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6/30/2014
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Windows 9: Desktop Resurgence?

Next version of Windows will remove Live Tiles from traditional PCs and laptops but keep the Start screen for hybrids and tablets, according to reports.

Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

With features like boot-to-desktop mode and Modern-style apps that can be pinned to the taskbar, Windows 8.1 Update is a significant retreat from Microsoft's original, Tile-dominated vision for Windows 8. According to a flurry of new rumors, Live Tiles will fade even further into the background in the next edition of Windows, with some versions disabling the Start screen altogether.

According to multiple reports, the next version of Windows, codenamed Threshold, will reportedly arrive in spring 2015. It will include a variety of features intended to appease longtime Windows users who were dismayed with Win 8's revamped UI. Like Windows 8.1 Update, the forthcoming iteration will behave differently depending on what type of device it's running on. Live Tiles will reportedly factor heavily into tablet configurations but have little or no out-of-box role on PCs and laptops.

[On the fence about the Surface Pro 3? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Why To Buy.]

According to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, who cited unnamed Microsoft insiders, Threshold will be available in three basic versions: One for PCs and laptops that emphasizes the desktop interface; one for 2-in-1 devices such as the Surface Pro that will prominently feature both desktop and Modern UIs; and a version for smartphones and pure tablets that lacks a desktop in any form. The websites Neowin and The Verge both published similar reports, each of which cited anonymous sources familiar with Microsoft's plans. All three publications have previously revealed accurate prerelease Microsoft information.

The new desktop UI is expected to include a reimagined Start menu that integrates both desktop and Modern apps. Microsoft demonstrated an early version of the new Start menu in April at Build, its conference for developers. The Threshold desktop will also likely allow users to run Modern-style apps in floating windows, just like they can with regular apps. Microsoft also previewed this feature in April. Both The Verge and Neowin reported that the Start screen will be disabled by default on desktops and laptops running Threshold, meaning mouse-and-keyboard users will see the Start screen only if they turn it on.

The Live Tile-infused Start menu that Microsoft previewed in April
The Live Tile-infused Start menu that Microsoft previewed in April

The phone/tablet edition will presumably merge Windows RT with Windows Phone, a move that's been rumored for months. It will reportedly still support side-by-side "snap" multitasking, and it could run on Intel-based devices instead of just the ARM models to which Windows RT has so far been confined. Microsoft is currently working on touch-first, Modern-style versions of its Office suite, an effort that could make Windows RT, which otherwise seems left for dead, a more viable platform.

Aesthetically, Threshold will reportedly be easy to distinguish from Windows 8.1. Microsoft is allegedly leaning toward making Threshold free to all Windows 8.1 Update customers, and perhaps even to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 users too. The next version of Windows could also include new positions for snapping together Modern-style apps.

The new reports offer few insights to the changes Threshold might bring to the Modern UI. Earlier this year, a Microsoft Research video posted online demonstrated Live Tiles that

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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

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mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 7:29:20 PM
Re: windows 9 desktop resergence
I have a tablet and would not want to see the desktop option go
I agree, it would be a mistake to leave the desktop option out for tablets.
Back to the article. I hope Microsoft pull out something better for Windows 9, otherwise it doesn't look very appealing at (probably) 1 month from beta. Well, free upgrade from 7 will be nice.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/30/2014 | 5:52:49 PM
Re: On the right path
I hope Microsoft finally nails it because we're all better off with more competition. Apple and Google have had it too easy for too long.
anon6155405820
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anon6155405820,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 5:11:58 PM
windows 9 desktop resergence
i just becam accustomed to the metro interface, Microsoft needs to leave desktop and metro availible on all devices and just have the device default to the interface that works best and let the user toggle to the other interface as needed for certain tasks or apps. I have a tablet and would not want to see the desktop option go away since the tablet could be docked to a full size monitor and keyboard 
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 5:09:13 PM
Re: On the right path
(sorry for the broken post, but the article got me hyped)

It would be really cool if say you're on a call, and as soon as you sit at your desk, you can use your laptop/PC headset to continue the call, since both devices would be synced and talking to each other....that would be a step forward.

But if a have to take a guess, I would say that Google would probably be the first to implement this, only because I think they have current technology to support this effort, and it's only a matter of creating the bridge to fulfil it.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 5:06:37 PM
Re: On the right path
To add to my last comment,

I think that something that is missing is a type of "Bridge" between devices.

It would be really cool if while reviewing an email or a web page, that from the tablet/pc, I can click a button to reach out to a contact, and those would remotly trigger my phone to place the call. That's the type of eco system that I think will end up in first place
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 5:04:51 PM
On the right path
Great article Michael,

I think that Microsoft is heading on the right path, and it has taken some trial and error to get there, but better late than never.

If microsoft can provide a UI experience that for consumers switching between devices is more dynamic and seamless, I think they have a major thing going here.

Apple only now is providing that experience with the latest iOS update. I myself would greatly welcome the opportunity of being able to start doing something on my laptop/PC, and then switch to my phone to continue (I can already imagine myself reviewing an email, opening the attachment, and then click on a button that says "call contact", and my windows phone would call the contact, in speaker, with the attachment open in the background, while I head to meeting).

There's definitly a lot of opportunities there.... very exciting!
countryclubrepublican
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countryclubrepublican,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 3:11:03 PM
Branding is the key
As usual, it take Microsoft 3 times to get it right.  This looks like a step in the right direction.  Windows 8 has 2 major problems.  The first was trying to put 2 interfaces on the same device.  This was too confusing.  The second is trying to brand everything under one name, "Windows". 


Microsoft has 3 different devices for which it needs UIs:  Desktops, Intel tablets, and ARM tablets and phones.  I would create 3 different flavors of windows:  "Windows" or "Windows Desktop" for desktops, "Windows Touch" or "Touch" for Intel tablets, and "Windows Metro" or "Metro" for Arm tablets and phones.  Of course, the actual names don't matter, the important thing is to have different branding for the different classes of device.
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