Power users rejoice: If recent rumors are true—and I'm told they are reliable in this case—then the next major version of Windows, currently codenamed "Threshold," will give you a lot to smile about. Microsoft is apparently removing Charms, one of the most reviled Windows 8 features, from the OS. And it is also—finally—adding a virtual desktop feature to the OS.
Each of these rumors originated from different blogs. But both have been confirmed by Mary Jo Foley's sources—sorry, I'm a bit disconnected this week—so I'll accept them as fact. And as noted, both are cause for celebration in their own right.
Charms no more
According to a report in WinBeta, Threshold will further Microsoft's efforts to make Windows once again more natural for users with traditional, non-touch PCs. And one of the ways it will do so is by removing the Charms from at least those versions of Windows that work with such PCs. WinBeta says it is not sure how or if this will impact Windows on tablets, but Mary Jo's sources stated that Charms "will be going away completely for all desktop, laptop and tablet users with Threshold." Folks, the Charms are dead.
Of course, this does lead to some questions about how we'll access some of the system-wide functionality that is currently exposed by the Charms. If I were a betting man, I'd guess that Microsoft is working on something consistent that will work between both Windows and Windows Phone. But Mary Jo says that Modern apps in Threshold will now display a standard title bar that will include menus with Charms components listed. Developers will be free to add a Share option, as you see now in Windows Phone.
While NT-based versions of Windows have in fact support virtual desktop functionality for years, Microsoft never built the feature into the OS because it was afraid that users would "lose" running applications on hidden desktops. So while rival desktop OSes like Linux and, more recently, Mac OS X have embraced this functionality, Windows has had to make do with third party or add-on solutions like Sysinternals Desktops (which, as I noted on Windows Weekly last night was written by Mark Russinovich). It works fine in Windows 8.1 as you can see here:
According to the reliable Brad Sams over at Neowin, however, Microsoft has finally gotten over its reticence and will add virtual desktops directly to the next version of Windows. This feature "is said to have similar functionality to that of Ubuntu," Sams notes. "You can activate the desktops with a button on the taskbar (subject to change) and there are keyboard shortcuts that let you jump between active desktops." Actually, that's exactly how Desktops works too (see above).
Mary Jo has confirmed this report as well: Virtual desktops will be included with Threshold.
Good news all around.