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Six clicks: What we think we know about Windows 9

It's not scheduled to arrive for just a little more than a year from now but here are early details about what to expect with Microsoft's next big Windows release.
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1 of 7 New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will oversee his first Windows project. Credit:CNET

Microsoft's Build 2014 conference is right around the corner. At that event, which kicks off April 2 in San Francisco, Microsoft is believed to be planning to disclose at least some high-level information about Windows 9.

All we know about Windows 9, at this point, has surfaced thanks to "sources with knowledge about Microsoft's Windows plans, but who asked not to be identified by name." You know... "those people."

But these sources have been pretty solid on Windows information in the recent past. Here's a review of what we've learned from them to date about the follow-on to Windows 8.

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2 of 7 iStockphoto

Codename "Threshold"

Back in October 2013, I first heard the Threshold codename. I heard from my sources that this would be the successor to the Windows "Blue" wave.

 As in the case with Blue, there are supposedly Windows client, Windows Server, Windows Phone and XBox operating system releases that are part of Threshold.

 Earlier this year, there were reports that the Threshold Windows client would be christened "Windows 9" when it arrives.

 If you're wondering from where the "Threshold" codename likely derives, think Halo. Threshold is the planet around which the first halo ring orbited in the original Halo game launched back in 2001. Threshold joins "Cortana," Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google Now, as yet another codename with its origins in the Xbox franchise.

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3 of 7 Calendars Michel Zbinden

The due date

Windows 9's target ship date is spring of 2015 -- most likely in April.

For the past few months, I've heard Microsoft is targeting the spring of 2015 as the beginning of the Threshold rollout.

 Paul Thurrott of the SuperSite for Windows added that he heard an even more specific target date of April 2015 for the commencement of the Threshold releases.

There have been other reports circulating that Threshold will debut first in October 2014, but my and Thurrott's sources both say this information is incorrect. Instead, October 2014 might be the target date for a second update to Windows 8.1. But that's mostly speculation at this point.

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4 of 7 iStockphoto

Make it nice

Windows 9 will (continue) attempt to make Windows something from which business users and developers won't run screaming (Windows 8?).

With Windows 9, Microsoft will continue to undo the mistakes it made with Windows 8. Microsoft started work on making Windows 8 more palatable to business users with its Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update 1 releases.

 Windows 9 will continue along that path, and also attempt to appease developers by introducing even more commonalities in the programming interfaces and development tools across Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox. There's a good chance Windows 9 will be where and when Microsoft makes available a single, common Windows Store for apps for all three Windows platforms.

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5 of 7 iStockphoto

Windows 9 will come in three main flavors

It's still early days for Windows 9 (given it's not supposedly even yet in development and won't be until next month). But sources have told me that Microsoft is leaning toward fewer SKUs, or versions, with Windows 9.

Word is there could be three primary SKUs: A "modern" consumer SKU; a traditional/PC SKU; and a traditional enterprise SKU.

The modern SKU would be focused on delivering WinRT apps. This SKU may be available for both ARM- and Intel-based devices, but wouldn't be optimized to run Desktop/Win32 apps. A more traditional consumer SKU would include the Desktop and be updated through the Windows Store, like Windows 8 is now. A traditional Enterprise SKU would support Win 32 apps and have all the usual bells and whistles. It may be for volume licensees only.

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6 of 7 Ed Bott ZDNet

It's baaack

Windows 9 will *not* do away with the Metro design language or the tiled Metro interface/start screen.

Metro haters: Windows 9 is not your savior. Windows 9 is still expected to feature the Metro-Style/tiled Start Screen that Microsoft first introduced with Windows 8.

According to Windows SuperSite Editor Paul Thurrott's sources, Windows 9 will feature an updated 2.0 version of the Metro design language.

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7 of 7 Microsoft panel from Windows 8 CNET

Three milestones

Sources are claiming that Microsoft will deliver three "milestones" along the Windows 9 road.

 We don't yet know which, if any, of these will be test builds open to the public. There's speculation that the three will be something along the lines of a beta/preview, a near-final release candidate (RC) and then the RTM (release to manufacturing) bits.

If the new unified operating system organization continues to distance itself from the previous Windows management, there's a chance that Microsoft might try to bring more external testers back into the Windows fold. With Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft largely cut tester feedback out of its development equation, and instead relied on selected "telemetry" data to make decisions about product features and functionality.

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