The polarized reaction to Windows 8 showed why Microsoft is finding itself in a tight spot: How can it move Windows into the touch-centric world of smartphones and tablets without alienating its core desktop users who still interact with their computers primarily with a mouse and keyboard? The answer, as reported by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, is to redesign the OS to make Windows more context aware and make it behave differently depending on the form factor it’s being used on.
So for instance, when the upcoming Windows 9 gets loaded onto a desktop or laptop, the primary user interface will be the standard desktop mode that longtime Windows users are familiar with. When it’s loaded onto a smartphone, meanwhile, the primary interface will be more like the Metro interface that was introduced with Windows 8.
“Users running Threshold on a desktop/laptop will get a SKU, or version, that puts the Windows Desktop (for running Win32/legacy apps) front and center,” Foley explains. “Two-in-one devices, like the Lenovo Yoga or Surface Pro, will support switching between the Metro-Style mode and the Windowed mode, based on whether or not keyboards are connected or disconnected. The combined Phone/Tablet SKU of Threshold won’t have a Desktop environment at all, but still will support apps running side-by-side, my sources are reconfirming.”
This sounds good for laptops and smartphones but the tricky part as always will be making it work on the hybrid devices that are able to serve as both tablets and laptops. Will Windows 9 feel like one coherent platform on these devices or will it still feel like two different operating systems stapled together with apps that only work well on either the desktop or the touch-centric platforms?
The good news here is that Microsoft often releases one “bad” version of Windows right before releasing a “good” one. Just as the not-very-loved Windows 2000 led to the beloved Windows XP and as the loathed Vista led to the widely accepted Windows 7, it’s likely that the polarizing Windows 8 will lead to a Windows 9 that all Windows users can enjoy.