Microsoft is expected to release a preview of the next version of Windows this fall and it will likely be followed by a full release of Windows 9 in early 2015. Right now the software’s code-named Windows “Threshold,” and details about the software have been leaking left and right.

It’s not clear how accurate all of the reports have been, but if they’re true Microsoft could be making some big changes to its operating systems as well as how it rolls out updates.

Here are some of the latest reports regarding Windows Threshold.

win9

Enterprise users won’t see the Start Screen

Don’t think the Start Screen and the full-screen user interface once known as “Metro” make sense on devices that don’t have touchscreens? Microsoft has you covered.

We’ve already heard that the company could be bringing back a sort of Start Menu that you can access from the desktop environment and killing the Charms menu that appears on the side of the screen when you swipe from the edge or move your mouse to the corner.

Now there are reports suggesting that Microsoft won’t include the Start Screen at all in some versions of Windows. Some reports say this’ll be true for the Enterprise version of Windows that ships on desktop and notebook computers, while others hint that it could be true for all versions of Windows that ship on devices that don’t have touchscreen displays.

Windows RT users won’t see the desktop

While Microsoft could be getting ready to remove the tablet-friendly view from non-tablets, the company may be doing the exact opposite for devices that are tablets by removing access to the desktop from Windows RT.

Devices including the Microsoft Surface 2 and Nokia Lumia 2520 that currently ship with Windows RT include access to what looks like a normal Windows 8.1 desktop environment… but the only things you can really do in desktop mode are run Office 2013 RT and access Windows Explorer and a few other basic functions.

The next version of Windows RT is due out in early 2015 and by then Microsoft’s touch-friendly version of Office should be available for the platform, so the company is expected to remove the desktop entirely. This’ll make Windows RT tablets look and feel a lot more like Android or iOS devices and less like Windows notebooks which can’t run most Windows apps.

Windows RT and Windows Phone are merging

Speaking of Windows RT, it might not be its own operating system much longer. Microsoft is expected to merge its tablet and smartphone operating systems.

Arguably it could have done this a few years ago by releasing a tablet-friendly version of Windows Phone instead of a version of its desktop operating system optimized to run on devices with ARM-based chips. But Microsoft has been making moves in recent years to bring all of its operating systems closer together.

For example the company recently introduced a new type of app it calls Universal Windows Apps which will be able to run not only on desktops, tablets, and phones, but also Xbox One game consoles.

Another thing that shows all versions of Windows are coming closer together is the inclusion of a new notification center in Windows Threshold, which will let you view updates on a tablet much the same way you can on a smartphone.

Updates

While a Windows Threshold preview will be available in September or October, reports suggest that a preview of the next version of Windows RT isn’t due until January or February.

The final versions of both Windows Threshold (which will probably be called Windows 9) and Windows RT Threshold are expected to launch in 2015, possibly in the springtime.

That would mean that Microsoft’s next major version of Windows would hit the streets less than 2 years after the launch of Windows 8.1. Rapid updates of that sort could annoy enterprise users… but the removable of the Start Screen could attract plenty of those enterprise users who have yet to upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Some reports suggest that Windows 9 could also be a free or cheap (around $20) update for users of Windows 8.1

According to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, after Windows 9 launches Microsoft will change the way updates are rolled out. Instead of offering a major new version of Windows every few years, the company could offer smaller free (or subscription-based) updates on an ongoing basis at regular intervals.

So it might be a long time before we see Windows 10… if we ever see it at all. Instead new features will arrive periodically along with security and stability updates.

Conclusion

Take all of this with a grain of salt: Microsoft hasn’t actually said much about Windows 9 or the next version of Windows RT yet. We do know that some sort of Start Menu which incorporates Start Screen features is on the way and we do know that Microsoft is bringing Windows, Windows RT, and Windows Phone closer together.

But some of the recent reports I’ve seen are contradictory… or at least incomplete. At the very least, it doesn’t make sense for Microsoft to totally remove the Start Screen and touch-friendly Metro-style user interface from 2-in-1 devices like its Surface tablets, Lenovo Yoga-style tablets, or any number of notebook/tablet hybrids from Acer, Asus, HP, Toshiba and others.

It does seem likely though, that Microsoft is hoping to make the tablet-friendly versions of its software work better on tablets, while it tries to placate users who feel that Windows 8 and 8.1 have been downgrades for desktop and notebook users.

More at: WZor, MyCEWinBeta, Neowin 

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11 replies on “Windows 9 “Threshold”: Microsoft removing the Start Screen from Enterprise and the desktop from Windows RT?”

  1. If you operate a hybrid device (eg. Surface or the Yoga, etc.) you’ll know that Windows 8 is a brilliant seamless design between two form factors. I alternate between touch screen and trackpad constantly – depending on what form factor is present (browser vs. native app vs. desktop app).
    That is the beauty of Windows 8. And I sincerely hope that they don’t silo these form factors simply because a user can’t adapt to a missing start menu.
    The possibility of the charms menu being removed concerns me as well. I constantly use the global charms menu to perform sharing and searching tasks.

  2. Even some of the hardest core Microsoft watchers (supporters) are holding their breath hoping Windows 9 doesn’t turn out to be an even bigger disaster than Windows 8. The people in the driver’s seat on Windows 9 are not those behind Windows 8 and their are not those behind the far more successful earlier versions.
    Instead it seems to be the “Microsoft Phonies” as they’re now being called: precisely those who created the mobile train wreck known as WinPhone and before that the catastrophic post-XP “Longhorn” fiasco and even before that the same folks were responsible for “Losing the API War.”
    These are the bathless disciples of Anders Hejlsberg.

    1. Anybody who as operated a hybrid tablet or laptop knows that Windows 8 was not a “disaster” at all. It is a brilliant design.

  3. These rumors just tell me that I don’t want a Windows tablet right now no matter how cheap they get as I worry I’ll pressured/forced into upgrading to Win9 shortly – which may in turn remove features I find useful.

  4. Looks like Microsoft is finally moving in the right direction (if the rumors are to be believed).

  5. I don’t know about early 2015… depends on how development goes for it as right now the only thing sure is that it’s only a early preview, like a Beta… and that users who try it out will be required to sign up for monthly updates because they will continue to make changes to it…

    So, it’s a bit like when W7 was coming out and they went through multiple preview versions before the final got released…

    Meaning, if they have to go back and change anything major then it could take considerably longer before final release… Earliest may be spring 2015 but latest may be as late as 2016…

    In the meantime, we should see some additional updates to W8.1 before they’re done and W9 finally takes over…

  6. The metro version of IE is really limited compared to the desktop version. So IMO that is a further degradation of the already weak RT platform.
    When I use my Venue Pro, I tend to use Metro IE for quick browsing, but switch to a desktop browser for more complicated sites like the gmail- especially if I want to use the voip feature. Of course in that case I use Chrome, which does not work on RT anyway. But I assume the full desktop IE has plugins and features beyond the stripped down Metro IE. Also, the Windows app store is sort of a joke.

    1. Limits depends on what you’re doing… Other users have stated the opposite, especially when using the browser on tablets… Things like pinch to zoom, etc. being some of the deciding factors…

      Mind, most people mainly do quick browsing and the Metro version still lets you cycle between tabs…

      Though, the lack of plug-ins for the Metro side is something that both tends to speed up performance but also limit customization and overall experience for those who like plug-in features…

      While IE 11 allows multiple Windows… So, isn’t quite as limiting as when it was first released under IE10…

      But yes, it still needs things to be improved more…

      While the Windows App store is still young… it took several years for the Android and iOS app stores to get to where they are now, and there has already been some improvement from the time the Windows app store was first introduced, just has more to go before it’s comparable to the more established stores…

  7. That’s how Windows RT should have been from the start, together with a METRO Office RT.

    1. We’re still actually waiting for the Metro version of Office but it’s suppose to come out eventually… While the online version can do for now, if the Metro version isn’t ready by the time they finally release the OS updates…

      Though, part of the delay may be because MS wants to push Office 365 and possibly phase out the traditional version altogether… and they’re seeing how successful it is before really pushing a Metro version…

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