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Windows 9: What We Know

With Windows 8.1 floundering, Windows 9 rumors have picked up steam. What can you expect from the next version of Windows?

4. The Windows 9 reports reflect questions about Microsoft's leadership
As Thurrott notes, the ongoing evolution of Windows reflects changing leadership within Microsoft. Windows chief Steve Sinofsky abruptly left the company shortly before Windows 8 was released. Many of his perceived allies have since left Microsoft or been reassigned to new divisions, leading some commentators to speculate that Sinofsky, who said he left for personal reasons, was forced out. Windows 8.1's changes, meanwhile, were implemented by Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller, who shared Sinofsky's duties after he left.

Larson-Green now oversees Microsoft's device efforts, while Reller has moved on to lead the company's marketing. Terry Myerson, who previously ran Windows Phone, currently heads Microsoft's OS efforts. Those efforts are thought to include an update to Windows 8.1 and the release of Windows Phone 8.1 before development on Windows 9 begins in earnest.

Myerson has allegedly investigated eliminating licensing fees for at least some mobile versions of Windows, which could represent a dramatic change in Microsoft's strategy. That said, reports also indicated that last spring, before Myerson had assumed command, Microsoft cut deals with OEMs to encourage the production of low-cost Windows 8.1 mini-tablets -- a contention supported by new, affordable devices that come pre-loaded with Office, such as Dell's Venue 8 Pro.

While it's impossible to say whether Windows is evolving iteratively or being reimagined as new leaders gain influence, Microsoft's OS roadmap could play a role in its ongoing CEO search. Reports indicate some candidates for Steve Ballmer's job have been uneasy about their abilities to change the company's strategy if given the role.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He graduated from Stanford in 2005 and previously worked in talent representation, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher.

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