While it may be a bit premature to start sounding the death knell for Windows 7, the impending release of Windows 9 means that the previous Windows operating system is entering the final furlongs of its existence.

Windows 9

Windows 7 to expire in 2020

Stephen Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner, stated this week that he expects Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) to end support for Windows 7 in January, 2020. Kleynhas did add the caveat that there could be changes to support within his current life cycle. Whether this would mean that the expiry date will be brought forward or pushed back was not elaborated on, but it would seem more likely that Microsoft will stick to any promises in this department given the overwhelming corporate usage of its flagship operating system.

While it may seem a bit early in the day to be worrying about such an eventuality, it would be advisable for companies running Windows 7 to begin to plan for the day when the plug is pulled on it. Five and a half years certainly seems plenty of time to do this, but when Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, despite giving a similar length of notice, many organizations were not able to have satisfactory plans in place by the time of the deadline. In fact, nearly one in four PCs within businesses and other similar organizations were still running Windows XP after support ended.

The looming death of Windows 7 has been precipitated by the fact that Windows 9 is now very much on the horizon. Microsoft has been moving forward with plans for the new operating system, and the general consensus is that it will be ready for release sometime early in 2015. For the time being, companies operating Windows 7 can move over to Windows 8 either en masse, or on the basis of integrating new machines in their offices to this platform. But given the critical mauling that Windows 8 took, many companies will surely consider waiting for the release of Windows 9.

Given that the Windows 8 system has been such a disappointment, particularly for the corporate sector, encouraging businesses to take it up as a viable operating system has been an extremely tough sell for Microsoft. Therefore the world’s biggest producer and seller of computer software is under pressure to pull out all of the stops with the forthcoming release of Windows 9.

Windows 9 features

So what can we expect from this highly anticipated operating system? Microsoft has been forced to listen to the constructive criticism and foibles that many people had regarding Windows 8, and consequently Microsoft is expected to lever the functionality in the new Windows 9 towards feedback it has received from consumers and the corporate sector.

Thus, the first and biggest change that we can certainly expect to see in Windows 9 is a return of the Start menu. Regular Mac users may wonder what all the fuss is about the removal of this feature, but Windows devotees have been accustomed to a certain set-up within the operating system for many years. Microsoft’s attempts to revolutionise this system in Windows 8, and consequently make the operating system more friendly for mobile devices, was an unmitigated disaster. Windows users have almost ubiquitously called for the return of the Start menu, so this seems an absolute certainty in the next iteration of Windows.

In accordance with this, recent rumours have suggested that Microsoft will also ax the Charms menu. This hidden menu in Windows 8 was intended to give users quick access to a variety of frequently used options, such as shutting down your machine and searching for various files and folders.

While this was to some extent successful on mobile devices, it was clunky and unwieldy on desktop PCs, which is of course the core audience for Windows. However, Microsoft will not entirely ditch the mobile-focused approach which Windows 8 introduced, and it is reported that Windows 9 will have a Context-sensitive interface which presents itself to users based on what device is being utilised at the time.

Microsoft will also load Windows 9 with new functionality. Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri on the iPhone and iPad, A virtual personal assistant which is set to be upgraded in the new Windows release. Another feature prominent in Macs, virtual desktops, are also set to head to Windows 9. This feature enables users to create multiple virtual desktops and toggle between them rapidly.

In addition, in an attempt to shore up sales of smartphones using its Windows Phone platform, Microsoft will attempt to upgrade the possibility for devices running Windows Phone to collaborate with Windows.

Windows 9 will be a critical release for a company that is having to deal with a shifting computing climate. And the signs are that Microsoft is ready to respond to those needs, while beginning the process of pensioning off some of its older Windows releases.