What do we want? Windows 9 -- sorry, Windows 8

There are good arguments for both an interim Windows 8.2 upgrade and skipping straight to Windows 8's true successor

After years of being told it never innovates, Microsoft came out with Windows 8. That's when folks said, "Please, don't innovate any more, just go with what already works!" Sure, not everyone has embraced the Metro style or the Start screen and whole dual-desktop, dual-apps approach of Windows 8. But you have to admit, it's different from everyone else right now, for better or worse.

Windows 8.1 pretty much makes Windows 8 slightly less terrible. It's true: A Start button that doesn't attach to a Start menu is a bit of an enigma, but Windows 8.1 provides a variety of enhancements that make Windows 8 friendlier. I've been hoping that Windows 8.2 might follow that path and take us one step closer to something likable.

[ Windows 8 left you blue? Then check out Windows Red, InfoWorld's plan to fix Microsoft's contested OS. | Stay atop key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

But perhaps, as in the case of Windows Vista, it may be better to slap a whole new name or number on Windows and put the Windows 8 moniker on a shelf next to kindred spirits like Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows Vista. The label of that shelf should read, "We led the way so that those who come after us might succeed," with Windows 98 SE, Windows XP, and Windows 7 being the winners that followed.

I believe there's been value to every version of Windows that was hammered by the critics. The specific criticisms were deserved, but the reality is there seems to be a need for one OS to take a bullet for the next one. That is where we stand now. Windows 8 is an excellent OS, with major security improvements and more, but it also picked up a poor reputation due to a massive redesign that didn't get a warm welcome from users. So now what?

Well, there should be some kind of Windows 8.1 service pack in April 2014 to pair up with the anticipated Windows Phone 8.1 update. But that service pack will not be at the Windows 8.2 release. Its goal is to better unify Windows across computers and smartphones; it's not likely to change the fundamentals of Windows 8 as many hope a Windows 8.2 release would do.

I believe Microsoft has no choice but to come up with a Windows 8.2 release at some point, even if not this spring. From what I'm hearing, Microsoft won't have Windows 9 ready until 2015, so there's plenty of time to get out an 8.2 release that makes Windows 8.1 slightly less terrible, such as by doing the following:

  • Listen to the majority of users and make that Start button work properly as a menu again.
  • Restore the use of libraries, a widely used if legacy UI.
  • Provide a way to run Metro apps on the traditional Desktop, as InfoWorld has advocated and recent rumors suggest is now in the works. In the old days, we had Windows on Windows for running 16-bit apps. Why not have some kind of Metro on Windows functionality, so you don't have to switch from one UI to another?

Perhaps all Microsoft has to do for Windows 8.2 is buy Stardock's tools and make them part of the Windows OS.

It's possible, as some experts predict, that Microsoft will peel off the Band-Aid and move straight to the Windows 9 release expected in 2015, leaving Windows 8 essentially as-is for the next year or so.

I've been working solely on Windows 8 since the preview bits were released in 2012. Now I'm working with 8.1 across all my systems (desktop PC, laptop, and Surface tablet). I'm really ready for Windows 9.

This story, "What do we want? Windows 9 -- sorry, Windows 8," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.