Each release of Windows is awaited with great anticipation, and Windows 9 is certainly no different. With many users and reviewers disappointed with Windows 8.1 for one reason or another — and the recent revelation that Microsoft employees look down on it — this is going to be Microsoft’s opportunity to redeem itself in the eyes of the masses.
We should learn at least something about what to expect from Windows 9 at the BUILD developer conference in April, but what does Microsoft need to do to make the operating system a success? Let’s take a look.
Smoother transition between desktop and modern modes
This is probably the most contentious aspect of Windows 8.1. Some people love modern mode, others hate it. What many people find strange is the fact that both have been included and that switching between them is quite jarring. Whether modern mode could be dropped altogether — which seems unlikely considering the Windows RT push — or modern apps are tweaked to run on the desktop, it’s clear that something needs to be done to improve user experience.
A Start menu?
The replacement of the Start menu with the Start screen has been hotly debated. Was it a smart move? One thing is for sure, it upset a lot of people. Some concessions were made in Windows 8.1, but there’s room for a lot more. It’s not clear that people are harking after a replica of Windows 7, or that they are resistant to change, but something better needs to be done. The Start screen is closely linked to the jolting experience of moving between desktop and modern modes — it feels oddly unnatural.
The unification of Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox is something that has long been talked about. Steps have been taken to provide a similar experience on each of the platform, but there is more than can be done. With a shared code-base, there is more scope for sharing apps between devices, and this is something that would benefit Windows Phone.
Wider user testing
There’s over a year to go until Windows 9 is made widely available, but it’s likely that there will be a public preview available. What would make sense is if this is release in a timely fashion so programmers have time to address any major concerns that may be raised. While not exactly a flop, Windows 8.1 has hardly been a roaring success — it has received little critical acclaim — and Microsoft simply cannot afford for this to happen with two releases in a row.
Moving to the cloud
This is a transition that is already well underway, but online services should be more tightly integrated into Windows 9. Why should the likes of Skype not be streamed without the need for installation? It works with Office and there is great potential for this idea to be expanded into other areas. Users should be freed from worrying about whether or not the software they need is installed and left to concentrate on simply using their computer.
No price tag
Make Windows 9 free. There are plenty of other revenue streams that can soften the blow, and it would do a lot to sweeten the deal for those soured by Windows 8.1. A move to a shared code-base would make this easier and cheaper
Out-of-the box interoperability between Windows and each of the three main mobile platforms would really give Windows 9 the edge. Imagine just being able to plug in your iPhone, Windows Phone or Android and have it automatically backed up without having to worry about installing third party tools! How much easier would that make life?
Ever-increasing numbers of people work on more than one computer. Windows 8 introduced the idea of syncing settings, apps and customizations between computers, but this could be taken so much further. Software licenses should be tied to Microsoft accounts so all app are available on any system. But more than this, desktop state should be synchronized through Microsoft accounts. The ability to move seamlessly from one computer to another, just pick up from where you left off using any computer with an internet connection could be Windows 9’s killer feature.
Kinect on the desktop
This doesn’t really need any further explanation. It can be done, and it should be done. Now. It’s not just cool, but it would have massive accessibility implications. Eye movement tracking and motion detection could open up Windows to a market previously unable to use a regular computer. It could also serve as a way of enticing more people into gaming. Not everyone can afford an Xbox One, but the idea of trying out games on an existing computer would appeal to many people — particularly with the added attraction of Kinect.
What’s on your wishlist? Is there anything you would like to see from Windows 9, or anything that you think Microsoft absolutely must do in order to succeed?