On September 30, Microsoft is expected to show off Windows 9 to the world for the first time — yet another sign of the beginning of the end for Windows 8.
Though Windows 8 was an attempt to unify the Windows experience across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, it turned out to be polarizing. Due to its mobile-ish Start screen, the lack of anything resembling the traditional Start menu, and other factors, PC users turned away from Windows 8 in huge numbers.
As of last month, the combined desktop OS market share for Windows 8 and 8.1 stood at 13.37 percent. Meanwhile, no longer supported by Microsoft and practically ossified by time, Windows XP still holds 23.89 percent of that same pie. Windows 7 is still the dominant desktop OS, occupying 51.21 percent of the market.
So it’s no surprise that less than two years after Win 8’s official release, Microsoft will lift the curtain on the next iteration of Windows on Tuesday.
With that in mind, and considering that so many Windows 9 rumors and images have leaked out, here are five things we expect to see in Microsoft’s next operating system.
A fresh Start (menu)
It didn’t take long after the release of Windows 8 for it to become apparent that getting rid of the Start menu was a huge mistake. Rumors about a return of the Start menu have been whispered about for quite some time, and Microsoft even teased a revamped version of it back at Build 2014 in April.
In recent weeks, leaked images and videos have featured a new Start menu with Metro-ish visuals and elements built into it, similar to what we saw at Build. We would be shocked if this were omitted from a Windows 9 reveal.
Metro apps running in windowed mode
With the release of Windows 8.1, users were finally able to run Metro apps in the classic desktop environment. However, at this point you can only do so in full-screen mode.
If leaks and rumors are correct, in Windows 9 Metro apps will behave more like traditional application windows. This would be more along the lines of a natural progression than a revolutionary new feature, but it’s still something we hope and expect to see.
Windows without Charms, sort of
Leaks and rumors point to Windows 9 eliminating the Charms menu that debuted in Windows 8, to an extent. We don’t expect them to go away entirely, but we’d be fine with how they would be re-purposed, based on what we’ve seen.
These recently leaked photos of Windows 9 tell us that most of the functions that are currently contained in the Windows 8 Charms menu, including Search, Share, and Settings, will instead be baked into Metro apps individually. If the screenshots are legitimate, these functions will be accessible by clicking on a button at the top of each app.
OS upgrades via Windows Update
Based on a recent Microsoft job posting, and something that a Microsoft exec uttered just days ago, Windows 8 users may be able to download and install Windows 9 straight from Windows Update.
“Easy, when the OS (Windows 9) was launched later, users who have been using Windows 8 just need to do the update via his device. It will be installed automatically,” Andreas Diantoro, the President of Microsoft Indonesia reportedly said recently.
A couple of weeks ago, a Software Engineer opening in the company’s Operating Systems Engineering division said that Microsoft was looking to “fundamentally change the way Windows is shipping to put the ecosystem at the center of Windows.”
The engineer would be part of a squad of Microsoft developers dubbed the Mission Control team. Issues they would tackle, according to the notice, include problems with video drivers, bugs with the Windows Start menu, and more.
Sounds like a new version of Windows Update to us. Having to order boxed copies of Windows, or install via an ISO that you need to burn to a flash drive or disc, is old hat at this point. With Windows 8, Microsoft made it harder to use Windows. In Windows 9, Microsoft should be going in the other direction. The addition of a new Start menu would be a step in the right direction, but enabling OS upgrades via Windows Update would simplify the experience even further.
A Microsoft President alluded to this. Therefore, we expect this to happen.
A rumor from August indicated that Windows 9 could be free for users of Microsoft’s oldest operating systems, including Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. (No word on the fate of Windows 3.1 users.) Not only did Diantoro allegedly state that Windows 9 can be installed via an update, keep in mind, software updates via Windows are free.
What’s unclear at this point is whether the freebie would be extended to everyone who uses versions of Windows that go as far back as XP, or if it would be restricted to those on 8/8.1. Either way, it would be nice if somebody got to get Windows 9 for nada. Based on Diantoro’s line, it looks like users of Redmond’s latest OS are in line for the freebie, but we won’t know for sure until tomorrow’s event.