Windows 9 release date, beta, preview, start menu & screenshots

Windows 9

Windows 9 Threshold: All you need to know about the next Windows

When is Windows 9 coming out and what can you expect? We take a look at the expected Windows 9 release date, leaked Windows 9 screenshots and how the Windows 9 Start Menu looks set to change, hopefully for the better.

Windows 9, codenamed Windows Threshold, is a big deal for Microsoft. While Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update 1 have done a little to repair the damage from its most recent, and largely unpopular, operating system, it’s clear Microsoft needs to pull a Windows 7 out of its hat, not a another Vista-style debacle.

As per usual, there are more than a few rumours, leaks and hints being dropped everywhere, so we’ve collected all the most pertinent stories and clues into one round-up so you can keep up-to-date. Heard something we haven’t? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

Windows 9 Release Date: When is Windows 9 coming out?

There are a few schools of thought on the Windows 9 release date. One suggests it’s planned for April 2015, which would make it just under two years since Windows 8 was released. This is a reasonably safe bet for a few reasons:

  1. Windows 8 is struggling, so getting the ‘next version’ out of the door is important to make people forget
  2. It has been suggested that Microsoft wants to reduce the gaps between releases
  3. The original report came from respected Microsoft reporter Paul Thurrot.

Reasons against this theory include that there was no serious mention of Windows 9 at the recent BUILD 2014 conference, Microsoft’s annual developers conference. Microsoft did show a sneak peek of a new Start Menu, but this is expected to come in an update to Windows 8 (either as 8.1 Update 2 or Windows 8.2) later this year.

Windows 9 2
Microsoft didn’t mention Windows 9 at all at its recent developer’s conference

Another view suggests Microsoft is actually planning a much earlier launch. Renowned Russian pirate group WZOR, a notorious source of verified Microsoft tips in the past, recently tweeted that it believed the Windows 9 launch was coming much sooner, with an RTM (Release To Manufacturing) release towards the end of this year.

If this were the case, however, we’d expect to have heard a lot details by now, and it’s possible WZOR’s sources referred to the expected Windows 8 update planned for later this year and not Windows 9 itself.

Windows 9 Beta/Preview: When will the Windows 9 Preview be released?

Another reason to be skeptical about WZOR’s claims of a late 2014 launch is the lack of any preview builds. The first Windows 8 beta was released just a under a year before its full release, and while we don’t expect the Windows 9 beta to run for so long (it won’t be as radical an update) it’s reasonable to expect a few months of Windows 9 preview builds ahead of a full Windows 9 launch.

Ultimately, it’s hard to say exactly when the first Windows 9 beta will appear, but if we assume April 2015 is the ultimate target for release, a Windows 9 beta in early 2015 would seem likely. There’s even a good event to announce it at in the shape of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which happens every January.

Windows 9 Start Menu: What will it look like?

Most of the discussion about Windows 9 thus far has focused on the Windows 9 Start Menu and what changes Microsoft is expected to make to it. Indeed, Microsoft has fueled this by releasing the following early concept of what the future Start Menu will look like.

The Start Menu is returning in a serious way – it won’t just open the full ‘Modern UI’ as seen in the most recent Windows 8.1 update. Instead, it looks as though Microsoft will integrate elements of that UI, such as Live Tiles, into it.

Windows 9 1

It is expected that this Start Menu style will actually appear as part of a Windows 8 update, but it gives us a useful insight into the direction Microsoft is taking for the Windows 9 Start Menu and how it plans to win people over.

Microsoft is looking for a best-of-both-worlds approach. It’s also an admission that Microsoft went too far in axing the Start Menu entirely for Windows 8.

Windows 9 Screenshots: What else is new?

The above screenshot is the only official concept for a future Windows release at present, but it includes a few more clues than just what the Windows 9 Start Menu will look like.

Windows 9
Here you can see a Metro app and Desktop app on the desktop

Chief among these clues is the ability to pin ‘Metro’ apps to the taskbar and open them inside traditional desktop Windows. Arguably this is a more serious and more useful change than an updated Start Menu. 

One of the many criticisms of the Modern Start Screen seen in Windows 8 is it forced people to use full screen apps when it wasn’t necessary. This idea works fine on a tablet, but it doesn’t make much sense when you’re using a 24-inch (or more) monitor. This change would allow more users to enjoy the benefits of these apps without the drawbacks.

What we want to see in Windows 9

Besides what we already know to be coming, there are few things we’d really like Microsoft to sort out for Windows 9

Better support for High DPI monitors
Currently, Windows 8 is rubbish on high DPI displays, such as the 3,200 x 1,800 resolution display found on the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus or the 10-inch, 1080p screen on the Surface Pro 2. One these devices, desktop apps often have implausibly small text or UI elements, which completely defeats the object of having nice, crisp high DPI screens.

Fewer hidden UI elements
One of the more irritating habits of Windows 8 was using hidden elements, such as hot corners, to access certain features. Again, many of these ideas worked great on tablets, but were an utter pain on laptops and PCs.

More Metro apps
An obvious one, this. Even now the Windows Store lacks a little depth beyond the big names, and it’s an area that needs to improve. Unifying the app process between Windows Phone and Windows 9 would help this, and it’s widely believed to be what Microsoft is working on.

Reduced OS size
Windows remains a somewhat bloated operating system. That’s fine if you’re using an old-school PC, but on an Ultrabook or tablet with limited space, handing over 30GB or so to the OS is a major pain.


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