OPINION: Speculation about Microsoft's apparent plans for Windows 9 and Windows 10 has been bouncing around the internet this morning.
They're based on no more than a rumour from a single source, and for the most part they either reiterate stuff we already know or suggest a degree of ignorance about how Windows actually works right now.
The rumours come from a report at WinBeta, and in turn are based on claims from a single unnamed source identified as WZOR. Normally at Lifehacker we don't discuss rumours; we're interested in actual advice on products you can use right now. But these claims are weird enough to deserve a little separate discussion.
These are the main claims made:
❏ Windows 9, due in around a year, will be another incremental upgrade along the lines of Windows 8.1. However, the WinBeta article also adds: "He claims that Microsoft is planning to bring the old Aero interface back, but not as we all know it."
❏ Windows RT and Windows Phone will be merged into a single code base.
❏ Windows 10 will be a full 'cloud OS', with the majority of processing taking place on external servers rather than on your local device.
It's worth noting that the Windows 9 and 10 labels seem to have been chosen by the reporters for convenience. It seems highly unlikely that Microsoft would iterate version numbers that quickly, though it is aiming for annual updates.
Here's my reaction to all of these claims:
The Aero claim doesn't make much sense
While Windows 8 is indeed distinguished by the emphasis on the 'Modern' interface, if you run desktop apps you are indeed using the 'Aero interface', or something closely related to it, most of the time. This is true even on Windows RT (run any of the Office apps or explorer and you're back in the familiar Windows environment).
So either this claim means that the modern interface is being killed off altogether (which contradicts the other claim being made here), or it means that tweaks to the interface are being described as 'Aero' to appeal to people who still find the concept of the Modern interface strange.
The merger is quite possible, but not news
Windows RT has not been a conspicuous success, so changes are to be expected. However, the notion that Microsoft wants to push development for Windows and Windows Phone to as much of a common code base as possible is not news. Much of its current development outreach emphasises the ease of switching between the platforms, and the interfaces are becoming more and more similar. As I've noted above, it also seems somewhat contradictory to suggest that Aero is returning but that Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 will merge.
Microsoft's cloud strategy is heavily hybrid-focused
Again, it's not news as such that Microsoft sees potential for applications to offload processing to the cloud; more specifically, to its own Azure system. At all the events I attended for our World Of Servers project in the first half of this year, that prospect was raised.
However, the emphasis for enterprise server deployments (which is the most profitable part of Microsoft right now) has been on a hybrid approach, mixing cloud services with on-premises processing, at either the server or the desktop. It seems to me very unlikely that Microsoft would abandon this approach entirely. I'm sure we'll see more emphasis on cloud services going forward (we already have SkyDrive and Bing integration in Windows 8.1), but I'll be surprised if we're suddenly told 'right, your desktop processor is irrelevant' and we all switch to low-powered devices. The world is more diverse than that.
I'm off to TechEd Australia this week, and there's a slim chance we'll hear more details about Windows 9 plans. However, I really, really doubt it.
That's my take. What's yours?