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Microsoft Might Release 'Windows 9' Preview This Fall

Microsoft might be planning to release a "technology preview" test version of its next OS under development, possibly sometime this fall.

The next major Windows release under development is called "Threshold," according to Microsoft, which has offered few details about it. Veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley and others have sometimes identified "Threshold" with "Windows 9," although Microsoft hasn't confirmed the Windows 9 name. Foley reported today that a general public technology preview of Threshold is planned for release in "late September or early October," according to her sources, which went unnamed. A rumor by The Verge suggests maybe Sept. 30.

It's thought that Microsoft's Threshold release will address the concerns of traditional desktop Windows users. Business users may have found the mobile phone-like touch-based UI of Windows 8 to be too jarring. The Microsoft Windows 8.1 Update release in April was designed to address some of those concerns.

Windows 9 in 2015?
The general availability release of Threshold or Windows 9 is expected "in the spring of 2015," according to Foley's sources. Possibly, that release date implies that Microsoft will time the release of the new OS with its next Build developer event. Microsoft has previously used its Build events as a main venue to show off its next Windows releases, as it did with the debut of Windows 8 back in 2011. So far, though, Microsoft hasn't announced its next Build 2015 date, but this year's Build happened back in April (or the spring of 2014).

Another possibility regarding the release of Threshold is that Microsoft will hold off on the general availability release of Windows 9 until the week of May 4, 2015, which is when it plans to hold its so-called "Unified Microsoft Commercial Technology Event." This unified event is thought to be replacing the Microsoft TechEd, SharePoint Conference, Lync Conference, Exchange Conference and Project Conference events. Foley indicated that Microsoft is currently checking with its customers and partners for a more official name for the unified event.

As for the technology preview of Threshold rumored to be arriving this fall, it's possible the release date might be timed around the Microsoft TechEd Europe event, which is scheduled for the week of Oct. 28 this year.

Foley's sources, possibly from within Microsoft, have proved highly accurate in the past. However, she and tech journalist Paul Thurrott apparently took offense when it was suggested in a Microsoft Windows blog post that they or other journalists had spread false rumors about the release of a so-called "Windows 8.1 Update 2" this month. Microsoft instead delivered a modest "August update" to Windows 8.1, with minor improvements.

The table below highlights the main points about what's currently known about Threshold, based on official Microsoft statements, as well as rumors.

Threshold Feature Description Status
"Threshold" name Microsoft's internal code name for its next Windows OS Confirmed by Microsoft COO Kevin Turner in July
Start Menu A revamped Start Menu, shown with Live Tiles and menu items Confirmed by Microsoft Corporate VP Tony Prophet, who showed a screen mockup in July
Windows Store Apps for the Desktop side of OS "Metro" apps will be capable of running on the Desktop side of the OS in resizable windows Confirmed by Microsoft Corporate VP Tony Prophet in July
"Virtual Desktops" The ability to switch entire screen views, similar to a feature in the Linux-based Ubuntu OS Rumor
Elimination of the Charms Bar The menu of Charms commands that's currently present on the right side of the Windows 8/8.1 screen may be eliminated and pushed into the title bars of Window Store Apps ("Metro" apps) Rumor
Cortana integration The Cortana personal assistant app, currently seen with Windows Phone 8.1, is expected to appear in the Threshold release Rumor
Arrival dates: a preview is expected in the fall of 2014, maybe Sept. 30; general release is expected in the spring 2015 A public "technology preview" test version of Threshold is planed for "late September or early October"; release as "Windows 9" expected in the spring of 2015 Rumor, with rumored date of Sept. 30.

Microsoft's next operating system (code-named "Threshold"), with rumored and confirmed features under development.

Planning for Windows
Microsoft has been issuing its Windows client and server updates on a more rapid basis in recent years. Organizations may be sticking with Windows 7 for now, although Gartner Inc. advises making migration plans to move off Windows 7. So far, though, Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about what to expect with its next Windows releases, as well as its next OS release schedule.

The lack of information can be a potential dilemma. Organizations can't make plans based on rumors, but they're also increasingly expected by Microsoft these days to make more rapid changes to their underlying infrastructures, with faster releases of Windows and Internet Explorer, for instance. The effect may be to push organizations more toward the rapid update model of Office 365, where updates arrive via the streaming "click-to-run" technology, instead of the more traditional update/patch model.

On the Office 365 side, Microsoft launched a new "First Release" software testing and notification process back in June that gives IT pros notice of software changes months in advance for new features and enhancements. Supposedly, though, they get a one-year advance notice of any "disruptive changes," such as new OS releases or new browser releases.

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