Although Microsoft won’t be using IFA 2014 as a stage to announce it’s next Windows version, alternately called Windows Threshold and Windows 9, it will be holding a separate press conference near the end of next month. That leaves us enough time to build a better picture of what the next Windows might become, though it seems it might be as controversial and divisive as ever, like this rumor about Microsoft completely doing away with the traditional desktop for “devices that don’t need it”.
Windows 8 was largely criticized for the imposition of the Metro, now called Modern, UI, which was admittedly more oriented towards touch-based devices. But more than something that’s new and shiny, one of the biggest flaws of the new interface was the disjunct between the old desktop and the new Modern UI. Microsoft has been trying to address those issues, expected to come to fruition on Windows 9/Threshold, but it seems that Microsoft’s next answer isn’t as clear cut. According to this latest word about Windows 9, “pure” (as opposed to hybrid) Window and Windows RT (if they still exist) tablets won’t have access to a desktop at all. Conversely, Windows desktops won’t have access to the Modern UI as it is known now on Windows 8.
Before you react violently though, there are some new features that Microsoft has put in place to “bridge” the two worlds while keeping them distinctly separate. It was shown before that Modern UI apps will be able to run as “regular” windows in a desktop environment, meaning that users will still get access to those apps even when Modern UI is inaccessible. Second, As also seen in previous demos, the desktop’s Start Menu has been modified so that it could also function as a sort of mini Start Screen for those using desktops (hence, no Modern UI) but prefer Windows 8’s Start Screen view. That might be well and good for desktop users, but those on tablets might be left out a bit. Unless Windows 9 has a way for Modern UI to run regular desktop apps, those on tablets might find them missing out on Windows’ huge selection of software. The new philosophy also doesn’t clearly state where hybrids like Microsoft’s own Surface Pro series will fall under.
It’s not all bad news however, presuming you consider the above as not so welcome news. Windows 9 is said to also bring interactive live tiles to the Start Screen, bringing in something similar to Android’s homescreen widgets. That said, the new feature is noted to be not as rich as the experimental version shown off by Microsoft Research last April. And, of course, developers would have to explicitly add such features to their apps, so it’s not some magical feature that suddenly appears. Live folders ala Windows Phone 8.1 update 1 may or may not arrive on Windows 9. But considering Windows 8.1 brought the concept of tile grouping, that might not be an urgent feature. That said, if the Start Screen will be embedded in the Start Menu for desktops, a more compact way to display grouped live tiles might indeed be needed.
There is indeed much to look forward to in the upcoming Windows 9. Or at least some things to take note of in case the rumors do come true. As mentioned, Microsoft is likely to finally unveil their new baby on September 30 this year, but the actual rollout of the OS isn’t expected until sometime in early 2015.