Microsoft may actually be on the right track with Windows 9

New leaked details -- including some from the reemerged Russian blogger Wzor -- bring renewed hope for a better Windows 9

Windows insider Wzor is back, tweeting and posting on the Russian site ru-board.com tantalizing hints about the next versions of Windows. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley followed up, quoting unnamed sources with slightly conflicting details. Although the picture is murky at best, all signs point to a greatly improved Windows 9, with lots of niggling problems nipping at its heels.

It's great to see Wzor back, braving the apparently intense scrutiny brought on by the arrest of ex-Microsoft employee Alex Kibkalo. Quoting from a Google translation of Wzor's ru-board post:

The history of what happened to a former employee of Microsoft still affect the possibilities of our sources provide and publish information . Security changes were made and the company's partners . We still assess the risks in the event of renewed activity.

(I wonder if the folks at Microsoft will ever realize how much Wzor has helped keep Windows fandom alive. He should be on the Microsoft payroll -- if he isn't already.)

Wzor makes several observations in his/her/their post:

  • Some variation on the revived Windows desktop Start menu, demonstrated by Terry Myerson at the Build 2014 conference, will be released this fall in an update to Windows 8.1. (Myerson promised in his presentation that Microsoft "would be making those [Start menu] features available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update.")
  • The new desktop Start menu is not in the Windows 9 Developer Preview (and raises all sorts of interesting questions about the current state of the Win9 Developer Preview).
  • There's a dispute inside Microsoft about whether to call this version "Windows 8.2" or "Windows 8.1 Update 2." I personally favor the more accurate name "(Windows 8.1 Update) Update," or "81UpUp" for short, but doubt that'll gain much traction. Seriously, the lack of clear branding in all of this belies a much greater Microsoft malaise and confuses the living wzorness out of customers. Microsoft couldn't make it more obtuse if it tried.
  • In Windows 9 there will also be a Start menu on the Metro Start screen, only available on computers without touchscreens and on servers. (At least, I think that's what Wzor's saying, aided by translations and observations from Jan Aldershoff at the myce site -- quite a new revelation, if true.) Computers with touchscreens will get the Start menu "implemented on other principles."
  • Windows 9 may be free or may have versions that are free.
  • Microsoft has a "Windows Cloud" in the works, with the core initial version of Windows similar to Windows Starter edition and a more functional version of Windows available for a fee in the cloud. (I've been predicting a Windows 365 for some time, and this certainly sounds like a step in that direction. In this case, the devil's very much in the details.) Wzor compares this situation to Apple, but I think he mistyped and meant Google, with Chrome OS and the browser extensions -- unless he was referring to Office on the iPad, which works in a completely different way.

Notably, if I understand the Russian translation, Wzor didn't talk about the ability to run Metro apps in windows on the desktop (a la Stardock's ModernMix), a welcome capability that Myerson demonstrated at Build 2014. He didn't talk about availability of Windows 9, nor did he talk about the "three versions" speculation -- Metro, Personal, and Enterprise Windows 9 -- that's been discussed. There was no mention of "Threshold," widely believed to be the code name for Windows 9.

Finally -- and intriguingly -- Wzor didn't talk about the Start menu Myerson demonstrated, which combined elements of the Windows 7 Start menu and live tiles from the Metro Start screen. Thus, we don't know if the interim versions Wzor has seen merely mimic Win7 Start -- we've seen that done well in Stardock's Start8 add-in -- or if Microsoft will bring the whole live tile shtick to the desktop.

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