Windows 9 (Threshold): The ultimate summary on expected features

Windows 9 "Threshold" Start Menu concept from demo at Build conference.

The first preview of Windows 9 (Threshold) is expected to arrive on September 30th, during a special Microsoft event, where the company plans to introduce some of the new features and changes that have been working on for the past year. And while we haven’t seen many leaks and screenshots surfacing in the internet, we still manage to learn quite a few things the software giant is preparing for what we think it’ll be called Windows 9.

Currently codenamed Windows “Threshold”, the new operating system will have its first public preview at the end of September and it’s yet unclear what users will get their hands on at the beginning. However we do know that the next version of Windows will focus on enterprise features, rather than consumers, although features for enterprise can be well-used by everyone. Unlike previous versions, in this preview users will have to agree to mandatory updates follow the release. But that’s the tip of the ice berg, Microsoft is planning a whole lot more.

Here is a list of all the features and changes highly likely to be included in Windows 9:

Start menu: The return of the Start menu, is long time coming, since Steven Sinofsky (the person really responsible for Windows 8) decided to remove the iconic Start button and Start menu, users have been making their voice heard to the point where Microsoft reintroduced the Start button and now Windows 9 will mark the return of a new Start menu too. Though, it won’t be the same as the old Windows 7 menu. This one will be a hybrid between the old Start menu and the new Start screen, and users will be able to pin Metro-style apps to the menu. Here is how the new Start menu will work.

Windowed Metro-style apps: Many customers have complained of a jarring experience while moving between the new modern UI in Windows 8 and the traditional desktop. Microsoft heard this complaint loud and clear and in Windows 9, Metro-style apps will have the option to float free in desktop as traditional applications for a more soothing experience.

This new functionality was already demoed at Build earlier this year. Though the way windowed apps worked in the demo may change in the final release.

Flat design: Among the changes already mentioned coming to Windows Threshold, Microsoft will also be updating the Windows Desktop with a new flat and modern design to match the current Metro-style environment users get in the Start screen and with the modern apps from the Windows Store.

Windows flat desktop design concept

Note: Keep in mind that Microsoft will probably show this new improvement toward the final release of Windows 9. So do not expect a flat design implementation during the first technical preview release.

Goodbye Charms bar: In the next version of the operating system, we can expect Windows to do away without the Charms bar — you know that one bar that appears from the right side of the screen and enables you to access common navigation elements such as: Search, Share, Windows button, Devices, and Settings –. It’s yet unclear how Microsoft is going to replace the Charms bar, but the rumor has it Windows will include a new element in the title bar to access the app charms, however it will be up to the developers to implement the feature.

Cortana: Yes! Microsoft’s digital assistant is coming to Windows. The company has been improving Cortana at least twice a month and this feature is getting better by the day, to the point Microsoft feels confident to bring its digital assistant to Windows 9. Currently the feature is being tested as an app in the operating system, so I’m still not sure if Cortana will be enabled by default or it’ll be a feature that has to be enabled manually.

Virtual desktops: Another interesting feature coming to the OS is “virtual desktops”, which is the concept of having multiple Windows “desktops” that can help users to focus on specific tasks and be more organized. This is nothing new, Windows XP had a tool to enable this feature and Ubuntu and Apple’s OS X have similar functionality, but now Windows 9 will have it too.

Interactive Live Tiles: The Microsoft Research team previously showed off a concept known as interactive Live Tiles that in part enhances the Start screen by allowing users to interact with items displayed inside of Live Tiles. The new functionality was created for Windows 8, but the company seems to be considering the feature for Windows 9 instead.

Notification center: With the vision of “one Windows”, one of the recent rumor is that the next version of software due in 2015 will include a notification center similar to what we see today in Windows Phone 8.1.

Windows Phone Notification Center

SEE ALSO: Windows 9 to feature interactive Live Tiles and notification center in Metro 2.0

Taksbar mini Live Tiles: Instead of having a simple static icon representing applications in the Taskbar, the software maker is thinking to bring the Taskbar to life with a mini version of Live Tiles to display useful information about the app. According to the previous rumor Microsoft is testing something called “glance-and-go” for the new interactive mini Live Tiles for Windows 9.

Interactive backgrounds: Until now users were able to set static background images in the Windows Desktop – back in the Vista days users could also set videos as wallpapers too, but the option never caught up –. In Windows 9, it’s said that Microsoft will change the way to see wallpapers in the desktop with a new interactive background feature. (That’s all I can say at this time about this feature.)

Gadgets: Remember that Windows Vista and Windows 7 had gadgets – the Weather, CPU monitor, Clock, Calendar, etc.? Well, in the next version of Windows they seem to be coming back.

Windows Gadgets

SEE ALSO: Windows Threshold: new flat desktop design, interactive taskbar, and Cortana

Besides the new features and changes, Microsoft is also working on further improving its operating system to be more practical for keyboard and mouse, and touch-enabled devices.

For example, Windows 9 will be an adaptive operating system, meaning that the operating system will adapt to the hardware is running on. If it is a PC or tablet with touch, then the Start screen and Metro-style apps will be the default behavior for those devices. If it’s a device without touch, then the new Start menu and desktop applications to open certain files will be the default behavior. Just remember that you won’t be able to have both, the Start screen and Start menu, enabled in your PC. It’ll be one or the other depending on the hardware. However, we all are hoping Microsoft will add an option to choose which experience we want.

With Windows Threshold we’re also expecting Microsoft to merge the confusing Windows RT with Windows Phone for small form-factor devices. The mobile OS will be more Windows Phone than Windows RT and this new version will also remove the desktop for these new devices, leaving users with only Windows Store apps. A preview of this updated operating system is expected to see the light at the beginning of 2015.

Starting with the release of Windows Threshold technical preview, we also know that the software will be updated once or twice per month. Here is where will start to see Microsoft moving more toward rapid releases, where users will not only get bug fixes and security updates, but also new features.

The software giant is also testing a single-click update option that currently appears in Windows Update and it allows users to update to the latest build release without having to completely reinstall the operating system. Such feature currently appears in internal builds, and it is unclear if the company will bring it to the final version.

Threshold also marks a big change on Microsoft versioning its operating system, starting with Windows 9, instead of releasing Windows 10, Windows 11, Windows 12, etc., the company will focus on releasing incremental updates only for this next version. So there will be a Threshold for a while, even more it’s possible that the company could be thinking to change the name of the next version to simply “Windows” (but there is nothing official about this topic).

Also for those waiting to test the technical preview that will release on September 30th, remember that Microsoft will show and make available only some of the features. More features will release incrementally in the weeks ahead.

Perhaps one of the most interesting piece of information is that Windows 9 is more than likely to be a free update for all major releases including Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1. If true, it will help Microsoft to get more computers upgraded to the latest version of its operating system, and it will also encourage users to finally move away from Windows XP and upgrade from Windows 7.

If the company executes everything right, there are good chances that Windows 9 could end up being the next Windows 7.

What are your thoughts on what Microsoft is planning for Windows 9? Tell us in the comments below.

Keep checking the Windows Threshold section for more updates.

Update: New information about the new notification center has leaked. Here’s all you need to know.

Update 2: Newly leaked version of Windows Technical Preview shows a little more about the next operating system.

Update 3: Here is the summary (part 1 and part 2) for all the features coming to Windows 9 found in the leaked partner’s builds.