Windows 8, introduced in 2012, ushered in some of the biggest changes in Windows history.
Windows 8 is meant to be a single piece of software that works seamlessly across traditional laptops, hybrids, and tablets. To achieve this, Microsoft axed the classic Windows start menu, added a new tiled interface, and completely changed the way users interact with Windows.
But it didn’t catch on quite as quickly as Microsoft had hoped. With its first major update to the software, Windows 8.1, Microsoft tried to address some of these concerns. But the company could take that a step further with Windows 9.
We’re expecting to get our first real look at Windows 9 during Microsoft’s press event on Tuesday. Reports are suggest Microsoft will divulge some details about a pre-release version of the software: the “Technical Preview” of Windows 9. It will probably be quite some time before we see the final consumer version, but here’s what we’ve heard about it so far.
Windows 9 may bring back the Start menu
One of the biggest gripes about Windows 8 was its lack of a Start menu.
Windows 9, however, could include what Microsoft is reportedly calling a mini Start menu that blends the traditional menu with Windows 8’s tiled interface, according to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley.
Microsoft showed off an early version of this hybrid Start menu at its Build developer conference in April.
Well-connected blogger Paul Thurrott, who, like Foley, has an excellent track record when it comes to reporting Microsoft news, also reports that the Start menu will return in Windows 9.
Say goodbye to the Charms menu
Microsoft may cut one of the biggest features out of Windows when it releases Windows 9. According to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley and blog Winbeta, the Charms sidebar might not be part of the interface in the next version of Windows.
The Charms menu appears along the right side of the screen when you swipe in from the right. It includes icons that provide shortcuts for certain functions within the operating system, such as the search bar, Settings menu, and Devices page among others.
Instead, Microsoft may include shortcuts to some of these menus in the title bars for “Metro”-style apps in Windows 9.
Speaking of “Metro” apps, reports also suggest Windows 9 will allow you to run these types of apps on the desktop in separate windows.
Microsoft is supposedly calling it ‘Threshold’ internally
Microsoft is referring to its future update Windows as “Threshold,” according to Foley. It was originally believed that “Threshold” would not be a single release, but a series of smaller updates similar to Windows 8.1. Newer reports, however, are indicating that this is indeed the code name for Windows 9.
Windows 9 may be able to adapt depending on what device you’re using
Windows 9 aka “Threshold” could “look and work” differently depending on the type of device you’re using, according to Foley. Those using a Windows laptop or desktop computer will get a version of Windows Threshold that emphasises the traditional desktop.
If you’re running Windows on a tablet or hybrid device like the Surface, however, Threshold will “support” switching between a tiled mode and standard desktop mode. It’s unclear if the tiled Windows interface will be available as an option for non-touch laptop and desktop computers.
Cortana could be coming to the desktop
German website WinFuture claims to have obtained leaked screenshots of Windows 9, which show Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana running on the desktop. The screenshots are said to depict the Technical Preview build of Windows 9, which we’ll likely see Tuesday.
In one screenshot, we can see how one may be able to set location-based reminders through Cortana in Windows 9.
You made be able to pay for extra features
Another possibility for Windows 9 is a subscription-based format, according to Ars Technica’s Peter Bright.
The base operating system would be free, but certain features could cost extra. Hypothetically, if this correlates with Foley’s report about Windows changing depending on your device, a user would be able to pay extra to get the tiled interface as an extra feature on a non-touch laptop or desktop. But this is just a hypothetical example based on piecing together the rumours.
This reportedly leaked screenshot shows a “Metro” app running in a single window on the desktop.
A single app store for all Windows platforms
Microsoft is reportedly planning to connect its various platforms such as Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox more tightly. Part of this closer integration could involve releasing a single app store for all of its platforms, according to Foley. Right now, Microsoft has separate app stores for Windows Phone apps and Windows 8.1/Windows 8.1 RT apps.
It probably won’t come out until 2015
Windows 9 will probably be released in the second half of 2015. A reportedly leaked document published by tech blog Myce indicates the release preview for both Windows 9 and Windows Phone 9 will launch between Q2 and Q3 2015.
(A release preview is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a near-finished version of the software the public gets to play with before the official release arrives.)
Myce’s leak corroborates with Thurrott’s previous reports, too, which also suggested we’ll see Windows 9 in spring 2015.