clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is Microsoft Paving New Ground With Next Windows or Still Filling Potholes?

The PC business may have slumped, but Windows is still key.

RonBailey / iStock

So far everything Microsoft has said about the next version of Windows — which is admittedly little — has been about bringing back elements popular in the classic operating system.

On Tuesday, Microsoft will give the most detailed look yet at the new Windows. Has Microsoft cooked up something genuinely new or will it ride the nostalgia bandwagon a little longer in a world that has moved past the PC and on to mobile devices running either iOS or Android?

The next Windows, known within Microsoft as Threshold, is expected to be tested and finalized over the coming year. It is the first major release designed under Terry Myerson, the former Windows Phone head who took over responsibility for Windows after the departure of Steven Sinofsky.

Windows remains core both to Microsoft’s image and its bottom line. Even with the PC business having slumped in recent years, the desktop PC business still accounts for a large chunk of Microsoft’s profits — and more if you count the Office and Server businesses that are built around the PC.

One very likely area for the next Windows will be the bringing together of its mobile and desktop operating systems. Microsoft took the first step in this direction with Windows Phone 8, which uses a desktop Windows operating system at its core, though still requires programs to be specially written for the phone.

At its Build conference, Microsoft announced support for a new class of “universal” Windows apps that can be written a single time and run across Windows, Windows-based phones and the Xbox. A further coming together is likely to be a big part of Redmond’s pitch to developers and businesses going forward.

“We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one, single converged operating system for screens of all sizes,” CEO Satya Nadella said on the company’s last earnings call.

Myerson also flashed a couple of screenshots at Build showing how new-style Windows 8 apps will be able to run alongside classic ones in the familiar desktop.

“We are going all in with this desktop experience,” Myerson said at the April event, without offering additional details.

But that, alone, isn’t enough.

Businesses, in particular, have been avoiding Microsoft’s latest releases. Microsoft hasn’t said how many companies are running Windows 8 or later, but much of the focus has been driving consumer adoption.

“There is a lot riding on Windows 9 for Microsoft in the enterprise,” says Forrester analyst David Johnson. “Only about 1 in 5 organizations is offering Windows 8 PCs to employees right now and, with Windows 7 extended support running until January 2020, Microsoft needs to give enterprises reasons to move to a new version before it becomes a crisis.”

With Tuesday’s event, Microsoft is choosing to reach out first to business customers, telling them why they should care about the next version.

It’s a question that Microsoft needs to answer, quickly and well.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.