[This story ran in the print edition of The Seattle Times on Sept. 7, 2014.]
When Microsoft presents its first public glimpse of Windows 9 — it’s expected to happen late this month or early next — a lot more than just an operating system is at stake.
Smartphones and tablets are firmly entrenched as important, sometimes even primary, computing devices for many people. At the same time, a recent upsurge in PC sales notwithstanding, sales of desktops and laptops are declining.
With Microsoft’s share of the worldwide smartphone and tablet markets still under 5 percent, “really, what’s at stake is the continued dominance of Windows as a thing that people use every day,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.
Windows 8 was supposed to be Microsoft’s solution to that challenge — an operating system, the company said, that worked equally well for mouse-and-keyboard PC users as for touch-centric tablet users.
Turned out, not all users agreed.
Windows 8, launched two years ago, jammed together two different user interfaces — a tile-based, touch-friendly mode that was radically different from any previous version of Windows, and the traditional desktop interface.
Many users found it jarring to go back and forth between the two.
“Certainly Windows 8 did not set the world on fire the way Microsoft had hoped,” said Stephen Kleynhans, an analyst at research firm Gartner. “They tried the big departure and it wasn’t quite what people were looking for.”
With Windows 9 — the name Microsoft presumably will give the operating system code named “Threshhold” — it’s anticipated that Microsoft will bring back some familiar features from Windows past.
In addition, the new OS is believed to be more specifically tailored to the type of input — whether touch or keyboard-and-mouse — the person is using at a given time.
The world is likely to know in late September or early October, when the company reportedly will have a technical preview of Windows 9 at a media event.
[Continue reading the story here.]