The details surfacing about Windows 9 over the last couple of weeks represent a tacit acknowledgement from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) that their previous OS, Windows 8, is a failure. Certainly the arrival of Windows 9 is much sooner than most people expected, even if Microsoft is still currently branding it officially as ‘Windows Threshold’.

Windows 9

Spinning this release as part of some brave new world for its operating system will not convince many observers, though. The reality is that Windows 8 was supposed to be a big release that would be the premier operating system for Microsoft for quite some time, but its highly disappointing reception has simply forced the huge software company to act now.

Incredibly, Windows 8 has garnered just over half of the market share that previous iterations have achieved. It would be hard to present this as anything other than a failure, and even if this will never be admitted publicly, the fact that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has acted illustrates that they recognize the importance of limiting damage to their flagship product.

Release date surprise

While Windows 9 remains at very much the rumor stage, information about the forthcoming operating system is already seeping out. Despite the fact that its supposed release date of April 2015 was already considered much sooner than was expected, some sources have stated this week that we could see Windows 9 as early as October this year. This doesn’t seem as likely as an April 2015 release, and would give Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) an incredibly stiff timeline, but it should at least be noted. It is generally assumed that we may learn something more concrete regarding the release date at the Build conference in April.

With Windows 8 currently being used on fewer than 25 million PCs, Microsoft has also moved to retain interest and users in its still popular Windows XP platform, by stating that it will continue offering anti-malware updates to Windows XP users until July 2015. It is clear from this decision that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has given up on converting many of these users to Windows 8, and instead hope to retain their good will and encourage them to be Windows 9 devotees when their next OS update decision is made.

We’ve also learned a few new details regarding the functionality of Windows 9 over the last few days. It seems that the software will be very much a ‘reboot’ for the operating system, with sources reporting that the program will abandon the ‘tiled’ set-up from Windows 8 which has been almost universally panned. This system was intended to be particularly attractive for touchscreen computers, but the public has yet to fully embrace this technology, which is still seen as gimmicky and unneeded by some. Thus, we can expect to see the traditional Start menu reintegrated into Windows 9, as Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) bows to public pressure and perceptions of Windows 8.

New-old user interface for Windows 9

One of the biggest criticisms of Windows 8, aside from the lack of a Start menu, was that the operating system was spreading itself too thin. Instead of attempting to do one thing well, Windows 8 attempted to please everyone and be equally compatible with every type of device. This was perhaps understandable, given the diversity that exists in the computing market today; certainly the marketplace has evolved beyond recognition since Windows originally established itself as the market leader.

But the confusing user interface which was designed to particularly suit touchscreen devices, along with a mouse-oriented desktop environment meant that Windows 8 didn’t specialize in anything particularly well, and consequently many users simply saw no need to upgrade. This is something that must be addressed in Windows 9; the software must give users a compelling reason that they need to get their hands on it.

Multiple versions

This has led some analysts to suggest that we could see multiple versions of Windows 9, each focusing on a particular segment of the existing computing market. Thus, perhaps we can expect to see a Desktop version, more obviously akin to pre-Windows 8 releases, a second version based around a Start screen interface and touch applications, and even a third version which is designed to be compatible with tablets.

This would seem to be a sensible strategy, and it seems certain that the notion of a desktop version will be particularly well received. The old adage of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” would seem to apply here, with seemingly little sense in scrapping large parts of an OS with which millions of people are intimately familiar.

It has also been suggested that Windows 9 will feature improved syncing with Windows phones and the Xbox One video games console. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is trying to establish itself as a serious smartphone player, and its Xbox One device is doing relatively well in terms of worldwide sales. Thus, anything that could increase the attractiveness of either device would obviously play well with Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s long-term strategy.

The fact that Windows 9 is even being discussed at this point indicates that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has recognized that they must listen to their customers. They manifestly failed to do this with the Xbox One console, with their launch event generally considered to have been disastrous. Hopefully Windows 9 will deliver what its users want, instead of what Microsoft thinks that they ought to want.