Microsoft is expected to deliver an update to Windows 8.1 later this year dubbed Update 1, and newly leaked screenshots suggest U1 will include a stepping stone on the road to the widely rumored Windows 9, a.k.a. "Threshold." Screenshots of a purported early build of U1 show a Windows Store icon sitting on the Windows Desktop's taskbar. What's more, the taskbar's properties window has an option to pin Windows Store (aka Metro) apps to the taskbar alongside regular Desktop apps.
The leaked shots from Russian blogger WZor, who has reliably leaked early Windows builds for many years and versions, only shows the Desktop. Presumably, however, Metro apps launched from theDesktop would still send users into the full-screen Metro UI.
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But that may only be a temporary solution on the way to "Threshold." Early reports about Windows 9 from reputable Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott says that "Threshold" will allow Metro UI apps to run in windowed mode on the Desktop. Both Thurrott and The Verge report that the Start Menu may also return to either Update 1 or "Threshold."
If the "Threshold" rumors are accurate, the leak from WZor suggests Microsoft plans on a gradual transition from Windows 8's jarring, dueling interfaces to a more integrated experience on Windows 9.
Granted, this all sounds like a house of cards with one rumor built upon another. Considering the sources, however -- Thurrott, The Verge, and Mary Jo Foley were the trio that broke the news about Windows 8.1 long ago -- there's a good chance something like this scenario will pan out.