What we know about the next versions of Windows

Rumors are rampant, but here's what's on for sure with Windows 8.1 Updates, Windows 9, Windows 365, Windows Phone, Xbox, and 'Threshold'

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

The Windows 8.1 updates continue to bother me because Myerson, at the Build conference, promised "we will be making this [new, live-tiled Start menu] available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update."

Perhaps there are updates and there are Updates, if you know what I mean.

When you go beyond Windows 8.1, the crystal ball gets even cloudier. While I consider it a given that Microsoft will abandon the "Windows 8" name as quickly as it can herd the rats off the floundering ship, it's not at all clear that the next version of Windows will be called Windows 9, nor is it clear how many incarnations of that next version will come out. Speculation centers around three versions (Metro, desktop consumer, and corporate), but look at how many bases Microsoft's promising to touch with Windows 9: phones, tablets, Intel, ARM, Xbox, consumer, corporate, and many more. Toss in an almost-free-to-hardware-manufacturers Windows 365, tied to Bing and upgradable online, and the ecosystem oozes with niches -- each likely to get its own version of Windows.

Then there's the "Threshold" conundrum. Back in December, Mary Jo Foley talked about a very well-considered plan, code-named "Threshold," that would sweep across all Microsoft products and bring us a nicely tied-together new version of Windows. Everybody at the time thought Foley was talking about Windows 9. She quoted two Microsoft employees as saying that Windows honcho Myerson used the code name in a memo to all hands. Now the situation isn't nearly as clear.

On June 27, former Microsoft employee Brandon Paddock (@BrandonLive) dropped a bombshell:

From what I can tell there is a fall update ("Update 2") and a spring update ("Threshold"). The latter might be Update 3. It might be Windows 8.2. It might be Windows 9. I don't think they've picked a name for it yet... As far as everyone in Windows I've heard from is concerned (as of Build at least) [referring to the spring update as Windows 9] was an invention of the press/bloggers.

Faikee, referring to discussions with Microsoft insiders, tossed this bomb into the Neowin discussion on July 16:

WinThreshold is actually some sort of Plan B, if on later win9 development stage, they find Start Menu and Windowed-Apps cannot go well with win9, then Win8.2(WinThreshold) will be released.

Is "Threshold" the same as Windows 9? Is it a Plan B? Is it a dessert topping or a floor wax? Your guess is as good as mine -- maybe better.

This much I know for sure: Those leaked screenshots of Windows 9 that have been going around -- they're probably Photoshopped. The Build 9795 screen has inconsistent time stamps. The Build 9788 "leak" screenshot has drawn a hailstorm of criticism on My Digital Life.

Then there's Nadella's earnings call earlier this week. (You can read the transcript on Seeking Alpha.) I've seen so many misinterpretations of Nadella's comments that it's hard to catalog them all. For starters, Nadella did not say Microsoft is killing Windows RT. While the "Windows RT" name will go down in infamy, and I hope every marketeer involved in promulgating it has long since found the Microsoft Exit door, Nadella didn't even mention Windows RT in his chat -- and he certainly didn't say he was killing it. What he said is there's now one team working on the future versions of Windows.

For a definitive rundown of what Nadella said (and didn't say) about "one Windows," see Foley's definitive recap. And take the unified developer platform as a goal, not an achieved objective. As I explained two years ago, Microsoft's been aiming in that direction for a long time and still hasn't hit any bull's-eyes.

Bottom line: We really don't know much at all about the next versions of Windows. Myerson has shown us a video -- not a demo -- of a concept of how the new Start menu will work, and he's shown us a video of windowed Metro apps on the desktop. He's promised us that Windows 8.1 customers will get those new features as an update. There are no legitimate leaked screenshots of any future version of Windows, no leaked builds. We have unattributed reports of planned features, many of which contradict each other.

It's almost like living under the Sinofsky lock-down, all over again. We need a Myerson glasnost.

This story, "What we know about the next versions of Windows," 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.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
How to choose a low-code development platform