Microsoft will issue a preview of "Threshold," the current code name for Windows 8's successor, as soon as next month, according to an online report today.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, citing unnamed sources, said that Microsoft will deliver a "technical preview" of Threshold late in September or early in October. Previously, Foley had reported that Microsoft would offer a preview of some kind this fall.
Threshold may be officially named "Windows 9" by Microsoft -- the company has said nothing about either the code name or labeled the next iteration of its desktop and tablet OS -- although there are arguments for dumping a numerical title because of the possible association with Windows 8, which has widely been pegged as a failure.
"Technical Preview" is a moniker that Microsoft has used in the past for its Office suite. For both Office 2013 and Office 2010, Microsoft used the term to describe an invitation-only sneak peek. Both application suites were later released as public betas prior to their official launch.
Windows, however, has used a different nomenclature. For 2012's Windows 8, Microsoft called the early looks "Developer Preview," "Consumer Preview" and "Release Preview," all open to everyone. The first was analogous to an alpha, the second to a beta, and the third to a done-but-not-approved release candidate.
Windows 7, however, had used the more traditional "Beta" to describe the first public preview in early 2009. The previous fall, when Microsoft unveiled Windows 7, the firm had seeded an invite-only "pre-alpha" version, also dubbed a Developer Preview, of the OS to programmers and some influential bloggers.
Within hours, the Windows 7 Developer Preview leaked to file-sharing websites. Microsoft may have changed its practices for Windows 8, letting anyone download the first preview, because of the inevitably of leaks.
In an update to her blog of earlier today, Foley added that the "Technical Preview" nameplate notwithstanding, Microsoft would allow anyone to download Threshold/Windows 9 when it becomes available in the next few weeks.
If Microsoft does ship a preview soon and sets its sights on a second-quarter 2015 final release, it will have significantly accelerated the tempo from past practice. With Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft offered its first previews 12 and 13 months, respectively, and the public beta 8 or 9 months, before launching the operating system.
Eight or nine months from September would be May or June 2015; that, however, assumes that the Technical Preview is of beta quality. The name itself hints at something less.
Microsoft appears eager to put Windows 8 behind it. It has stopped beating the drum about the OS and recently announced that it would not issue any additional major updates. Instead, the firm said last week, it will include improvements or new features in small packets using the same Windows Update mechanism that regularly serves security patches.
An impending preview of Threshold/Windows 9 would further the distancing from Windows 8, and turn the conversation from the problems of the past to promises of the future.