Windows 9 is the new party in town. Some new fresh faces will soon be seen in Redmond offices after the retirement of CEO Steve Ballmer. A few of his close friends may even part ways with Microsoft.

Bill Gates has been buzzing with enthusiasm lately, at least in his last few appearances at the company. We already know that he is overseeing the search for a new leader, but there is every chance that he will work closely with the new CEO once he (or she) is announced.

What remains to be seen is whether the company will go in with a fresh approach too.

Clearly, what it is doing is not working wonders of any sorts — but it is working, albeit very slowly. The Windows Phone platform is on the up and Windows 8.1 is finding itself installed on more devices.

Admittedly (and rightly so) we have not seen any official signs talking about what path the new CEO will tread once that person takes charge. But there is every reason to believe Redmond would want to keep doing what is working, while work on what is not.

A complete 180 degrees turn (regardless of whether it is necessary) will do more harm than good.

Looks Are Everything

At least in the world of operating systems they are. At least in the world of Windows 8 they are. Rarely do we see companies and partners that decry the new OS talk about how expensive it is, or what kind of hardware it comes on.

Most complains are about how the latest Windows plays — how it looks.

Aesthetics, performance and usability are three different things. And while Microsoft’s modern operating systems may have locked the first two, the usability factors has been a hindrance not just on Windows 8 but also on Windows Phone 8.

Under the hood both platforms are just as good, or better, in many cases than what the competitors are peddling — Android, iOS and BlackBerry, even Linux. Redmond’s sluggishness in adding necessary features (on smartphones), and forcing an interface (on desktop) put off the progress by a few paces.

The Way Forward

Things, ultimately, could not be more interesting for Windows 9. The new operating system can actually go in three directions. It could be a bit of a fallback to the familiarity of Windows 7 with a returning Start Menu, the ability to run Metro apps in desktop, and keeping the two environments separate on PCs.

Or it could take the middle road — an evolution and refinement of what is available on Windows 8.1, with more polished apps, a more elegant Modern UI, and a more mature set of features.

And however unlikely it may seem, the software titan could also think of something overly revolutionary. Development on Windows 9 has been going for some time now, according to previous rumors. It has only now come into the forefront.

But that does not mean Microsoft cannot pull a rabbit out of its (proverbial) hat and bring something revolutionary to the tablet. Gates is trying to become more involved with certain aspects of the company, a new CEO may yet be an outsider with new ideas, and the release date is not set in stone.

Whatever path the company chooses, it will boil down to how much choice it provides.

Give users choice of the type of environment they want, and call it a day. Give users the choice of running their apps in full screen or desktop mode, and let them decide. Give users the option of a full Start Menu along with the Start Screen, and they will keep quiet.

Enough has been said about Microsoft’s modern OS strategy to last a lifetime.

But the way it is shaping up, Windows 9 could be the company’s most important release. Ever.

  • olivier

    “..Windows 9 could be the company’s most important release. Ever.”
    Well.. everybody was saying this for Windows 8, just remember… and it has been an epic fail.
    8.1 sales are even worse. So how long will we say the same thing before accepting MS is falling down for real ?

    The problem of MS is now “how to erase the ballmer/sinofksy errors while not saying things was better before…”.

    Returning to a pure desktop ala Windows 7 will be a disaster. Splitting the OS in two different ones ala Windows Workstation/W2000 will be so stupid that I will not bet a cent on such a choice.
    So the “two head OS” will still be there in Windows 9. Because killing Modern UI is not possible in MS today’s culture and suppressing classic desktop is impossible for many obvious reasons.
    They are locked in their error : a two head OS.
    The “return” of Gates is not good news too. I don’t think this guy is in phaze with today’s market, he is a man of the past.
    Currently he is selecting the new CEO and I feel he’s just wanting to find a guy that will do the same Ballmer job. That’s why nobody wants to be the new CEO… Ford guy prefered to keep his job, Qualcom guy too, etc… Is it not strange these clever guys are all refusing the so fantastic chance to be MS CEO ?
    That’s the 2d problem of MS : they are in search of a guy that will not change anything… So first problem will stay the same. No hope.

    MS will have to make some difficult choices : killing Modern UI or keeping a two head OS that will lead them to another fail… Selecting a new CEO with fresh blood that will break the current culture or just finding a ballmer clone…

    Depending on how they will answer these questions the future of MS will be a wonder or a disaster…

    • Charles Vance Gurley

      they won’t kill metro, they can’t. This is why they need to make both sides important but make the transition seemless, and somehow making new stuff for people to buy it. This is going to be very hard. that’s why im not understanding the october rtm. in less than a year they are going to have a fully functional windows 9 for testing and all? considering the task ahead that’s a steep mountain to climb and they can’t mess it up!

      • WillyThePooh

        In order to make a dramatic change, half a year is not enough. If it is true that they start coding after Build 2014, then it will only be a “face off” change of win8.1.

    • ArnoldForever

      Sigh.

    • WillyThePooh

      The problem for an outsider to lead MS is… The board will want you to do something but you don’t have any allies officers stand by you. It is not a possible solution for a company not in a blink of bankruptcy. It is actually a recipe of disaster for MS.

  • Charles Vance Gurley

    as long as they don’t say to get a new pc i’ll be fine. I personally loved windows 8.1 so far. i went from having old computers and windows xp to a mid to high comp with 8 that was blitzkrieging! I do love the start menu and honestly torn on which direction they should go.

    They can’t go too far from 8 because of metro and i have no idea honestly how people that hate it will ever accept that. I think bill gates should design 9. it’s his company and vision he should have the final say. i loved windows 95/98/xp. It is exciting where it will go for sure. I found windows 8/8.1 to be really different from xp, i hope they continue on and take some stuff from xp/7 with them.

  • Macpaul Emeka Ekwueme

    Win 8:1 is no epic failure and I don’t think MS should go back in any way. Window, 9 should smoothen out the rough edges in 8.1. Make the Modem UI almost ‘independent with a complete modem UI office so that those who don’t need the desktop can live in the Modern it without ever going to the desktop & vice versa. It’s like driving a hybrid car, electric when on normal mission and fuel/diesel for those times when extra power is needed. The media propaganda is also part of the problem of Win 8.

    • James Van Der Linde

      well said Macpaul… I fully agree…

    • Fahad Ali

      Yeah, this is exactly what pretty much all saner voices have been saying now. Let users decide, just provide all the tools before that, however, including a Modern UI Office. The hybrid car analogy is very aptly put.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Ray C

    Windows 9 will be fine. 8.1 was a nice improvement and what Windows 8 should have been from the beginning. Update will improve Windows 8.x even more. The holiday season has been pretty good for Surface and Windows Phone. Windows 8.x will likely be a 20% share by the time Windows 9 comes out. People will have gotten more used to tile/Metro interface by the time it comes out. Plus, the economy will be even that much more improved. Let’s not forget that Windows 8 was the first Windows to have to compete with two really embedded Microsoft products. Microsoft has a harder sell that almost any company out there because “bash everything Microsoft” has been the accept social norm for about 15 years even as they continue to make good products like XP,7, XBox. Microsoft has to deal with a propaganda onslaught from media and bloggers who are probably people who have been using Apple products since the early days of Windows. Some of these people are these same people who’ve been trying to convince people to go with Apple way back to the 90s. I’d be willing to bet that people in media and Internet content as disproportionately Apple users compared general population.

    • ArnoldForever

      Ray C is a smart dude, I have been saying this, but this Tyrant we know deletes my comments.

  • WillyThePooh

    One thing for sure is if they concentrate back to the desktop, then they will alienate all their apps developers. If so, it will be very hard to kick start the apps store again in the future. That will also kick start the slow death of windows as more and more people are moving to mobile computing. Let Windows moving toward mobile computing is the only way to survive. Remember why Apple II went from most popular OS to total dead.

    • Fahad Ali

      I think refinements on both environments are needed. Desktop bells and whistles to go with the adding more features on Metro. You make some good points, but the thing with app developers is that they will follow where money is.

      But I agree, concentrating back on the desktop at the expense of the Modern UI could well spell trouble. Microsoft, I am sure, will avoid it.

      • WillyThePooh

        Of course apps developers will go to where money is. The problem is there is also Apple/Google apps stores. If MS betrayed their apps developers, it will hardly have them back again. Without them, MS apps store will not able to kick start again and means no money. Look at BB app development and you will understand. No one will develop apps for their phone/tablet anymore.

        • Fahad Ali

          Hard to disagree. 🙂

  • Gordon

    I think that they are in a tough spot with Windows. They need apps to drive tablet sales but at the same time apps seem so underwhelming on a more powerful PC and almost a waste of time. I don’t know how you reconcile the same OS for powerful PC’s and mobile tablets and deliver a positive expierence for both…