I don’t know exactly when Microsoft has its successor to Windows 8 planned for delivery, nor whether it will be called Windows 8.1, Windows 9, Windows Open, Windows Closed or Windows X, whether pronounced as 10 or as the letter X, but we all know one is planned.
For now, Windows 8 is what's on the shelves, and pre-loaded onto brand new PCs, all-in-ones, notebooks, laptops, tablets and hybrids, with my highly commented upon article from two days ago, "Stop Whining: WIndows 8's a gr8 Win, D'oh!" worth reading to see why I think Windows 8 is a great advance, and why the D'Oh!'s that people have been experiencing are easily fixed, with Windows 8's new Modern UI trivially simple to learn, as I explain.
Microsoft's "secret" and free Windows 8 tutorials, complete with excellent short videos, is also available here to view - why Microsoft didn't include this as a prominent icon on the Modern UI Start screen and the Windows desktop is beyond me.
Nevertheless, if Microsoft is heading for a yearly OS update schedule, along with all the patches, updates, security fixes, reliability and performance updates, new feature additions and more, then a major update to Windows 8 and RT, available to all Windows 8 and RT users, is likely coming sooner rather than later when it comes to new Windows OS timeframes - and we may as well start talking about it now, epsecially given that Microsoft's presumably already building it and has been since before Windows 8's release.
So, I’d expect a major OS update to arrive in approximately 11 months to coincide with the anniversary of the release of Windows 8, because it makes the most sense from a yearly update point of view.
There will obviously be updates in between, with some naturally having already arrived, but with plenty of time between now and guesstimate of a new yearly time scale, here’s what we’d like to see.
Yes, there are a range of paid and free alternatives, including the free Classic Shell Start button replacement that offers a range of previous Start Menu styles, and even lets you turn the Windows 8 desktop ‘Start button corner’ off, or even turn all the corners off for the closest Windows 7 experience on a Windows 8 computer it is possible to get, while still retaining full control of the ability to bring up the Modern UI Start, the Charms, multitasking and more through standard Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts.
But if it turns out that users really do overwhelmingly want the Start Button back, then Microsoft, give the people what they want!
Number 2 is to let people skin the desktop and menus in any Windows 8.1 update to look and work like previous versions of Windows, and specifically, Windows XP. I know people who love love love their Windows XP, and it’s all because they’re so used to the look and feel.
Well, if that’s what people want, give it to them, Microsoft! It’s just a skin. Let people switch on new additions like the updated “copy” dialog complete with nifty graph, or let people see Windows 8 as though it truly were Windows XP on the desktop – while letting them use any Modern UI app and be fully Windows 8.1 underneath.
It’s just graphics, and it could just be a clickable option in the Windows 8.1 system settings. XP, Vista, 7… it’s not difficult and you shouldn’t have to buy Stardock or some other product to do it!
I have only praise for the Stardock people (who also offer an excellent paid Start Menu button replacement called Start8 for Windows 8), but these are Microsoft’s interfaces, and if they really wanted to let people see the world through an older pane, while having the updated grunt under the hood, Microsoft could and should let them!
Number 3 is to open a Windows Store for Desktop Apps, not just for Modern UI apps. These are apps which run on the Windows 8 desktop, and also desktop apps that can run on Windows RT desktops (something Microsoft currently prohibits), so long as the performance of those apps is acceptable, and so long as devs want to write for that platform. Open it up and let’s find out, Microsoft!
Oops - I just noticed, doing a search for "*" on the Windows Store (to show me how many apps are in the Australian Windows Store), I can see that several apps are listed as a "Desktop App", with the instructions being to click a link that takes you to the manufacturer's website to download, or for more information. Microsoft should then make it much more obvious that Desktop Apps are a category that is being advertised within the Windows Store, and enable those who wish to download those Desktop Apps from the Windows Store an opportunity to do so - doing whatever deal necessary with the software maker to make it happen.