The Microsoft Windows edition formerly known as part of the "Threshold" wave of Windows releases will now be called Windows 9, and it will arrive in April 2015. It will allow users to make Metro apps into windowed applications on the Windows Desktop, restore the Start menu (or give us something like it or better), and in general backtrack on a lot of the foolish decisions Microsoft made with Windows 8.
But there may be a fly in the Windows 9 ointment: Microsoft hasn't yet started development of Windows 9, making an April 2015 debut ambitious, coming two and a half years after Windows 8's debut. However, Microsoft managed to release the well-liked Windows 7 two and a half years after the disastrous Windows Vista, so there's a precedent for that timeline.
At least, that's the direction for Windows that Paul Thurrott, a longtime Microsoft author and analyst, claims he's learned about the next major edition of Windows from Microsoft sources. Thurrott has a long track record of being a reliable source for Microsoft news, and his claims for Windows 9 have more credibility than most. ZDnet writer Mary Jo Foley, who also has deep sources at Microsoft, suggests that Thurrott's report is credible as well.
The good news is that the purported Windows 9 plan is very much in the spirit of InfoWorld's "Windows Red" proposed road map for Windows from spring 2013.
The first and most obvious change to Windows is the name, with Windows 9 being adopted "to distance itself from the Windows 8 debacle," Thurrott writes. That name shift signals a recognition at Microsoft that Windows 8 has not only been a sales failure -- only about 10 percent of PCs run it, according to StatCounter data, even though it debuted 18 months ago -- it's also hurt Microsoft's reputation at a time when iOS and Android are surging as alternative computing platforms. "Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public," Thurrott writes, so many of the changes due for Windows center around a strong rollback of most everything in Windows 8 that alienated existing users.
Second is the way the Metro UI design language for Windows 8 is being revised, with one widely rumored change being the ability for Metro apps to run in the Windows Desktop in their own windows so users don't have to switch back and forth between the two Windows operating environments. The Start menu is also rumored to be making a return, something Thurrott reported earlier.
What's most striking is that although Windows 9 is scheduled for release as early as April 2015 -- barely 15 months off -- Microsoft allegedly hasn't even started its development and won't do so until April 2014, Thurrott writes. That means there won't be any Windows pre-release versions to show at Microsoft's Build developer conference this spring.
That ambitious schedule implies a couple of things. One, there won't be very many changes in Windows 9, but the changes that are made will be major. In other words, Microsoft will focus on a few key flaws in Windows 8. Two, it's a reflection of the revved-up release strategy for Windows, where some new version of Windows is released yearly, rather than three years between major versions and with service packs interspersed between. Windows 8 came out in October 2012, Windows 8.1 in September 2013, and Windows 9 appears slated for April 2015. By contrast, Windows XP debuted in October 2001, Windows Vista in November 2006, and Windows 7 in July 2009.
Of course, it's possible that most of the major development effort for Windows 9 has already happened, and the effort to begin this spring is really more a matter of picking and choosing the features that best fit the new vision for Windows, rather than developing those things from scratch.
What's scarcely in doubt is how urgently Microsoft needs to remake Windows, at least in the short term. In the long run, it may not even be Windows that matters as much for Microsoft anyway -- it may be its cloud strategy that really makes the difference. As InfoWorld's Eric Knorr has pointed out, it's things like the versatile Office 365 and rapidly evolving Windows Azure that are more Microsoft's future. In fact, the cloud strategy may matter more precisely because the Windows client has come to matter less, partly due to Windows 8.
This story, "Windows 9 due in April 2015, but coding hasn't started yet," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.