Microsoft's Next Windows May Be Dressed to the 9
It's not you, Windows 8 -- it's your form factor. Once consumers get used to the idea of an operating system that's designed to work with smart devices as well as with personal computers, Windows likely will regain favor, suggested IDC analyst Al Gillen. Of course, a stronger collection of apps wouldn't hurt. Microsoft is going to have to redouble its efforts to lure devs to its side.
The company also will talk about the next version of its operating system, code-named "Threshold," which will be officially named "Windows 9," Thurrot speculated. It will debut in April 2015.
Windows 8 generally has been panned, and sales reportedly have been poor, but "it's the whole shift to smart devices that is impacting the Windows momentum," Al Gillen, a program vice president at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. "It is a form factor shift, not a specific dissatisfaction with Windows itself."
The Next Windows OS
Microsoft will call the new version "Windows 9" to distance itself from Windows 8, which is "tanking," Thurrot said.
Windows 8.1 is running on fewer than 25 million PCs, which he called a "disaster."
Microsoft will not provide developers with an early alpha release of "Threshold" at the Build conference because the product will not be in development until later in April, Thurrot said.
Maturing and fixing the Metro design language will be a major focus area in Threshold, noted Thurrot, who speculated that it will include a windowed mode for desktops.
Microsoft will deliver three milestone releases of Threshold before the final release, he added.
"At this point, there is a lot of speculation and guessing and not much known fact," Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, told TechNewsWorld.
However, "I don't expect Microsoft to walk from the big bets they've made with Windows 8.x -- the Start screen and the modern UI -- regardless of name," he continued.
Putting Windows 8 Into Perspective
"Windows 8 really shines on touchscreen devices, including tablets and all-in-ones, but arrived at market months before those products became widely available," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld. "It's a bit like manufacturing a hot new sports car but delivering it to market while the roads are still riddled with potholes."
Although Windows 8 "is a bit awkward to get around at first, the overall benefits -- quicker startup, greater security and stability, and access to apps from the Windows store -- make it a worthy successor to Windows 7," King continued.
The key weakness of Windows 8 is "the lack of strong apps to pull people to the platform," said Directions on Microsoft's Miller.
That's because of the growth in demand for tablets at the expense of PCs.
"There has been a structural adjustment in application platforms where developer interest has shifted over to tablets and phones," Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.
Still, there's hope for Microsoft -- if it can lure programmers to write for it. There are 18.5 million software developers worldwide, 11 million of whom are professionals, IDC has estimated. However, the number of hobbyist developers is growing because of the popularity of mobile platforms.
Possible Additions to Windows
Speculation is rife about the new features that might emerge in the next version of the Windows OS.
"The main things I expect to see in a future version of Windows are tighter integration with Windows Server, perhaps some bending to accommodate desktop users, and continued movement towards one development platform across Windows Phone and Windows," Directions on Microsoft's Miller said. He ruled out the return of the Start menu.
On that point, there's still considerable debate, however.
The traditional Start button will be back, Pund-IT's King predicted.
Further, Microsoft might change the way common files and applications are located and accessed, he suggested. "One rumor is that the Metro startup screen in Windows 8 will become a file or folder on a traditional startup screen."