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Windows Threshold: the next major version of Microsoft's OS

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July 2, 2014

Various reports are starting to trickle down the blogosphere that Microsoft's new venerable PC operating system will be called Windows Threshold.

It will be the next major version of the company's Windows operating system, and the launch is slated to be around spring of 2015. The project is now coming into focus more and more since mid-June.

Not too surprisingly, one of the Microsoft Operating Systems Group's main goals in designing and developing the coming operating system — which may or may not ultimately be branded as "Windows 9" — is to try to make it more palatable to 'hold-out' Windows 7 users.

In order to do this, Microsoft is working on including in Threshold lots of new features specifically aimed at desktop users, meaning those who interact primarily with their Windows computing device from a desktop or laptop with mouse/keyboard and optional touch.

With Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft officials designed the operating system around a set of profiles based on the hardware specifications of the devices in use.

Certain devices running Windows 8.1 Update include Power and Search buttons on the Metro-style Start screen. Some of those running Windows 8.1 Update have their machines start up by default in the Desktop/Win32 legacy environment, while others on touch/mobile-first devices start up in the Metro-Style Start Menu by default.

According to some sources, Microsoft will continue on this path with Windows Threshold. The OS will look and work differently based on hardware type.

Users running Threshold on a desktop or laptop will get a SKU that places the Windows Desktop front and center. Two-in-one devices, like the Lenovo Yoga or Surface Pro, will support switching between the Metro-Style mode and the Windowed mode, based on whether or not keyboards are connected or disconnected.

The combined Phone/Tablet SKU of Threshold won't have a Desktop environment at all, but still will support apps running side by side, sources are suggesting.

This Threshold Mobile SKU will work on ARM-based Windows Phones (not just Lumias), ARM-based Windows tablets and Intel Atom-based tablets.

One of Microsoft's primary missions with the Threshold is to try to undo the usability mistakes made with Windows 8 for those who prefer and/or are stuck with devices that are not touch-first and for which keyboard/mouse use is of central importance.

The Desktop/laptop SKU of Threshold will include, as previously rumored, the Mini-Start menu — a new version of the traditional Microsoft Start menu, an early concept of which Microsoft reluctantly demonstrated at the company's Build developers conference in April.

It also will include the ability to run Metro-Style/Windows Store apps in windows on the Desktop. Will it turn off completely the Metro-Style Start screen with its live-tile interface, as Neowin is reporting, and make the tiled Start screen a toggleable option from the Mini Start menu? We're not sure for now, but maybe.

It's worth pointing out that the Mini Start menu is expected to be customizable. Users will be able to include Metro-Style apps or remove all Metro Style apps/tiles from the menu so that only Desktop apps are included in the Mini Start menu, either as tiles or in list form.

But before Windows Threshold is released next spring, Microsoft is expected to deliver a public preview of the Threshold release, most likely in the fall of this year.

And before that, the software behemoth will deliver a second and final update for Windows 8.1. Since Microsoft officials decided earlier this year to make the Mini Start Menu part of Threshold instead of Update 2, there's not a whole lot of new features of note coming in Update 2.

Overall, there may be some user interface adjustments and tweaks here and there, but nothing hugely noticeable.

Windows 8.1 Update 2 should be code complete any time now and will be locked down about two weeks before the August Patch Tuesday, sources say. August Patch Tuesday is on August 12.

Microsoft may opt to not make a big deal out of Update 2 and just push it out quietly as part of the set of August patches, however.

The Microsoft operating system team is hoping to get as many Windows 7 users moved up to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows 8 users to Windows 8.1 Update in preparation for getting them to move to Threshold once it's finally out.

It's still early in the Windows development cycle for Microsoft to have decided on packaging, pricing and distribution, but sources say that Windows Threshold is looking like it could be free to all Windows 8.1 Update, and maybe even Windows 7 Service Pack 1, users.

Microsoft is basically done with Windows 8.x. Regardless of how usable or functional it is or isn't, it has become Microsoft's Vista 2.0 — something from which Microsoft needs to distance itself from, perception-wise, and from an obvious marketing standpoint.

Microsoft is now going full-steam-ahead toward Threshold and will do its best to differentiate that OS release from Windows 8.x.

In other OS news

Apple said that it shipped new versions of most of its operating systems, its web browser and Apple TV firmware, with each update consisting of a minor release aimed at fixing bugs and closing some security holes.

For instance, the latest release of OS X Mavericks version 10.9.4, addresses a total of no less than nineteen security vulnerabilities in a variety of OS subsystems, ranging from graphics and Thunderbolt drivers to the Dock.

The update is also aimed at speeding up waking time from sleep, and to fix one issue where Macs wouldn't connect to known Wi-Fi networks, and another where the Apple logo didn't appear onscreen properly during boot-up.

The update also brings the Safari web browser to version 7.0.5, which is also available as a standalone update – as is an update to Safari 6.1.5.

Each of those updates fix 12 security vulnerabilities in the WebKit rendering engine, including multiple memory-corruption issues that could potentially allow a malicious website to crash the browser or execute arbitrary code.

Many of these security issues already have been fixed in the upstream WebKit source tree, but had yet to make their way into Safari.

Source: Microsoft.

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