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Windows 9 is the biggest release Microsoft’s had planned since 2003, which was an age of failed promises, disappointment, and Windows Vista. What exactly is Windows 9, though, and what do we know about it?

Windows 9 is an attempt to win back customers who were lost with Windows 8.

It’s no big secret – Microsoft lost many customers to the competition (such as Macs, Chromebooks, and even tablets!) after Windows 8’s release. To many desktop users, the operating system felt clunky, and was focused on touchscreens too much. The Windows team was disbanded after its release, and Terry Myerson filled the void Steven Sinofsky left. Steve Ballmer left Microsoft behind, and was replaced by Satya Nadella.

Windows 8.1 was the first release by Terry’s team, and it attempted to make things easier for users on traditional PCs. There was still no start menu, which was one of the main complaints about Windows 8, but the start button returned. The start button opens Metro, the touch-focused hub that replaced the start menu. However, right-clicking it allows users to access many of the start menu’s functions, including the control panel, and shutting down the computer.

It’s been stated multiple times by Microsoft – most recently at WPC – that their main goals are to prove to Windows XP and enterprise users that “the next iteration of Windows” (codenamed Windows Threshold) will be perfect for them. How do they plan to do that, exactly?

The start menu is back in Windows 9.

Yes, you read that right. At BUILD 2014, a new start menu was demoed.

Windows 9 Start Menu

A picture of the start menu, shown at BUILD 2014.

This start menu contains plenty of functions, and replaces Metro’s start screen entirely. You can remove and place as many live tiles as you wish, so you can work without them, or have the start menu be as big as you want. There’s been plenty of confusion – both inside and outside of Microsoft – about what this would be for. During BUILD, it was said that the start menu would be “available for Windows 8.1” users. Since then, Terry’s mentioned the start menu being for “the next iteration of Windows”. Is it Windows 8.2? Is it Windows 9? Judging by the attempts to escape Windows 8’s criticism, the latter is most likely true.

Metro (modern) apps will run windowed.

Yet another improvement for desktop users! With Metro’s start screen gone, apps will no longer be running in fullscreen all the time.

Modern apps running Windowed

A shot of apps running windowed – however, Bavo Luysterborg pointed out that the images were mockups.

Cortana integration

For those who don’t know, Cortana is the name of the assistant in Microsoft’s Windows Phone. She functions similarly to Siri, but is much more powerful, and functions through integration with Bing.

Neowin has some information about Cortana, and it seems she’s shaping up to be in the operating system’s final release. Porting her from Windows Phone to Windows 9 might not be the most difficult of tasks, either. Both Windows Phone OS and regular Windows run on the same NT kernel, and making programs work universally between them is one of Microsoft’s main goals.

Charms are dead.

Rest in peace, charms, we hardly knew ye. That might be a good thing, though, as they were focused on touch entirely – The vision for Windows 9 does not include them. The source for this is Winbeta, who included their own mockup image on what they believe will happen to the charms. Placing them into the title bar seems like a good idea, applications using the Ribbon menu (Such as Windows Explorer in Windows 8) do that already, so it’s likely.

There’s a preview on the way, and it’s coming September 30th.

Boy, oh boy. Set your clocks, folks. The Verge reported on a Windows 9 press event and preview, which is shaping up to be even more likely. Yesterday, Microsoft China leaked a Windows 9 logo, which was pulled within minutes.

“Microsoft’s latest OS Windows 9 is coming soon, do you think the start menu at the left bottom will make a come back?”

Coming soon? Certainly. Start menu? Absolutely.

Winbeta’s also reported on the name of the preview – It’s the “technical preview for enterprise”. A good chunk of the customers lost because of Windows 8 were enterprise customers, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Microsoft wants to prove it can do a good job. Microsoft wants to prove that Windows is the best. Microsoft wants to prove that they are still Microsoft, and that they can listen to what people want. These are exciting times, folks. Here’s to hoping Windows 9 is as good as it looks so far!


Andrew Bennett

The name's Andrew! I'm a contributor for Tech Raptor who enjoys writing about tech. I mostly cover Microsoft news, but I also enjoy video games. (Maybe even a tad too much!)