6 Features That Will (or Should) Be Included in Windows 9
Earlier this month, Microsoft began sending out invitations for a September 30 event that promises to offer details about “what’s next for Windows and the enterprise,” according to well-known Windows reporter Paul Thurrott. While the next iteration of the operating system will most likely be called Windows 9, it has commonly been referred to as the “Threshold” Windows release in the press based on information provided by Thurrott. Regardless of what it’s called, the upcoming Windows release may be one of the most crucial software releases in Microsoft’s history.
It has been nearly two years since Microsoft released its widely criticized Windows 8 operating system that confused many users by introducing a radically different user interface based on a new, touchscreen-friendly Metro design language. In response to the criticism, Microsoft rolled back some of the less popular changes implemented in Windows 8 with a subsequent Windows 8.1 upgrade. Changes made in Windows 8.1 included the return of a visible Start button on the desktop, the removal of the requirement to run Windows Store apps in full screen mode, and the ability to boot to the traditional desktop, rather than the tile-based Start screen.
Not surprisingly, many industry watchers expect Microsoft’s next version of Windows to retreat even further from its original Windows 8 strategy. On the other hand, users who are hoping that Microsoft will unveil a beefed up version of Windows 7 may be disappointed.
Here is a list of some of the most discussed features that many users are hoping to see in Microsoft’s upcoming software release, as well as a rundown of some of the latest leaks and rumors about Windows 9. It should be pointed out that, although Microsoft will discussing details of Windows 9 (or whatever it’s called) at the September 30 media event, the new operating system is still not expected to be launched until April of 2015.
1. Return of the Start Menu
Windows users made their feelings about the lack of a Start button clear when Microsoft first removed it from Windows 8. While Microsoft subsequently returned the Start button with the Windows 8.1 update, the button merely opened the “Modern” or Metro-style user interface, rather than the traditional Start menu. Although Windows users can expect to see changes implemented in Windows 9 that will echo the traditional Start menu, it will not be a complete return to Windows 7. According to a recently leaked video provided by WinFuture.de, it appears that Windows 9 will merge the classic Start menu with the newer tile-based interface. As seen in the video above, users can access Windows 8 elements like Live Tiles via a Windows 7-style Start menu.
2. A “Deeply Personal” Cortana
Windows 9 won’t just be about rolling back radical changes made in Windows 8. Cortana, the recently unveiled voice-activated personal assistant that has faced off against Apple’s Siri in several Windows Phone-based mobile device commercials, may also be showing up in Windows 9, according to a rumor reported by Neowin. An internal Microsoft poster obtained by Re/Code that mentioned the need for a “deeply personal, universally human way of operating” also seemed to hint that Windows 9 will indeed include Microsoft’s personal assistant.
Microsoft also dropped hints about its multi-platform ambitions for Cortana at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Advanced conference in June of this year. “We want to scale Cortana internationally and across devices,” said Windows Phone Group Program Manager Mark Ash at the SMX Advanced conference, according to blog coverage provided by Search Engine Land. With the Windows 8 debacle still fresh in many users’ minds, the upcoming Windows release would seem like an opportune time to dazzle consumers by bringing Cortana to all of Microsoft’s platforms.
3. Improved Integration With Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows Phone
Besides borrowing Cortana from the Windows Phone operating system, many Windows users are also hoping that Microsoft will boost the operating system’s overall integration with the Xbox gaming and entertainment console. This would allow users to more easily perform tasks like mirroring their Windows-based PC screens on their televisions via Xbox without the use of a third-party device or software. Similarly, Microsoft could also bring Windows Phone features like Cortana to Xbox, or allow users to handle Windows Phone text messages on their desktops via Windows 9.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared to suggest that this would happen in Windows 9 when he announced at the company’s fiscal fourth quarter 2014 earnings call that, “We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes,” reports Seeking Alpha. However, as noted by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, Nadella later clarified his statement to mean unity among work teams, operating system cores, commerce, and platforms for developers, rather than one operating system for all platforms. Either way, Microsoft would benefit greatly if it implemented an Apple-style Continuity/Handoff feature to its next Windows iteration.
4. Less Bloated OS
As more and more users migrate from traditional PCs to laptops, ultrabooks, 2-in-1 devices, and tablets, the need for an operating system that takes up less space becomes more acute. According to a test conducted by a Superuser poster, Windows 8 used up slightly more storage space than Windows 7. Microsoft may want to reverse this trend toward ever larger operating systems if it wants to remain relevant for users who don’t rely on a traditional desktop with lots of free memory. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard any rumors about a reduction in the overall size of Windows 9. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t happen either.
5. Revamped Internet Explorer
Many commentators have long noted the problems with Microsoft’s native web browser. Ed Bott at ZDNet recently referred to Internet Explorer as “the Rodney Dangerfield of browsers, getting no respect at all from Web developers and experienced Windows users.” The browser’s reputation for being incompatible with many websites has pushed many Windows users to adopt one of the many third-party browser options that are now available, such as Google’s Chrome.
Unfortunately, Microsoft may have further confused Windows users by making two versions of its web browser available on Windows 8.1. Windows 8.1 users can open a Metro-style version of Internet Explorer that lacks bookmarks or browsing history features, or a standard desktop version with all the features enabled. Giving Internet Explorer a major overhaul and eliminating redundant programs would go a long way in improving the reputation of Microsoft’s web browser.
6. Improved High-Resolution Display Support
What’s the point of having a high-resolution display if Windows doesn’t render onscreen elements correctly? Despite the growing number of devices with high resolution screens and increasing use of external 4K monitors, Windows 8 inexplicably rendered text, icons, menus, and other screen elements far too small. This minor scaling issue will presumably be a fairly simple problem to correct in Windows 9, but a very necessary one considering that the use of even higher resolution displays is likely to become more widespread in the coming years.
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