As Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) continues its attempts to replace the reviled Windows 8 operating system, reports today indicate that the software powerhouse will reveal the release date for its next version of Windows in the very near future. This new operating system, codenamed ‘Threshold’, will apparently be making significant structural and presentation changes to the model that was so criticised in Windows 8.

Windows 9

Windows 8 changes to be dropped

According to recent reports, the next version of Windows will completely abandon the radical presentation changes that were made in Windows 8, dropping the so-called Charms bar. Instead, this new version of Windows, which is generally expected to simply be called Windows 9 when released, will instead move its Metro controls into a title bar, according to sources close to Microsoft.

Aside from this revelation, it seems that Windows 9 / Threshold will also feature some pretty major user interface changes. This is a significant climbdown for Microsoft given that the corporation attempted to create a radical new version of its flagship operating system with Windows 8, in the hope of creating a unified OS which can run on multiple platforms. However, given the dire reception that Windows 8 received from both home and business users, such radical changes to the operating system were almost inevitable.

The blogger Brad Sams has been reporting in his blog lately that the new release of Windows will center around virtual desktops. This function will apparently allow users to run apps in different desktop spaces, but also enable them to view all operating apps simultaneously. Sams also confirms that the Charms bar will get the chop for all desktop, laptop and tablet users.

While Windows 8 clearly focused on an attempt to make the operating system more attractive to mobile users, and those using other touchscreen devices, the next release will apparently get back to basics. One can understand why Microsoft was keen to create a platform that would be popular with the Mobile user, given the vast and rapidly expanding nature of the mobile marketplace. But Windows 8 really alienated its core desktop audience, and reports emanating from sources close to Microsoft indicate that this next Windows release will attempt to re-engage with its desktop customers.

Windows 9: Start menu to be reinstalled

Additionally, the next version of Windows will reinstate the iconic Start menu. Although there is to be another update to Windows 8 released in the coming days, entitled Windows 8.1 Update 2, it seems that this particular update will only make minor, perfunctory changes to the operating system. The next update will focus on improvements to the touchpad, the ability to use a Windows PC as a Miracast receiver, and a reduction in the number of times a user has to sign into a SharePoint site.

Instead, Windows users will have to wait until the release of the next fully fledged version of the operating system in order for the Start menu to be reinstated. Leaked screenshots of Windows 9 indicates that the operating system will very much appeal to standard desktop PC users. The pictures clearly show a Start menu, along with the new Metro apps function, which runs in resizeable Windows on the desktop.

The last couple of years have been a difficult time for Microsoft, as the world’s biggest producer of computer software attempts to deal with a shifting marketplace. While Windows remains dominant in the desktop market, it has been increasingly challenged by alternative operating systems, and also Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s sales of desktop machines running OS X have been steadily climbing.

Additionally, creating a unified platform which can run on Windows Phones has been problematical for the corporation. Yet it is quite clear that this will be an important part of the future; it is just an issue to which Microsoft has yet to find the perfect solution.

Shifting climate for Microsoft

Further complicating matters for Microsoft’s existing economic model is the fact that the cloud is already becoming technologically significant. With cloud computing offering a more software-based solution to everyday tasks than the traditional hardware-based model, Microsoft needs to alter its approach to more readily meet the demands of this significant technology. While the software giant has already made significant moves in this area, and has established a cloud presence, it seems certain that Microsoft would much rather stick to its previous business model in which it quite simply dominated the operating system market with no realistic challenger.

It is the radical changes in the recent computing climate which has prompted some to suggest that Microsoft might even make Windows 9 free to download. Users would then pay for certain functions within the operating system as required.

Whether such a radical approach will be taken by Microsoft is yet to be seen, but we can expect to see preview versions of the much awaited Windows 9 later this year, ahead of unexpected release in the Spring of 2015.