Looking for something to take the sting out of a drastically reduced Windows 8.1 Update 2? Then consider this: According to reliable reports, Microsoft will issue a public preview of Windows 9—currently codenamed "Threshold"—as soon as next month, giving everyone an opportunity to check out the new Start menu, floating Modern apps on the desktop, virtual desktops, and other new features and changes.
News of the long-rumored public preview comes via Mary Jo Foley. I was on vacation this week, so I haven't had a chance to discuss this information with any of my own sources. But I do know that Mary Jo's source(s) for this information have been quite reliable.
So here's what we've found out.
Technology preview. The public preview of Threshold will be described as a "technology preview" and is aimed at early adopters and tech enthusiasts, not Joe PC user. You'll see why in a moment.
When? Late September or early October.
Who? The Threshold technical preview will be public and open to anyone interested in testing it. However, you will need to agree to the next item (see below) and, as always, I would only recommend that technically competent people try testing this product. If you're reading this site, you're good to go.
Monthly updates. When the Windows team defanged Update 2 and repackaged it as "the August update rollup," it signaled that it was moving to a monthly update cadence for Windows, similar to other Microsoft products. So anyone who installs the Threshold technology preview will need to agree to install the monthly updates that Microsoft will provide for the course of the preview (approximately October 2014 through April 2015) so that the software giant can test how well this radical new updating process works on its most-used product.
New features. While it's not clear if all of these features will be available in the initial public preview, Threshold will include a new Start menu that replaces the current Start screen, the ability to run Modern apps on the Windows desktop in floating windows, and virtual desktops. This release will also replace the reviled Charms interface with some new way of accessing system-wide options.
Final release. Threshold is still expected in April 2015. That date is one year from the inception of this product and will be about six months after the start of the public preview. That's an incredibly short window for a major Windows version, obviously. But given the importance of this release—washing the awful taste of Windows 8 out of everyone's mouths—it's even more radical than is immediately obvious. I'm curious how "major" such a release can really be and am thinking it will be close to Windows 8.1 in terms of actual changes.
This has already been an interesting year for Windows. But it looks like things are really going to heat up in the fall. I can't wait.