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Change is in the air with Windows 9

So far there's only been speculation around Windows 9, but the newest iteration of the OS is said to come with device awareness. It will be able to tell if workers are using a tablet or a desktop, then deliver the UI that works best for that medium.

There's been a lot of talk about Windows 9 over the past few weeks, though you may have seen it called by its code name "Threshold." We've been looking forward to Windows 9 since about the time that the Windows 8 Tech Preview came out, hoping against all hope that Microsoft would learn from its Vista-esque mistake. It appears that the company has.

With "new" features such as a Start Menu and the ability to run Metro apps in windows, it looks like Microsoft has ably blended the user interfaces of Windows 7 and Windows 8 into something that I would dare call "usable."

Frankly, usability seems to be the core theme of all the Windows 9 talk thus far. It's said that the OS will work differently depending on the hardware it's running on. If the computer doesn't have a touch screen, the OS will feature the desktop more than Metro. Conversely, if it is a touch-screen device, perhaps also without a mouse or keyboard, it will focus on Metro.

Device awareness could drive adoption

Granted, that's about all we know at this point, but I still feel pretty comfortable suggesting that Windows 9 will shake things up in the desktop virtualization space, which is dominated by Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. Of all the badness in Windows 8, there were some vast improvements to RemoteFX that I detailed when Microsoft demonstrated the new Start Menu at its Build conference this past April.

At the time, I speculated that the Start Menu and RemoteFX enhancements (that nobody used because they were in Windows 8), could drive adoption. But with this whole device-awareness thing, we'll be able to actually deliver Windows applications from the data center in the most appropriate way for the device a user is logging in from. That's an interesting prospect.

Microsoft is giving in to IT demands and industry forces, but I'm left wondering if we won't see a new licensing model that is friendlier to service providers, especially now that Microsoft is itself a service provider. Perhaps that's just wishful thinking, but imagine if Microsoft gave us both an OS and a licensing model suitable for this next generation of computing. That could really go a long way.

Anything can happen between now and next Spring when Windows 9 is expected to be released. I'm not holding my breath, but all signs point to change in the air. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is cloud-minded, and given the long tail of Windows applications, the one-two punch of a good OS and favorable licensing could improve people's opinions of Windows and Microsoft in general.

Next Steps

Windows 9 rumors heat up

This was first published in July 2014

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