A consensus of leaked details -- hardly infallible -- now places a technical preview of the next version of Windows in late September or early October. Two days ago I asked the question: Which Windows will emerge? Since then the rumor mill has been in high gear. Although there's been precious little clarification about the pedigree of the technical preview, we've seen a handful of well-placed rumors that speculate on the new Windows' capabilities and for the first time pay some lip service to "Threshold on ARM." I hesitate to use the term "Windows RT," which deserves to be fried by a Daenerys dragon.
Over on the desktop side, the blogosphere has now realized that the new Start menu may include interactive live tiles, as demonstrated four months ago by Microsoft Research. It's a logical extension of the currently dead-as-a-dodo live tiles on the Metro Start screen and brings the Windows "next" desktop Metro tile capabilities up to the level of Windows Vista's Sidebar/Gadgets. That's progress. There's also talk of a Notification Center, familiar to anyone who uses any mobile phone, tablet, or OS X.
Tom Warren at The Verge reports that those features probably won't make it into the technical preview, but will ship in the final version of Windows Threshold/Windows 9. Brad Sams at Neowin takes that assertion one step further:
The current watermark for the builds that are circulating refer to the pre-release version as the "Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise" which should help you understand what Microsoft's intentions are for this build... Microsoft has more ambitious update in the works for UI elements for the desktop but the technical preview will not include them.
Given the huge, unending clamor for a Start menu and windowed Metro apps on the Windows 8 desktop, I think that releasing a "Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise" that lacks those simple modes would be a huge mistake. We'll see.
Winbeta goes on to say, "Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise" may not be the same as the public preview of Windows Threshold. If true, that could explain why Chinese leaker Faikee continues to insist that Threshold and Windows 9 are two different products.
Special build of Windows 9 Enterprise Technical Preview is compiled already, OEM test builds of Windows 9 Pro won't be available for the public... Of course, Metro UI won't be enabled by default in Enterprise and Server versions.
Wzor also posits a few remarkable feature improvements for Windows Whatever:
Microsoft is developing ability to virtualize backups of physical systems in the cloud... "Cloud hypervisor" - it's a reality.
What that hypervisor will look like -- and whether customers will take kindly to having every-bloody-thing in the Microsoft cloud -- remains to be seen.
Metro's still an inscrutable mixed bag. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, as ever plugged into highly placed (and no doubt well-rehearsed) Microsoft leakers, published the definitive word, buried in a well-placed lament about the accelerating pace of Windows change:
There will be a separate preview of Threshold running on ARM processors, too. My sources are saying the current target date for that preview is January or February 2015. As the ARM-based version of Threshold -- which should run on both Windows Phones and tablets -- isn't expected to include the Windows desktop, the focus will be on changes Microsoft is making to the Metro-Style Start screen environment.
Just as Foley danced around the differences between "Windows 9" and "Threshold" last week, she's also very careful how she brands Windows 9 RT, er, Windows Threshold RT, oh, here it is: Threshold on ARM. Based on that verbal tango, you can bet that Microsoft hasn't settled on a new name. Waggener-Edstrom, Microsoft's PR firm, is too good to let that one slip.