Windows 9 may actually be something worth getting excited over if the comments from Microsoft are any indication. It appears the next generation after Windows 8 will be a true unified operating system that will function almost the same across diverse platforms like the desktop, smartphones, and tablets. But what will this mean for the future of computing?
In a related report by The Inquisitr, Google’s project Hera will also attempt to unify the user experience across Android and the Chrome OS.
To a certain extent, Windows 8 was Microsoft’s first stab at making a unified operating system since they tried to create a user interface that would function mostly the same across platforms. But where Microsoft went wrong was to try and force one type of user interface across multiple devices even if the experience was not optimal for that particular device. This negative user reaction has caused the company to change course, and some of these decisions have already been showcased.
For example, you might be surprised to learn the Xbox One runs three separate operating systems, including Windows 8. The main Xbox One operating system is focused on games and runs lean and mean. For the Xbox One, Windows 8 has been stripped down and is designed to run non-gaming Win8 apps like Skype and Hulu. The third operating system is based upon Microsoft’s hypervisor virtualization software and is responsible for controlling communications between the two software layers and allows multiple apps to run at the same time. A future Windows update called Threshold promises to merge Windows and Xbox One even closer together, making it easier to transition between platforms.
This basic premise of the Threshold update is apparently the focus of Windows 9 according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Speaking from a conference call, he revealed the company now has “one team with a common architecture,” and a singular, unified operating system will operate across all types of devices:
“We will unify our stores, commerce, and developer platforms to drive a more coherent user experience and a broader developer opportunity.”
While Nadella did not specify the exact name of this new operating system or whether these changes will simply be included in the Windows 8 Threshold update, this drastic departure from the norm may be enough for Microsoft to effectively call it Windows 9. The best news is that Microsoft seems to be focusing on making each platform optimal for its type of interface, and leaked Windows 9 screenshots indicate that the Start Menu will make a comeback officially. The Windows 9 release date is also the stuff of rumors, although some experts believe the first half of 2015 is likely.
Windows 9 will introduce what Microsoft calls Universal Apps that allows developers to create an application from the same codebase that can function on multiple devices while using the same user data. Since this would make Windows 9 fully unified, let me give an example of how this could change your computing experience. Let’s say you arrive home and drop your smartphone onto a docking station that wirelessly charges your batteries. This docking station provides wireless power via an electromagnetic field and WiFi 802.11ac broadband internet. The interface is switched from a touchscreen to a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard and Intel Wireless Display outputs high definition video to your large monitor.
Plugged into this new interface, Windows 9 on the smartphone auto-magically adjusts the Graphical User Interface to match the different input/output devices, and uses a more traditional Star Menu desktop. In addition, due to the broadband internet connection, any software that is beyond the processing capabilities of the smartphone’s hardware can be provided through Microsoft’s cloud assist, which is constantly being touted as the next big thing for the Xbox One. When you’re done at the desk, you pullout your LapDock or a tablet interface so you can sit at the couch. But if you’re really in a hurry you can just use your SmartGlasses, which syncs your data with your smartphone on the road. When it’s time to relax and have fun, a possible future Xbox One update will add the seamless Windows 9 experience, allowing certain functions to be handed off from the phone to the console when gaming.
Of course, this is a lot of speculation about how a unified operating system could function, not how Windows 9 will function. Nadella didn’t give many specific details other than to say the next Windows will be sold in different versions, and each version will have platform specific features, which is to be expected. To a certain extent, Microsoft is already working on making a seamless experience between devices so it would be logical to take it all way, but that would require developers of Universal Apps to embrace the vision.
Would you like Windows 9 to function as I just described?