What comes next after Windows 8.1?

What comes next after Windows 8.1?

Summary: Microsoft's Windows 8.1 will be commercially available starting this week. What will Microsoft do for an encore on the Windows front?


Microsoft is making Windows 8.1 commercially available over the next day-plus (depending on your time zone).


Unsurprisingly, this milestone leads many Microsoft watchers, partners and customers to wonder what will be coming next. Again, unsurprisingly, Microsoft officials aren't talking about what will be the follow-on to Windows 8.1, codenamed "Blue." But that doesn't mean things are at a standstill.

Here's what I'm hearing from my sources.

As I've blogged before, I've heard the Windows team will be releasing a Spring 2014 update to Windows 8.1 that will coincide with the release of Windows Phone Blue. (Yes, I am still hearing Windows Phone Blue, which may be called Windows Phone 8.1, is still a Spring 2014 thing.)

Some believe Microsoft will also be releasing a bigger new version of Windows in the Fall of 2014, about a year after Windows 8.1. I'm hearing from one of my trusted sources who has a good accuracy rate on Windows rumors that this is looking less and less likely.

There's a lot in flux inside the new, unified Operating System Group at Microsoft, headed by Terry Myerson. Supposedly, from what I'm hearing, the OSG team is rethinking priorities, workflow and just about everything else when it comes to Windows, Windows Phone and the Xbox operating systems, going forward.

Right now — and this may change — the idea is to deliver a "major" release of "Windows" in the Spring of 2015. My aforementioned source says this major release will be a kind of hybrid that will bring the current Windows and Windows Phone OSes closer together. This is most likely when the rumored unified Windows and Windows Phone Store will debut. (There could be a unified developer portal, allowing developers to submit apps for both platforms before the actual store materializes, I'm hearing.)

Right now, Microsoft has two ARM-based Windows operating systems: The Windows Phone OS and the Windows RT OS. The thinking is these will be one by Spring 2015. Because it tends to be easier to take a "smaller" OS and add to it than to take a larger one and remove features from it, it's likely that the Windows Phone OS is the one on top of which the new operating systems group will build. The recent rumor (courtesy of Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott) about the Windows Phone OS being modified to support 7 to 10-inch screen sizes makes sense in this context.

It wouldn't surprise me if by 2015 Microsoft calls whatever is powering smartphones, phablets and tablets plain-old Windows, given the interfaces, the development platforms and the core operating systems will continue to align further.

If my tipster is correct, Spring — which means calendar Q2 or so for those not in our hemisphere — is looking like the new preferred time for bigger OS releases from Microsoft, at least in the near term.

Again, to be clear, this is all rumor (though a well-sourced one) at this point. Lots of things may change between now and Spring 2015.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, Tablets, ARM, PCs, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Well...

    "The recent rumor (courtesy of Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott) about the Windows Phone OS being modified to support 7 to 10-inch screen sizes makes sense in this context."

    - They should have done this two years ago. This would have easily helped to triple Apps count and would have easily countered the cheap android from flooding the market. And make it free for OEMS. This is the only way to capture the developing world from going android.
    • Two years ago ...

      Windows Phone 8 was still a pipedream and the WinRT kernel was still in the rumor stage. With a unified Windows 8.x/RT 8.x/Phone 8.x team now in place, the unification will happen much more quickly.
      M Wagner
      • wasted time

        too bad they wasted so much time with the RT experiment. Had Sinofsky not been so stubborn they would have taken WP8 and scaled it up and they wouldn't be in this 2 ARM OS position they are in today.
        • It's all a waste. Ubuntu is next

          Unless of course you like having NSA backdoors in your OS spying on everything you do.
          • Don't know how you can have NSA backdoor when the Source is Open...

          • Easy really

            Unless the person reviewing that code is one of the world's leading cryptography experts quite simple really - the NSA are known to have inserted vulnerabilities by submitting code to open source projects.
          • You never get tired of bleating about that.

            Do you?

            Give it a rest, broken vinyl.
            Hallowed are the Ori
          • NSA backdoors

            Microsoft would never do such a thing, would they?
          • Yep!

            Couldn't agree more!
            Ubuntu will hit full-fledged convergence among x86 and ARM devices by October 2014 (when Ubuntu 14.10 launches, according to their plans), which will include not only similar user interface, application runtime environment, app store and SDK across all form factors, but also one form factor can change into another by plugging into a larger screen, which can make your phone a PC when you need it to be! That's the next level and Ubuntu will reach it by Fall 2014, 6 months ahead of Spring 2015 when Windows reaches a basic level of convergence as mentioned in this article.
        • RT is not a waste, its the future

          Store apps can run on all CPU architecture. You will see a flood of 8 inch full windows tablet invading the market soon and the 'Win RT' apps will be the centre stage. 8 inch Full Windows (Intel processors) tablets can also run legacy apps and supports billions of devices. So its a great win for consumers.
          • *cough*Origami*cough*

            I guess we all know how that story came and went...

            Without WP7 and 8 style apps, 8" inch tablets are as useful as the Samsung Q1.
          • re: RT is not a waste, its the future

            Yes and pigs will grow wings and fly south for the winter.

            I guess that 900 millions dollars charge was just a bad dream after all ...
        • Don't consider RT a waste

          Personally, I don't consider Windows RT a waste of time. Now, I will admit, having 3 different OS out at once is probably not good strategy, but the concept or what they were trying to do with RT was not incorrect in my opinion. I think the idea of a Surface and a Surface Pro was sound. One tablet for people who just want to play around and do the same things they would do on a phone and another tablet for people who want to do a little more or actually do some real work, in my opinion makes sense. The problem is they never really help anyone understand what RT was. They as well as companies like Dell and Acer priced their RT devices way too high. They also didn't do a good job of actually separating the functions of Windows and RT. For example why is desktop in RT? Why did they never market it and say "do all these fun things on an RT tablet, but if you really need to work here is Surface RT" or something similar to that? I don't know where people get this idea that there is not a market out there for just a basic tablet. Every tablet out there that is not a Windows 8 tablet, is basically a basic tablet.

          That being said, in some ways I do agree that RT specifically might have been a mistake, just not the concept of RT. I don't know why they ever renamed Windows Mobile to Windows Phone. They should have kept it to more of a "mobile" type name. That way they never would have needed to make RT. They should have just taken what is now the Windows Phone OS and further developed it for tablet. Hopefully the RT and Phone merger comes sooner than later.
    • Effing MS fanboi

      Cheap android? It's obvious you're a cheapo, effing M$ fanboi.
      • Not a Fanboi

        I think the original poster does have a point. What does Android have like 80% market share in mobile. Do you honestly think they got so popular because their products and hardware are so much better than what Apple had to offer, not that I'm a big Apple fan. Android initially took off because they marketed their devices well and they were affordable. Of course now that trend has reversed. I might be wrong, but I think I read somewhere that the the high-end Android devices are the biggest sellers now. That doesn't make someone a fanboi of another platform that recognize that low cost, and depending on the model cheaper quality Android products were really popular early on. It's something that has been generally accepted. There is nothing wrong with recognizing how things are. If someone called someone else a MS-Hater because they recognized some mistakes Microsoft or how share isn't as big as it should be, everyone would jump on them. So, if people can recognize the state of things at Microsoft, why can't they do the same with everyone else?
    • The best thing anyone can have is....

      No sign of any Microscoff Windoze on any of their systems.
      Wroger Wroger
      • Or....

        Seeing your childish comments.
      • Agreed!

    • Well... Owl`Net aka Microsoft paid Blogger

      Think Singing the blues due to ZERO mobile market share Miss Owl`Net
  • If Myerson cant get the unified Windows platform for unifed app support out

    before Q2 2015 then he's already stepped up for his first major failure. They are already closely enough aligned that they should be able to come out much earlier. And the cortana shell is already overdue. MS really needs to pick up the pace. The differences from 8.0 to 8.1 do not justify an entire year. The differences in WP GDR3 from WP7 don't justify 3 years. I suspect they are internally wasting way too much time and resources on xbone which is the least important thing on their plate right now. Especially given that it completely ignores dvr/live tv without a cablebox so isn't at all serious about bringing MS to the living room.
    Johnny Vegas