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Windows 9 Rumored as Free Upgrade

Microsoft could be planning to entice users of older Windows editions by offering free upgrades to "Windows 9" next year.

That notion comes from veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley. She noted that Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 haven't taken off for Microsoft and are weighing it down like Vista did (Vista being a notorious operating system flop in the market for Microsoft). Without citing sources, Foley suggested Microsoft has moved on from Windows 8, and that it might be considering adding incentives for its Windows customers to do the same.

"There are rumors Microsoft is planning to offer Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 users some kind of deal -- possibly even a free upgrade to Windows 9 -- in order to get them to move to the latest Windows version once it's out next year," Foley wrote late last week.

Foley's sources had previously told her that Windows 9 could arrive in the spring of 2015. However, the whole notion is still unconfirmed by Microsoft. Even the Windows 9 name is still at the rumor stage right now.

Foley identifies Windows 9 with a Microsoft project code-named "Threshold." At least the Threshold name is on the record as it was mentioned by Microsoft's Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner at last month's Worldwide Partner Conference. Microsoft hasn't said much about its next-generation OS, although it showed off a Start Menu mockup during the WPC event, and talked about running windowed Live Tiles on the Desktop side of the OS.

According to data tracked by Net Applications (see chart), the desktop market shares of Windows 8.1 (red) and Windows 8 (yellow) have declined and stayed flat since September. The market share of Windows 8.1 actually regressed a little from 6.61 percent in June to 6.56 percent in July, according to the data. Meanwhile, Windows 8 had a 5.92 percent market share in July. The combined market shares of Windows 8.1 and Windows 8, at 12.48 percent, still trail Windows 7's 51.22 percent lead. And Windows XP still retains popularity at 24.82 percent, despite falling out of product support in April.

[Click on image for larger view.] Desktop operating system market share, Sept. 2013 to July 2014, comparing Windows 8.1 (red), Windows 8 (yellow), Windows 7 (dark blue), Windows XP (green), Mac OS X 10.9 (light blue) and "other" (orange). Source: Net Applications NetMarketShare.

Given those trends, with Windows 8.1 having to compete with Microsoft's older Windows releases (and not faring so well), the rumor of a free upgrade to Windows 9 seems to make more sense. In the larger OS world, though, Microsoft recently admitted that Windows has just 14 percent share of the overall market when mobile OSes are included in the estimate.

This month, on Aug. 12 ("patch Tuesday"), Microsoft is rumored to be delivering a second update to Windows 8.1. Foley's unnamed sources told her this update will be low key and perhaps delivered like any other monthly update to end users. It won't be mandatory to install it, nor will it be "cumulative" (include past updates). It will have design changes but few notable features, Foley's sources told her.

In any case, Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about the next Windows update, as well as its next flagship Windows under development. IT orgs shouldn't plan based on rumors, but it's no secret that many organizations are clinging to Windows 7 as "the next Windows XP" staple for years to come.

Microsoft's rumored Windows 9 offer, if true, might get IT organizations to loosen their grip on Windows 7. IT organizations can hold off for a while as Windows 7 Service Pack 1 will fall out of "extended support" on Jan. 14, 2020.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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