The latest rumors surrounding the next major Windows version, Windows 9 (also referred to as “Threshold”), are suggesting that Microsoft is set to introduce virtual desktops and kill off the much maligned Charms Bar.
According to a variety of sources, current internal alpha builds of Windows Threshold do not include the Charms bar. It isn’t clear at this stage if the Charms bar is only being removed from the Desktop, or from the Metro interface as well. However, considering it has already been strongly suggested that Threshold will allow for Metro apps to be run on the Desktop, the latter seems most likely. The theory being that the Charms Bar will be replaced by a ‘Settings’ button added to these Metro-on-Desktop apps in the top corner of the title bar, alongside minimize and close.
These changes are obviously an attempt to appease disgruntled desktop users by providing more control for traditional keyboard and mouse users, as well as creating a perception of distance between Windows 8 and Windows 9.
Personally, although these innovations are welcome, I can’t see that they go anywhere near far enough to win back vociferous Windows 8 detractors. Certainly, doing away with the Charms Bar, which is a useless UI element on the desktop, is a step in the right direction but I can’t see the availability of native virtual desktops adding any real mass appeal. Even though virtual desktops have been included in popular Linux flavors for quite some time, I don’t believe most traditional Windows desktop users would view this additional feature as a game breaker.
Of course, these are only rumors and it is early days yet. We can anticipate many changes plus more Windows 9 innovations prior to official release, expected to be late 2015. After all, there is a heck of a lot riding on the success or failure of Windows 9, Microsoft simply cannot afford for its next iteration of Windows to fail.
Windows 8.1 Update 2 – Rumors Were Wrong!
With surprisingly little fanfare, Microsoft has announced that the next major update for Windows 8.1 is coming on August 12 – except calling it a “major update” is a bit of an overstatement. In fact, despite rumors that we’d be seeing a significant “Update 2″ in August, Microsoft says that’s definitely not the case. If you were hoping for some exciting innovation from the second Windows 8.1 update, you will be disappointed.
In a recent official blog post, Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc details a number of the bigger changes in the second Windows 8.1 update, but he also takes the opportunity to explain that, moving forward, Microsoft is handling updates to the operating system a bit differently:
Rather than waiting for months and bundling together a bunch of improvements into a larger update as we did for the Windows 8.1 Update, customers can expect that we’ll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of “Update Tuesday.” So despite rumors and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 “Update 2″.
Here is Mr. LeBlanc’s list of new features and improvements included in the August 12th Update Tuesday:
- Precision touchpad improvements – three new end-user settings have been added: Leave touch pad on when a mouse is connected; allow right-clicks on the touchpad; double-tap and drag.
- Miracast Receive – exposes a set of Wi-Fi direct APIs for Independent Hardware Vendor (IHV) drivers or OEM drivers to develop Windows 32-bit applications that run on all supported x86-based or x64-based versions of Windows 8.1, enabling the computer as a Miracast receiver.
- Minimizing login prompts for SharePoint Online – reduces the number of prompts with federated use in accessing SharePoint Online sites. If you select the “Keep me signed in” check box when you log on for the first time, you will not see prompts for successive access to that SharePoint Online site.
Hmm, not too much to get excited about there. However, if Microsoft is indeed intent on distancing Windows 9 from Windows 8, that’s hardly surprising, it only makes sense that any real innovations would be held over for the new operating system.