Curious about Windows 9? Recent revelations give us the beginnings of an idea of what new features to expect. For starters, there's talk of eliminating the Charms Bar entirely, which poses some interesting interface questions for fingers-first tablet users. There's also talk of support for multiple "virtual desktops" that allow users to create different desktops and juggle among them.
Few people seem to realize that Microsoft built virtual desktops into Windows XP and improved on the implementation in Windows 7. Nobody seems to use the desktops nowadays, but they could become one of the key new features in Windows 9 (or Windows vNext or Windows Threshold).
First, the Charms Bar: Earlier this week, the WinBeta website broke the rumor that the Charms Bar would disappear on the desktop side of Windows 9:
We must stress that we're talking about the Charms for the desktop only. We haven't heard too much about the Charms bar for tablets, however we believe the way they are accessed won't be changing from its current form.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley confirmed the rumor from her (presumably independent) sources.
My sources say the Charms Bar will be going away completely for all desktop, laptop, and tablet users with Threshold.
That's a big step for the pointy crowd, but it eliminates the conceptual hurdles of running Metro apps in Desktop windows. (Consider: How could you implement charms in a Desktop window? Looks messy, doesn't it?)
Tom Warren, at The Verge, trumped them both:
The Verge can confirm current builds of Windows Threshold, which is expected to be named Windows 9, do not include the Charms Bar.
Nice to know that somebody has access to current builds of Windows 9.
The Charms Bar has always been an anachronism. Aside from the cutesy name (reminds me of a magically delicious breakfast cereal), the functions embodied in the hidden bar are basically lame. Search never did much -- even less now that Windows 8.1 Update 1 has a search icon on the Metro Start screen. (Yes, some Metro apps rely on the Search charm -- lousy, undiscoverable design.) Share was tied up in the well-intentioned but rarely understood concept of contracts, and it was never as simple and clean as Copy. Start replicates the Start button or key -- useless. Devices continues to confound me because it doesn't do anything with most devices. Settings should have its own tile, as in iOS or Android. The sadist who declared that I have to swipe from the right, tap Settings, then monkey around with the upper-middle icon at the bottom of the Settings pane to turn down the blasted volume should be drawn and quartered.
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