That ambitious schedule implies a couple of things. One, there won't be very many changes in Windows 9, but the changes that are made will be major. In other words, Microsoft will focus on a few key flaws in Windows 8. Two, it's a reflection of the revved-up release strategy for Windows, where some new version of Windows is released yearly, rather than three years between major versions and with service packs interspersed between. Windows 8 came out in October 2012, Windows 8.1 in September 2013, and Windows 9 appears slated for April 2015. By contrast, Windows XP debuted in October 2001, Windows Vista in November 2006, and Windows 7 in July 2009.
Of course, it's possible that most of the major development effort for Windows 9 has already happened, and the effort to begin this spring is really more a matter of picking and choosing the features that best fit the new vision for Windows, rather than developing those things from scratch.
What's scarcely in doubt is how urgently Microsoft needs to remake Windows, at least in the short term. In the long run, it may not even be Windows that matters as much for Microsoft anyway -- it may be its cloud strategy that really makes the difference. As InfoWorld's Eric Knorr has pointed out, it's things like the versatile Office 365 and rapidly evolving Windows Azure that are more Microsoft's future. In fact, the cloud strategy may matter more precisely because the Windows client has come to matter less, partly due to Windows 8.
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