Windows 9 We Hardly Knew You

Windows 10 will finally, officially be here at the end of July. I have been working with Windows 10 for about 6 months and I must say this is what Windows 8 should have been. But what happened to Windows 9?

Let’s just say when it comes to Microsoft version numbers are not as simple as they should be.

Windows 10 finally has an official release date — July 29, 2015 — and development is nearing its end, although the latest Insider Preview Build 10122 clearly still needs some work. Let’s take a step back for a moment and address one of the most confusing things about the next version of Windows. When Microsoft announced its newest operating system last year, the surprise was not that it was coming, but that Windows would be skipping 9 and heading straight to 10. When asked about Windows 10’s name, Microsoft never gave a clear answer. So why, exactly, is Windows 10 getting the nod instead of 9?

Version numbers, schmersion numbers

You may remember that between Windows 3 and Windows 7, Microsoft designated each version with a name instead of a number: 95, 98, NT, Me, 2000, Vista, and so on. When the company announced Windows 7, there was actually a similar amount of disbelief; after a series of named versions of Windows, it seemed odd to switch back to numbers.

Windows 8: Actually version 6.3

There’s also the fact that the name of each Windows release doesn’t actually match the real version number. For example, Windows 8.1 is actually version 6.3 of Windows. Windows 10 is version 6.4. The last time the release name actually matched the version number was the enterprise-focused Windows NT 4.0, which was released back in 1996. Windows 2000, which was called NT 5.0 during development, was actually version 5.0. Windows XP was version 5.1. Windows Vista was 6.0, Windows 7 was 6.1, Windows 8 was 6.2, and Windows 8.1 is version 6.3.

Windows RT, which only ran Metro apps, was a new and separate beast, but it still sat on top of the core Windows NT kernel. It’s dead now.

Technically, modern versions of Windows are still based on the Vista kernel and code base — including Windows 10, which is actually Windows 6.4. There will be some confusion if (or when) we eventually reach internal version 7.0, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Alternative theories for skipping Windows 9

First, an ExtremeTech reader called Benny sent an email to say that the number 9 is considered unlucky in Japan. Microsoft has a big enough presence in Japan that it may have skipped Windows 9 to avoid any weirdness or ill will. Benny says that Trend Micro — a Japanese company — did the same thing a few years ago when it skipped version 9 of its antivirus software.

Second, someone purporting to be a Microsoft developer posted this comment on Reddit:

Reddit comment explaining why Windows 9 was skipped

As dumb and yet amazing as this sounds, it is actually quite feasible that there are still a lot of legacy Desktop apps that use this method (or something similar) to check for Windows 95 or 98. Bear in mind that this is just an example piece of code — some developers will check for the OS name (“Windows…”), some will check for the version number (as discussed in the previous section of this story), and some may use other methods entirely to find out what OS the app is running on.

What’s in a name?

Ultimately, Windows 10 is just a name. Windows 9 probably would’ve made more sense — and it’s going to cause some grief with novice users who just don’t understand what happened to Windows 9. But Windows 10 isn’t any more right or wrong than calling Vista’s successor Windows 7.

A better question to ask now: Why did Microsoft call it Windows 10 specifically, and not something else? During the unveil event (video embedded above) Myerson gives us a few clues. Starting at around the 2:10 mark, he says: “We know, based on the product that’s coming, and just how different our approach will be overall, it wouldn’t be right to call it Windows 9.” He then talks about how Windows One would make sense with Xbox One, OneDrive, and OneNote, “but unfortunately Windows 1 has been done by the giants that came before us.” And so it seems the only other viable option was Windows 10.

Microsoft’s seemingly arbitrary naming convention of “Windows 10″ is an interesting one. It is clearly a strong version number — and it’s also a neat way of distancing it from Windows 8, which Microsoft really wants to bury in the living room couch cushions when no one is looking. In fact, this may even be the same trick that Microsoft used to make us forget about Vista: “Hey, with a name like Windows 7, it must be very different from Vista.”

What about any similarity to Apple’s Mac OS X? Apple did a similar thing: Its operating systems steadily incremented through System 1-7, then switched to Mac OS 8 and 9, and when it got to OS 10 (X) in 2001 it stopped. Given how Windows 10 is meant to be a single platform for just about every form factor, plus the massive weight and importance that Microsoft is lending to this release, we wouldn’t be surprised if it sticks around for a long time. We don’t think Microsoft is intentionally aping Apple with Windows 10, but the marketing department has to be aware of both the positive and negative repercussions of wanting to ride on Apple’s coattails.

So, there you have it: Windows 10 is called Windows 10 because Microsoft says so.

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Windows 9 Nears

After a few leaks and speculation surrounding a Windows 9 event set for September 30th, Microsoft has now made it official. The next steps for Windows will be announced in San Francisco on September 30th. According to invites now being sent out (no I was not invited this time) Microsoft’s highly expected technical preview of the new OS code named Threshold will be available as a preview at the end of the month.

Microsoft has already stated that the next version of Windows will bring back a version of the Start menu for the desktop UI (user interface) that went missing with the launch of Windows 8. It will also have the ability to run Modern apps in windows on the desktop.

Rumors about Threshold (Windows 9) claim that Microsoft may do away with the Charms bar in Windows 8, along with adding support for virtual desktops and the Cortana digital assistant that’s currently being used for Windows Phone 8.1.

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Peeking @ Windows 9

If you are not a fan of Windows 8 you may want to take a minute to jump for joy after reading this little article. Although it is very clear that Microsoft has learned from their missteps regarding Windows 8 and it is evident that the desktop will be returning with Windows 9 (Threshold) it is another thing altogether to glimpse some screenshots of what is on the horizon.

Although Windows 8, and especially Windows 8.1 works fine on a tablet and I would even suggest it excels (no pun intended) there it can be a burden on a non-touch screen desktop and most people flee screaming after a few days trying to figure it all out.

Several German websites have released screenshots of what Windows 9 is going to look like. If you want the desktop to take front and center again you will be giddy with excitement.

windows 9 store options

A great example of this is a screenshot showing the Windows Store, which is a Metro app running in its own window on the desktop with an option button on the upper left of its screen and minimize, maximize and close buttons on the upper right. All just like most users were missing so much from Windows 8.

With this Metro Apps will now run on the desktop just as if they were desktop apps, something Windows 8 kept completely separate causing mass confusion (and hysteria) with many users.

windows 9 virtual desktops

The screenshots also show new buttons being added to the desktop taskbar, including one for search, and one for switching between virtual desktops. Other screenshots show how you’ll create virtual desktops, and how you can switch between them.

Windows 9 will strive to work perfectly in two very different environments. Touch screen with metro apps and Desktop mode for non-touch screens. This is what Microsoft should have done in the first place.

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The Promise of Windows 9

windows_9_1_1We are only about a month away from the developer’s preview of Windows 9 so of course news about what’s in this new Microsoft box is starting to arrive. I for one am looking forward to test driving this new Windows version. Microsoft’s vision is to learn from Windows 8 and to combine the best of Windows 8 and 7 into one unified operating system to offer more control to the users of their operating system.

So what’s new?

First – You will often hear “Windows Threshold” being referred to in the news. That is because Microsoft’s code name for Windows 9 is “Threshold”. They are one in the same.

One of Window 9’s significant feature implementations is the return of the traditional Start menu, which had been a long-standing Windows feature until Microsoft retired it with their touch heavy Windows 8. To be clear on a touch device Microsoft was correct, there really is no need for a Start button (and menu) but the majority of users, especially in business continue to rely on non-touch screens and the missing Start button was a real point of contention that would not go away, no matter how much Microsoft tried to ignore the mass outcry. 

Windows 9 will bring many changes and enhancements in addition to the returning tart menu.  Of interest are new interactive Live Tiles which will apparently play a big part in Microsoft’s new UI. Also reported is the addition of a new notification center, much like we have come to expect on our smartphones.

Interactive Tiles

It is also expected that Windows 9 will also offer a host of new features and changes equating to a more well-rounded experience. Having joined the tablet market, Microsoft has certainly has hit some rock and struggled at times however with the eventual merging of Windows RT and Windows Phone combined with the Windows 9 release, it does appear that Satya Nadella’s company can expect brighter days.

What Will It Cost?

Microsoft it appears has received the message. Many users are not happy with Windows 8. There are real indications coming from Microsoft that Windows 9 will be offered “free” for current Windows 8 and 8.1 users while users on older operating systems will incur a cost of only $20.00.

There is all leads me to believe Windows 8 was a speed bump leading to better things from the software giant and the software giant adapts to the ever changing technical world.

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Windows 9 Approaches

Microsoft reported new "start menu" includes the best elements of both Windows 7 and 8.

Microsoft’s reported new “start menu” includes the best elements of both Windows 7 and 8.

According to several reliable sources Microsoft is gearing up for its debut of Windows 9 next month.

Microsoft has scheduled a special press event for September 30th to introduce Windows 9 several sources have reported.

Windows 9 has been in development for at least a year now and is code named Windows Threshold.

ZDNet reported Microsoft is planning to launch a “technology preview” of Threshold at the end of September or early the following month. According to the report, users will be able to test the operating system but will be required to allow software updates to be automatically downloaded to the platform on a monthly basis.

Windows 8 was clearly to much change, too soon for many users and without a doubt for enterprises. The reliance on a touch screen UI actually burdened Windows 8 and most enterprises simply ignored it continuing their reliance on Windows 7. Windows 9 will strive to address both touch and non-touch devices while also proving more control for enterprise deployment.

Threshold — or Windows 9 — is expected to include a “mini Smart Menu,” a separate windows for Metro-style apps running on the desktop and support for virtual desktops.

It is expected the operating system will launch as a beta preview soon after its debut on September 30.

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The Promise of Windows 9

Paul Allen (l.) and Bill Gates (r.) on October 19, 1981,surrounded by PCs after signing their pivotal contract with IBM.

Paul Allen (l.) and Bill Gates (r.) on October 19, 1981, surrounded by PCs after signing their pivotal contract with IBM.

Microsoft since it’s founding in April 1974 by Paul Allen and Bill Gates (pictured right) has changed the world. Their operating systems continue to dominate in the professional and enterprise environments. Their productivity software, especially Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and Access since their introduction as part of Microsoft Office in 1990 also have dominated the professional lives of many. Sure their have been stumbles along the way. Anyone remember Windows Me, Windows Vista and even the Zune? However through it all Microsoft continued to dominate our professional lives. Apple of course chose, with the introduction of the iPod (2001), then the iPhone (2010) and finally the iPad (2010) to dominate the consumer market, which they of course went on to do.

Since the launch of the first Surface tablet in 2012 and of course with their Windows Phone line of smartphones Microsoft has been trying to inch it’s way back into our personal lives in addition to at the office.

windows_9_concept___wallpaper_by_air_software-d6kc4rb

A new report in The Seattle Times interviews some of Microsoft’s top executives who describe the company’s inspired new direction. Although Window 8 was launched less then 2 years ago it appears that Windows 9 is on the horizon. This is apparently not going to be just another simple upgrade but a major change. It appears that with Windows 9, Microsoft is plotting quite literally the largest software project in computing history. Microsoft goal is rumored to combine operating systems from at least five platforms, cloud services, and dozens of software projects into one tightly integrated cross-platform bundle of software.  This is an incredible vision and it is one that could change the entire industry and what we expect from our multitudes of devices.

Windows 8 and 8.1 has struggled because of many elements. The first of course being the major shift away from how we input with our computers. With Windows 7 and before a keyboard and mouse will almost always necessary, then with one major upgrade Microsoft built an operating system with “touch” in mind first. Sure tablets have been successful for several years before this change but users for the most part were using tablets as consumption devices (email, web surfing, reading and social media) and turning to traditional computers and laptops to actually get work done. Windows 8 was Microsoft first attempt to merge these goals we all have, into one operating system. I believe Windows 8 was kind of a “playground” for Microsoft with us as kind of beta testers. Windows 8 has seen major improvements since it’s release and more improvements are expected with Windows 8.2.

Microsoft has already reported that possibly Windows 8.2 or eventually Windows 9 will feature the return of the Start Menu to Desktop Mode.

However the real exciting changes, possibly industry wide will occur when Windows 9 is released. Is it possible that Microsoft will be able to merge all of our platforms, smartphone, tablet, cloud services and computers into one distinct and usable operating system? If they do – prepare for a sea change in computer technology.

Stay tuned because things are about to get exiting in the tech world during the next two years and our tech lives may never be the same.

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