Windows 9 is dropping its veil. Most recently, two German computing sites, ComputerBase and WinFuture, released what looked like a leaked build of a Windows Threshold Enterprise Tech Preview – or Windows 9 to you and I. If confirmed, the screenshots give an unprecedented insight into what we might expect from the latest iteration of Windows before its official 30th September preview date. Here’s the long awaited new operating system smell we are all so fond of.
The New Start Menu Looks Great
We heard way back in April that the much beloved Start menu would be returning, now updated as fully Windows ecosystem integrated search feature, serving results from your personal indexed locations and the Windows App store, offering comprehensive search functionality in a familiar location – more on this later.
The new look Start menu appears to be fully interactive, allowing for resizing, relocation and reconfiguration of each tile as part of a fully customisable experience, porting the sometimes frustrating and seemingly endlessly scrolling Windows 8 Start menu interface into a bite size, functional work tool.
New Icons Are Nice, Too.
The leaked screens indicate a smattering of new icons across both the traditional desktop and the modern interface experience formerly known as ‘Metro,’ providing updates on the UI style established with the release of Windows 8 and now found across the Windows digital and mobile spectrum. This is part of a wider shift in the focus of Windows toward expansion of their mobile and tablet sales through desktop and mobile integration, similar to the continued merging of all Apple products: one UI, one cloud, a united vision for integration.
Cortana Meets Your Desktop
Two of the most exciting aspects of Windows 9 will be virtual desktop support and the introduction of the brilliant Cortana to our home screens. Given Windows previous commitments to its virtual assistant Cortana, it seems likely she will appear in some format (Paperclip, anyone?!), most likely as a wholly unified aspect of the search function whose icon you will note nestled next to the Start menu, essentially making the taskbar her domicile.
Virtual Desktops Look Promising
The second interesting leak development has been virtual desktops. Windows 9 offers the chance to create distinct workspaces on the fly that will presumably – as part of the wider networking and integration efforts being undertaken throughout the company – come with or work well with a wider network sharing tool for community/office/social online workspaces. On a more basic level, simply having a desktop configuration for home, work and play could prove handy for those looking for more.
Particularly interesting and of massive productivity potential is the popup overlays for each desktop, allowing an interactive insight into each virtual workspace. No more endless scrolling through open windows via ALT+TAB, only to miss your scheduled stop. A potential nightmare for employers, however, with employees cycling through from Excel to their office game of OpenTTD and back again.
How, What and Why: Microsoft Are Evolving
Productivity and integration seem to be central to the ‘new’ Windows ethos. The introduction of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO has promoted a company-wide unification message, clearly enacting a vision of a merged, integrated future for all Windows desktop, mobile and Xbox devices. Productivity is key to the success of Nadella’s future and indeed, the continued future of Windows 9. Shifting quickly between screens, integrated desk applications and wider Windows device support all point to a serious Microsoft, pushing to and beginning to truly understand their role in the contemporary digital market.
It seems that Windows 9 will be provided to officially licensed users as a free upgrade (or for $20, where applicable) and potentially to new users also. In recognition of our social mobile concentrated society and the shifting demographics of desktop users, updates are likely to come in smaller, more frequent packages to enable continued development – though according to Microsoft coverage savant, Mary Jo Foley, there is another, more consumer focused preview (see Windows 9 running on ARM processors) on its way to establish what has been built with tablet and mobile users in mind.
So, was Windows 8 the new Vista? Probably. Will Windows 9 be the new 7? Hopefully!
Oh, and did we mention the charms bar might be gone? Let us know what you think!