According to the rumor mill, Microsoft will unveil the next big release of Windows, code-named “Threshold,” at the end of September, with a preview version available to the public shortly after.
We already know a little about what will be in what will probably end up being called Windows 9. Microsoft has officially announced the return of the Start menu, with a new, modern design, as well as the ability of mobile (Metro-style) apps to run in windows on the Windows desktop. More recent rumors suggest that virtual desktops will be added and Windows 8’s signature charms menu will vanish. Cortana might even make an appearance.
I’ve read a lot of discussion about whether this is Microsoft’s last “big bang” Windows release. As far as I’m concerned, that question was answered nearly two years ago. That honor belongs to Windows 8, which was perhaps the biggest big-bang release ever, introducing a completely new app model and blowing up a lot of the user interface conventions that Windows users had previously taken for granted.
In a world of big-bang releases, the Windows 8 feature set would have been frozen when it shipped. The many new features that have been added to Windows 8 in a series of updates over the past 18 months would have been saved for “Threshold,” which in turn would have been frozen when it ships next year.
A better metaphor for this release might be the crack of a starter’s pistol, marking the beginning of a new stage in a very long race. What gets delivered this fall as a preview will be updated in a few months as a final release, which will then be revised and expanded again and again over the next few years as Microsoft’s new, faster update cadence continues.
While it’s interesting to look at specific features that will be in this next release, that’s ultimately a myopic perspective. It’s more important to look at how that release will evolve (and, one hopes, improve) over the next two or three years.
So, rather than focus on features, I’ve decided to zero in on the big problem areas that those new and changed features should be designed to resolve. In a somewhat chaotic and ever-changing world dominated by mobile devices and online services, this is what I’m hoping we’ll see as Windows 9 evolves.