Windows 9 is coming: Feels like Windows Phone all over again

Windows 8.1 has only been out a short while and we're already hearing how Windows 9 will be aimed at addressing low adoption. It's beginning to sound like Windows Phone.
Written by James Kendrick on
Windows 8 hybrid (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

It seems only a few months have passed since Windows 8.1 was released, probably because it was, and we're already hearing about 'Threshold'. This is the next big update for Windows that is going to solve all of Microsoft's problems with adoption of its OS.

Windows 9, as the next version is reported to be called, is no doubt a push to get more people to make the switch to the new Windows that Microsoft has so much riding on. The adoption to the current phase of Windows hasn't been great, according to Paul Thurrott of WinSuperSite.

"But Threshold is more important than any specific updates. Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public, and the latest release, Windows 8.1, which is a substantial and free upgrade with major improvements over the original release, is in use on less than 25 million PCs at the moment. That's a disaster, and Threshold needs to strike a better balance between meeting the needs of over a billion traditional PC users while enticing users to adopt this new Windows on new types of personal computing devices. In short, it needs to be everything that Windows 8 is not."

Microsoft isn't sharing information about Windows 9, but Thurrott speculates that a windowed version of Metro will run on the desktop. I'm not sure what to make of that if it becomes a reality. Many call for the elimination of the desktop to avoid the bipolar nature of Windows 8. Moving windowed Metro to the desktop seems backwards to me.

It's not the post-PC era that Microsoft needs to be concerned with, it's the post-Windows era.

To be fair, Microsoft has done a great job with Windows 8.1. I even named it the most significant tech of 2013 and I stand by that. I find it a good laptop OS and a decent tablet OS. The latter is probably most important. Make no mistake, Windows is now a play for the mobile market for Microsoft. In spite of competition in the enterprise from the iPad and Android, Windows is still the favored platform there. The push thus needs to be in the mobile space which is why Microsoft has invested so much effort in the touch aspects of Windows.

What Microsoft doesn't need with Windows is to become known as the OS where the 'next version will be the big one'. That smacks of each version not being good enough, probably due to lack of big enough sales numbers.

Windows 9 comes into view: Windows 9, price and Microsoft's Innovator's DilemmaMicrosoft to share Windows Threshold plans at Build 2014 show: Report | Should Windows consumer and enterprise flavors remain in sync? | Microsoft codename 'Threshold': The next major Windows wave takes shape 

That's what Windows is now seeming like. First Windows 8, the biggest shakeup in Windows ever, was to be Microsoft's big entry into the mobile space. Sales didn't happen in numbers, and then WIndows 8.1 was to make an even bigger splash.

Even Microsoft's own hardware, the Surface tablet line, couldn't reverse the drop in PC sales in 2013. That's OK, as Window 9 is now the next big thing expected to turn things around for Microsoft.

If it seems like you've seen this play out before, that's because you have. Windows Phone was the radically new phone OS when it hit the scene not that long ago. In spite of the totally new design, it didn't win the hearts of buyers. The lack of apps for Windows Phone didn't help, and lack of features was widely criticized.

It didn't take long after Windows Phone hit the market before we started hearing how the next version would turn things around. It didn't, so we heard the same thing about the version after that.

Finally the merits of the current Windows Phone OS were extolled as the one to beat them all. It is a good OS but still not booting the big guys off the medal podium. But hey, the next version, whatever it will be called, will knock everyone's socks off. Sure it will.

When you compare the life of Windows Phone to that of Windows 8, the similarities are hard to ignore. Windows 8 is now looking like the evolution of Windows Phone, and that no doubt concerns Microsoft. Outside of its admittedly large base of enthusiasts, Windows is only slowly catching on, much like Windows Phone.

Taking on the mobile space with Windows 8 has forced Microsoft to speed up its rate of participation. Mobile tech moves very fast and Microsoft must keep up. It came to the party late and it can't keep falling behind the competition.

The competition has the luxury of not also having to compete for desktop sales, it only has to evolve in mobile. Microsoft may have bitten off more than it can chew by going after both desktop and mobile with Windows 8.

Windows 8.1 is a great OS, the greatest version of Windows ever. So far that doesn't seem to be enough, and that's got to be a big worry for the folks in Redmond. The more the competition keeps growing in the mobile space, the greater the uphill struggle will be with Windows. It's not the post-PC era that Microsoft needs to be concerned with, it's the post-Windows era.

It's clear the next CEO of Microsoft has his/her hands full, no matter who it might be. We're not hearing firm rumors so far about who it might be, just who it won't. It's going to be tough no matter who gets the nod.

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