Software // Operating Systems
News
9/2/2014
04:55 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Accidentally Tips Windows 9

With Windows 8 adoption still limping along and a quickly removed blog reference to "Windows 9," is Microsoft about to launch its next operating system?

 Quiz: Spot The Real Tech Headlines
Quiz: Spot The Real Tech Headlines
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Windows 8 and 8.1 gained market share in August but adoption remains sluggish, according to the latest numbers from web-tracking firm Net Applications. With its newest flagship still struggling, Microsoft appears to be gearing up for the next version. Early Tuesday, the company posted -- and quickly deleted -- its first official reference to "Windows 9."

In a message posted to Chinese social media site Weibo, Microsoft China displayed a Windows 9 logo, along with text that asks if the Start menu, an addition Microsoft confirmed will be in the "next version" of Windows, will make a comeback. Given that Microsoft has since removed the post, which was first reported by Cnbeta, the message appears to have been inadvertently published. In an ostensibly similar slipup earlier this year, Microsoft left references to a "Surface Mini" -- a product that has never been announced -- in Surface Pro 3 documentation.

In response to InformationWeek's request for comment regarding the Weibo post, a Microsoft rep said the company has nothing to share.

[Learn how the next Windows OS will trickle down to mobile devices. Read Windows Threshold May Merge Windows Phone, RT.]

If Microsoft is rushing toward Windows 9, it's easy to see why: Windows 8 and 8.1 are still a distant third in the operating system race. According to Net Applications, the two OSs combined last month for 13.37% of PC users, up about .9 percentage points relative to July. With back-to-school sales in swing and plenty of cheap new Windows devices on the market, Windows 8 and 8.1's gains aren't surprising. Despite the improvement, Windows 8 and 8.1 adoption trails the pace that Windows Vista set several years ago. At the same point in its release cycle, the famously maligned Vista had a slightly larger percentage of the Windows user base than Windows 8 and 8.1 have today.

Source: Cnbeta
Source: Cnbeta

Windows 7 remained the dominant OS in August, with 51.21% of PC users, which was flat compared with July. Windows XP ranked second -- the seemingly immortal OS dropped nearly one percentage point but still holds nearly 24% of all users. That's down significantly from the 33.6% share it claimed at this point in 2013 but it's clear that Microsoft's efforts to get users to upgrade have not worked.

Traditional PC users, many of whom have shunned Windows 8 and 8.1, should know within weeks whether they'll find the next version of Windows more appealing. Various sources claim that this fall, Microsoft will launch a preview of its next OS, which is codenamed Threshold. The company has not confirmed these plans.

Until Tuesday's Weibo image surfaced, it hadn't been clear if Microsoft intended to brand Threshold as Windows 9. Company leaders have reportedly considered calling it "Windows 8.2," or perhaps even just "Windows," given recent indications that Microsoft plans to update its OS in rapid iterations, like a web browser, rather than in large chunks every few years, as it has traditionally done. Based on Microsoft China's deleted Windows 9 reference, the company will be sticking with traditional numbered versions for now, a tactic that might distance the new OS from Windows 8's bad reputation.

Expected as a final release in 2015, Windows 9 reportedly will exclude Windows 8's Charms bar, add support for virtual desktops, include a version of Windows Phone 8.1 virtual assistant Cortana, and load different UIs depending on the type of device on which it is running. Microsoft already has confirmed that the next iteration of its desktop UI will include the ability to run Modern apps in floating windows, like legacy applications. Microsoft is also expected to release Windows 9 in versions for both ARM and x86 processors.

Beyond the ostensible Weibo gaffe, Microsoft China has also been in the news because it is currently under scrutiny from local authorities, who allege Windows and Office violate the country's anti-trust laws. Reuters reported Monday that China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce has given Microsoft 20 days to respond in writing to "compatibility" concerns regarding its OS and productivity suite. Windows is widely used in China, thanks largely to rampant piracy, but the country's government is currently developing its own operating system, ostensibly to relieve its reliance on companies such as Microsoft and Google. Earlier this year, Chinese officials also banned the use of Windows 8 on government machines. Given this background, industry watchers have debated whether the monopoly claims are valid or part of China's nationalist agenda. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will reportedly travel to China later this month.

Interested in shuttling workloads between public and private cloud? Better make sure it's worth doing, because hybrid means rethinking how you manage compliance, identity, connectivity, and more. Get the new New Tactics Needed For Hybrid Cloud Security issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today (free registration required).

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
9/4/2014 | 1:19:32 AM
Re: What is the big deal?
"I think MS may apt to Google strategy - make Windows OS finally a giveaway and offer it as its pet to the industry. I believe in the long run it will strengthen the company's footprint in OS area, just like what Android has brought to Google."

Li, I won't think it will ever happen because OS is their major revenue source.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
9/4/2014 | 1:18:14 AM
MS needs a new product to hold the customers
"Windows 8 and 8.1 gained market share in August but adoption remains sluggish, according to the latest numbers from web-tracking firm Net Applications. With its newest flagship still struggling, Microsoft appears to be gearing up for the next version. Early Tuesday, the company posted -- and quickly deleted -- its first official reference to "Windows 9.""

Michael, after XP, there is no stable releases so far from MS. I mean in terms of about public appreciation and acceptance. Moreover now the competition is more with chrome Os and FF. so they need something new to hold the users.
Li Tan
50%
50%
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
9/3/2014 | 2:36:07 AM
Re: What is the big deal?
I agree with you. I think MS may apt to Google strategy - make Windows OS finally a giveaway and offer it as its pet to the industry. I believe in the long run it will strengthen the company's footprint in OS area, just like what Android has brought to Google.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/2/2014 | 6:59:42 PM
Re: What is the big deal?
Interesting, thanks, Michael. I'd be curious to see if Microsoft could simply make Windows free and open-source most of it while keeping the revenue-critical bits as Google has done with Android. It would mean foregoing a lot of revenue in the near-term but I suspect it would improve the company's competitive position in the long run.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/2/2014 | 6:55:42 PM
Re: What is the big deal?
No, not really—and that's a good point, Tom. Actually, Windows aggregate market share is up recently, and OS X is slightly down.

That said, there's some fuzziness in these numbers if you try to pinpoint things too specifically, since the stats theoretically represent the entire computing market, not just the most recent trends. Given how many Windows XP machines there are still in use, this vantage point is massively biased toward Windows. Windows used to have an even bigger share of the market, so the residual effect of that advantage diminishes our ability to perceive gains Apple makes in the short term.

I mentioned that Windows share is up recently. If we extend back a bit further, OS X starts to gain, and Microsoft to lose. Why the shift over recent months? Simple—though some Windows XP users haven't upgraded, millions did, and most of them went to Windows 7. During the same period, Apple offered just about the most incremental updates imaginable, nothing too inspiring.That sounds like a recipe for a temporary shift in purchase trends that doesn't necessarily say anything about the next 12 months, especially in the high-margin markets.

Apple's strategy at the moment is to make existing machines slightly better and slightly cheaper, which I see as a way to gain a few new customers until Broadwell-class Macs compel upgrades next year (e.g. the rumored fanless 12-inch Retina MacBook and 4K iMac). Anyway, I still think the numbers suggest Apple is eating away at Microsoft over the long run, even if Windows still maintains a gigantic lead, and has recently ticked up a bit.

Comparing the profitability of OS X (which is tied to Apple's hardware margins) to the profitability of Windows (which is tied to a million things) isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, either.

It's also important to remember that Microsoft has been forced to essentially make most versions of Windows free to OEMs, which doesn't suggest Microsoft's desktop market share is some unassailable force. I expect more of this diminution of Windows as a direct revenue source will follow, though perhaps Nadella has some ways to create new cash streams, such as the rumored, and hard to imagine, Windows as a Service offering. Anyway, Microsoft's willingness to give away Windows says a lot about developer loyalty, OEM interest in Android and Chrome, as well as Apple.

All that said, Windows remains a very strong brand, Windows 8 notwithstanding. I expect it to continue to be the desktop UI used by the majority of users, even if OS X continues to become more popular. But Windows can still lose a lot of battles while maintaining market share. It's one thing to try to defend your turf, and another thing to keep expanding your territory.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/2/2014 | 6:28:58 PM
Re: What is the big deal?
For all the talk about lackluster acceptance of Windows 8, has there been a significant change in Windows' desktop market share? Everyone is focused on mobile these days and clearly Microsoft is hurting there. But has OS X or Chrome OS really affected the presence of Windows on the desktop?
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/2/2014 | 6:19:35 PM
Re: What is the big deal?
I sympathize with your point. I've written a few articles, in fact, in which I argue that the enduring animosity toward Windows 8.1 is kind of baffling. The original release was a half-baked mess, but if you've moved on to 8.1 Update, the OS is fine. I like it more than Windows 7, actually. I don't have much use for the Start screen, but I just pin the dozen or so apps I regularly use to the taskbar, run Modern apps from the takbar if I want them, and enjoy the general system zippiness.

But I think it's clear that there are a number of factors at work. For some, Windows 8 seemed so tone-deaf, it just confirmed their long-running doubts about Microsoft. They've just written Microsoft. Others just really don't like the Windows 8/8.1 aesthetic. Even if the OS is easier to use after Update 1, some people just prefer the look and UE of Windows 7 (for the Start menu at least, despite some third-party replacement options available for 8/8.1). Or the look and UE of OS X. Or on tablets, of iOS or Android, or whatever. Point is, on the subjective level, it seems like Windows 8/8.1 is less liked, its functionality and objective utility aside. The Modern app situation is also still a mixed bag, which seriously deflates the "2-in-1" value proposition. Is it useful that my Surface Pro can be used as both a tablet and a laptop? Yes, it is. I use it in both configurations. But when I use the Surface Pro as a tablet, it's for note-taking, or video-watching. Very discrete tasks. I use it most of the time as a laptop. The "2-in-1" use case doesn't stop me from using my iPad.
LeeB120
50%
50%
LeeB120,
User Rank: Strategist
9/2/2014 | 5:53:32 PM
What is the big deal?
I have to admit.  I've never seen the big problem people have with win8 or 8.1    I got it when I bought a new computer not long after it came and and it took me maybe 1/2 an hour to make it look just like the winxp computer it replaced.   Yea, that metro screen menu is different but not complicated.   I must have over 300 programs on this computer and use about 10 on a regular basis.  I simply put the links for those 10 in the bar at the bottom of the screen.   I have a question for people. What is so hard to do about that?  It SOLVES all those 'I can't find my program since I don't have a menu problems"   I'm really beginning to wonder about people... for some reason Europeons can't see to figure out how to download a different browser and Americans can't seem to figure out a simple menu...  What the heck is wrong with people these days?

 
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 18, 2014
Enterprise social network success starts and ends with integration. Here's how to finally make collaboration click.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
The weekly wrap-up of the top stories from InformationWeek.com this week.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.