Just a year ago, Microsoft officials were crowing about Windows' much improved delivery cadence. Instead of rolling out a new version of Windows once every 2.5 to three years, the team was now on something closer to an annual rollout schedule.
(Yes, by calling what was formerly referred to as "Update 1" simply "Update," Microsoft made it seem there would be just one update to Windows 8.1. It's not clear what this second update will ultimately be called. Update 2? Windows 8.2? No word so far.)
The second update may include a version of a new Start menu which Microsoft showed off during its Build 2014 developer conference in early April. But according to my sources, this second update is unlikely to include the ability to run Metro-Style apps in floating windows on the desktop.
Why -- besides the fact that these reports are not coming from sanctioned official channels -- are there so many uncertainties surrounding what's next for Windows?
In part, it's because the Windows team is attempting to speed up its delivery cadence yet again, my sources say. The powers-that-be are encouraging the Windows development team to see how much they can get done within a much shorter timeframe and then plan to deliver whatever is baked in the next few months. That's a much different way of operating from the carefully (overly?) orchestrated plan/build/test/deliver schedule the team followed in building Windows 7 and Windows 8.
The need for speed in "fixing" Windows 8/8.1 is no doubt also spurring OSG. Even with Windows 8.1 Update, which added features that help mouse/keyboard users better navigate Windows 8, many business customers still don't find Microsoft's latest version of Windows familiar and compelling enough for mass adoption.
Back to the Windows roadmap. What comes after Windows 8.1 Update 2 is even more murky at this point. Last I heard from my contacts, Microsoft was hoping/planning to get Windows 9 finished by spring 2015. The aforementioned Metro-Style apps floating in desktop windows -- something Microsoft execs also showed off in early form at Build 2014 -- is supposedly one of the features likely to be part of Windows 9.
WZor claims that the Start button that Microsoft added to Windows 8.1 will work differently with Windows 9. For users with touch-enabled devices, the Start button will behave differently than it does for those with non-touch devices, WZor said. I don't have any information on this rumor at this time.
Other Windows 9 SKUs are expected to include the Desktop and are unlikely to be free, according to what I heard from my sources last year.
The key thing to keep in mind about how Microsoft is thinking about OS delivery cadence, going forward, is that the company is working simultaneously on smaller, nearer-term updates, as well as bigger, longer-term ones. With Windows, Windows Phone and the Xbox One operating systems all working together in a single group (finally), further alignment of OS rollouts and subscription-based business models seems like it should be in the cards.