Based on Microsoft's Build 2014 developer conference, we've put together an article looking at the future of Windows - beyond even Windows 9.
Microsoft partners will be getting a pre-beta version of Windows Developer Preview 9 soon, we understand. Thus those partners will have seen the earliest version of Windows 9 before the Build conference this April.
We expect to see a single beta of Windows 9, which will likely appear in the summer of 2014. If everything goes perfectly it is possible that Microsoft will release a Release Candidate version at the end of August or the beginning of September 2014. That date could easily slip.
Once a RC is released, bugs will be collected and fixed for several months before the final code is released to manufacturers. On this basis, it makes sense to see a Preview version from April 2015 onwards.
Windows 9 price
There's no word on what Windows 9 will cost, but we can make an educated guess. We'll update this piece as we know more.
How to price Windows 9? This is the classic innovator's dilemna: Microsoft has existing products that make it a lot of money, but is building new and better products for which it cannot charge as much. The market has changed. Apple gives away the most recent version of OS X for free, and PC- and laptop makers are feeling the pinch as smartphones and tablets eat into their markets.
So how much will Windows 9 cost? Not a lot.
I wouldn't be surprised if it was free to consumers, although not to OEMs who purchase licences to put on PCs and laptops they sell. Even if customers have to pay to upgrade to Windows 9 they won't have to pay much. Just a few pounds.
Windows 9 features
We expect that Windows 9 will be 64-bit only, although we expected that for Windows 8 and we were wrong. A lot depends - as ever with Microsoft - on what OEMs want to build, and what Intel gives them with which to build.
One thing that Microsoft has to do is allow Windows Phone and Windows RT apps to run on both Windows Phone and Windows. Even Xbox apps should become cross compatible. You may also be able to pin Metro apps to the taskbar. Also expect to see Kinect-based 3D gestures to be enabled for laptops with 3D cameras - basically the ability to control your computer with gestures.
Microsoft's recent pronouncements suggest a full return of the Start menu and that Windows 8-style apps will be able to run on the desktop. Windows 9 will definitely be less traumatic a chance for desktop users.
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