Cause for hope: Windows 8 gets the heave-ho in the next wave of updates

Windows might actually become relevant again if rumors about the next version(s) of Windows are to be believed

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A traditional consumer version. It would include a desktop and "be customized so that mouse/keyboard users will be able to continue to have some semblance of productivity and familiarity with Windows." (I really like the "some semblance of productivity" part.) Unfortunately, it isn't clear if this version of Windows would include the Metro side -- in other words, if it's just a Jekyll/Hyde 8.1 version with a new Joker face. Until there's some clarification, this version is hard to get excited about.

Foley goes on to say that this version would be updated "regularly and often" through the Windows Store. Presumably, this version of Windows would follow the iOS and Android model, where updates arrive as they're needed for both the OS and the apps. Given Microsoft's current abysmal track record with patches, that has me spooked. But it's possible that Microsoft will be able to lock down the new system better than our old friends Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8.

A stodgy old-fashioned traditional Enterprise version. Let's call it OFW, for "old fogey's Windows" (or something similar). It has "all the usual business bells and whistles, like support for Win32 apps." That's exactly the version most of the world has been clamoring for -- an updated version of Windows 7 to ease everyone into the Metro world. Foley throws a wet blank on the prospect though, by saying her sources tell her "The Enterprise SKU might end up being for volume licensees only." Oy.

At just about the same time yesterday, Paul Thurrott posted a fascinating synopsis of the rumors he's heard on the same topic. His SuperSite for Windows makes no bones about it:

I've not heard anything independently about the product versions in Threshold. But I do know about a few changes that Microsoft is planning for what my sources have described as "the next version of Windows," which I assume is Threshold. (Though to be clear, they never used this name.)...

Metro apps running in windows on the desktop. As you can today with third-party utilities such as ModernMix, the next version of Windows will let users optionally run Metro apps in floating windows on the desktop.

Start menu. After bringing back the Start button in Windows 8.1, Microsoft will take the next logical step in the next Windows version and make the Start menu available as an option. It's possible this will appear only on those product versions that support the desktop.

In other words, Microsoft is planning to build analogs to Stardocks' Start8 and ModernMix into one or more of the Threshold (Q2 2015) versions of Windows. If that is indeed the case, it's the biggest, best Windows story this decade.

Myerson's the one to pull it off. Shunned as the head of Windows Phone when Sinofsky was independently cooking up the Windows 8 brew, he's now in charge of all OS development. If the rumors are true, Myerson's pulling together the mobile parts of Windows -- consolidating the WinRT API -- without castrating the old-fashioned Win32 desktop. If he's blending a revitalized desktop with ModernMix, so Windows desktop users can run Metro apps on the desktop -- much like the old Windows 7 desktop gadgets, but a thousand percent better -- he's hit a winner.

It reminds me of Galen Gruman's Windows Red -- still the best proposal for Windows' future that I know.

One important footnote: I sure hope Microsoft buys Stardock as part of its move to a better future. I don't know if there are patents to worry about or friction afoot, but the fact is that the folks at Stardock pioneered ModernMix and (like many others) also came up with a better-than-Win7 Start menu. Microsoft has a horrible, black widow legacy of killing off the developers that create new approaches to solve old problems. (This I know firsthand.) Stardock deserves a lot of thanks -- and cash.

Who knows? Windows might actually become relevant again.

This story, "Cause for hope: Windows 8 gets the heave-ho in the next wave of updates," was originally published at 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 on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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