Preston Gralla

Windows 9 will mean the revenge of the Desktop

January 13, 2014 10:16 AM EST

Microsoft tried to kill the Desktop in Windows 8, but with Windows 9 the Desktop may well take center stage again. Reports says that the next Windows release, due possibly in the middle of 2015, may make the Desktop more useful than ever.

Paul Thurrott reports that the next major update to Windows, code-named "Threshold," originally planned as an update to Windows 8, will now likely be called Windows 9, "in order to distance itself from the Windows 8 debacle." It may be ready by April, 2015, he says.

Microsoft is betting big on Threshold because of the disaster that was Windows 8, and because Windows 8.1 hasn't seemed to stem the bleeding. Thurrot says:

"Threshold is more important than any specific updates. Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public, and the latest release, Windows 8.1, which is a substantial and free upgrade with major improvements over the original release, is in use on less than 25 million PCs at the moment. That's a disaster, and Threshold needs to strike a better balance between meeting the needs of over a billion traditional PC users while enticing users to adopt this new Windows on new types of personal computing devices. In short, it needs to be everything that Windows 8 is not."

In practice what does that mean? In large part, it means listening to what everyone has been telling Microsoft since the first preview release of Windows 8: Make Windows easier to use on desktops and laptops, the computers that most people use. And that means making the Desktop important again.

How does Microsoft plan to do that? At least at this early stage, Windows 9 will bring back the Start menu, something that it has so far refused to do, even in Windows 8.1. Using the Start Menu, people will be essentially able to bypass the Start screen by launching apps, doing searches, and performing other tasks the way they used to do them under the old Desktop design.

In addition, Thurrott says, Microsoft is said to be working to allow Metro apps to run on the Desktop, next to Desktop applications. Metro apps would run like Desktop applications.Combine that ability with the return of the Start Menu, and you've essentially got no need for the current Windows 8 Start screen.

There's no doubt that Windows 8 was the biggest blunder Microsoft has ever made, and at the worst time possible. At a time when the market for traditional PCs were being eaten into by tablets, it gave people one more reason not to buy a new computer, and instead buy a tablet. And by forcing the same design on tablets as well as PCs, it made it more difficult for Microsoft to gain traction in the growing tablet market.

Can Windows 9 reverse all that? Not likely. Mobile is clearly the future, and Windows 9 won't help Microsoft on mobile devices. However, making the Desktop important again could stem some of the losses on traditional PCs. And that's better than things look for Microsoft today.