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Windows 9: What we know so far [Latest Updates]


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If you assumed the lackluster consumer reception to Windows 8 would cause Microsoft to rethink its entire OS strategy, think again. The next version, code-named Threshold and likely to be called Windows 9, sticks with the tile-based start screen interface, while adding new features and fixes.

According to leaked screenshots and video footage from purported preview builds, Windows 9 will do more to bridge the gap between the the tile-based start screen and the more traditional Windows desktop. The latter felt like almost an afterthought in Windows 8 (before major updates re-added some of its utility), although a great many PC users used that as a default, rarely if ever going to the tablet-like tiles. This follows a path laid out in Windows 8.1 and 8.1 update, in which one could now boot directly to the traditional Windows desktop and a new version of the classic Start button and menu was added.

The idea of Windows 8, and its big, blocky tiles, was that a single interface could effortlessly scale from small form factor tablets and hybrids, all the way up to 27-inch all-in-one desktops. Touch was a major driving factor in this, and while a great many laptops have added touch-sensitive screens, it's still far from universal, even two years into the Windows 8 era, especially for desktop, business, and gaming PCs.

More windows for Windows

From the early code for Windows 9 that testers have posted images and impressions of, one of the biggest changes is the ability to take Windows 8 apps and run them in a windowed mode. Originally, Windows 8 apps, designed to work within the tile interface, would only open to a full-screen view, with no sizing options. Additionally, they required a finger-swipe gesture, or its awkward mouse equivalent, to close, lacking the traditional close and minimize buttons that windows in Windows historically offers. A top menu bar was eventually added, including the much-missed "X" to close button, but apps could still only run full-screen, or snapped into a screen-sharing arrangement with other apps.

These windowed Windows 8 apps (an awkward, but accurate, description), will be able to run on the traditional desktop. In that mode, the apps add a menu button to the top-left corner, pulling many of the contextual commands previously found in the Charms bar, further mixing the look and feel of the two distinct operating environments.


Au revoir, Charms bar

One casualty of the evolution from Windows 8 to Windows 9 may be the love-it-or-hate-it Charms bar. This right side slide-out command center offered basic system commands, a virtual Windows button, and in some cases, contextual commands for Windows 8 apps. It was easy enough to pull out with a swipe of the finger if you had a touch screen, but if you didn't, the mouse or touchpad move required to activate it could be awkward. Many times, overly aggressive touch pad zones on laptops meant you would pull out the Charms bar without intending to.

According to several published reports, current builds of the Threshold preview do not include the Charms bar, instead moving many of its functions elsewhere.

More desktops, more cloud

Other new features expected in Windows 9 include virtual desktops, allowing users to create multiple custom active desktop setups, and switch between them at the touch of a button -- said button presumably landing right in the traditional desktop taskbar. That'll be a big move for serious desktop users, who have at times felt left out by Windows 8.


Deeper integration of other Microsoft services, especially the cloud-based OneDrive storage locker, is likely, much as Apple does with iCloud. Skype is a likely candidate for that as well. Relying more heavily on cloud services becomes more important as some laptops, such as HP's upcoming Stream, become Chromebook-like tools intended for little, if any, offline use

Another big change that is rumored for Windows 9 is a transition to the idea of the OS as a service. Our ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley says, "I've seen a few speculate that this means there is something in the works akin to an Office 365-type subscription pricing/service for Threshold." But she also counts that as unlikely, at least for now.

With the technical preview already in the hands of some developers, an official announcement from Microsoft about Windows 9 may come as soon as September 30, with a launch date for the new OS sometime in the spring of 2015.

Source: cnet.com

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