WPC14: What can we expect from Windows 9?

Earlier this month, DeveloperTech reported that we may get our first taste of Windows 9 this year. It may be a little early to see a full revelation, or a public test build, but that doesn't mean Redmond can't start trying to drum up some excitement around the next release to please its users, partners, and investors alike.

Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference kicks off today and marks the perfect opportunity to prove why the company is worth sticking by - despite the widely-regarded failure of Windows 8. Bogdan Popa from Softpedia tweeted this earlier today:

The appointment of new CEO, Satya Nadella, has brought a new chance to start afresh and prove Microsoft is a modern player who can still innovate and remain a technology leader in both the enterprise and in consumers' minds.

It seems most logical Microsoft will show an early-look at the company moving towards satisfying criticisms surrounding its core OS. One of the main issues around Windows 8 is the removal of the legacy "Start Menu" found in the bottom-left of Windows since 1995. At BUILD this year we had a first-look at the return of this important component albeit improved with the "Live Tiles" found on the "Start Screen" which was intended to succeed it.

Today, a couple of leaked screenshots have hit the web which echoes the new start menu design as well as the ability to run the new "Modern" apps in a window. It features a much-newer build number (9788) from previous "leaks" ...

It would be interesting if a leak was to occur at this stage; unless it's intentional. Microsoft is said to have clamped down internally on security to prevent the many leaks coming out of the company. Russian group WZOR, which has a good track on Windows leaks, recently said that all test copies of software internally will now be digitally-signed with a unique key each time it's downloaded so leakers can be tracked down.

Microsoft recently had a former company employee, Alex Kibkalo, arrested for leaking Windows 8 copies to the web and posting information online with the help of a French blogger. Kibkalo got a 3-month prison sentence for also leaking the activation server SDK where users could generate keys to activate builds of Windows.

The likelihood is we'll hear how Microsoft is listening to feedback and heading in the right direction at WPC. It's paramount at this point that Microsoft proves this. Windows 9 is likely relatively early in its development, and won't see a release until 2015, but "Update 2" is expected to Windows 8.1 in the next few months.

Windows 9 is expected to improve the desktop experience. If we look towards the future, there is one spectacular design which may give us some clue at what to expect...

Now, hands-up, this is a concept design from Phyletik originally posted in The Verge forums. It was well-received by the community and even spurred a petition for the creator to be hired by Microsoft. But, before you get excited, he was ultimately hired by Snowden Industries (not that Snowden.)

We are using it as an example due to its flat aesthetic which fits into Windows 8's design ethos and is sure to be similar to what Microsoft's own designers eventually intend. But with such a major redesign, it also brings a lot of usability problems. Can you imagine the many legacy Windows applications fitting in with this new design? No, although now there is a growing base of apps designed for the company's "Modern UI" which will look right at home in a similar desktop UI to the concept shown.

Further to this, we expect Cortana to be baked-in to Windows 9. Microsoft just today launched Azure Machine Learning and it's an impressive addition to the company's Cloud portfolio to predict eventualities before they even occur. Cortana, Microsoft's AI, has displayed the power of this by correctly predicting 11 out of 12 World Cup matches.

For Cortana to be successful, she needs to follow you no matter what device you are on. This could be; your smartphone, your laptop, your tablet, your desktop, your TV, or even your car. To enable this, it, and all other Microsoft products, needs to be cross-platform which is something Microsoft is really starting to push. After all, how productive can you be with their services if they aren’t available on the platforms you use?

Developers will be attracted to Microsoft’s currently unique proposition of developing one app which can run across platforms. The next release of Windows is certain to have a complete set of APIs which can be utilised for this purpose.

Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference is all this week. DeveloperTech will keep you updated on any significant developments which you may find of interest.

Where do you see Microsoft's products and services this time next year? Let us know in the comments.

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