Microsoft sets Windows 9 reveal for Sept. 30

If the company follows recent practice for major product news, it will be a publicly webcast event

Microsoft issued invitations on Monday for a Sept. 30 event where it will unveil the next version of Windows, according to multiple online reports.

The date was leaked last month.

"Join us to hear about what's next for Windows and the enterprise," the emailed invitation read. The Verge, ZDNet and others reported on the upcoming event.

The San Francisco press conference will introduce the next iteration of Microsoft's venerable Windows operating system. Most pundits and analysts expect the OS to be dubbed "Windows 9," with the company sticking with the numerical moniker of the 2012 predecessor. It has also been known by the code name "Threshold."

Presumably set for release in the first half of 2015, Windows 9, may be either the last major release of the operating system or the first in a string of smaller, less-ambitious updates as Microsoft accelerates its already too-fast-for-enterprise release schedule.

A revamped Start menu -- one that hews more closely to the one in Windows 7 -- a de-emphasis of the touch-first "Modern," née "Metro," mode and UI (user interface), and the ability to run Modern apps in Windows on the classic desktop have been bandied as Windows 9's most obvious changes.

The mention of "enterprise" in Microsoft's invitation bolsters the speculation that Windows 9 will be primarily aimed at business and corporate customers, who have spurned Windows 8 because of its split-UI personality. That, in turn, argues for a surfacing of new features and other changes that make the OS easier to operate and navigate with mouse and keyboard, still the primary input methods for business PCs.

It's important for Microsoft to make Windows 9 attractive to those customers, Gartner analysts have said, if Microsoft is to convince them to move beyond Windows 7 -- which has a lock on the corporate market -- in time to avoid a repeat of the Windows XP longevity problem.

Microsoft may offer a public preview of Windows 9 at the time of the Sept. 30 reveal, or shortly after.

It's unlikely that Microsoft will talk timing and pricing at the event. Historically, the company has withheld that information until the release date nears. But talk of Microsoft moving to a free-upgrade model, or if not that, then one that is less expensive, has made the rounds.

The move has some logic. While free upgrades could pinch PC makers, they would give a quick shot in the arm to the new OS, driving uptake to historic levels in the first seven months.

By Computerworld's calculations -- which were based on the performance of the free Windows 8.1 upgrade of 2013 -- nearly 18% of all machines running Windows would be upgraded to Windows 9 before the end of 2015 if Microsoft offers free upgrades.

It's likely that Microsoft will webcast the Sept. 30 event rather than restrict it to the reporters, bloggers and analysts in attendance. The last two major product-related press conferences that Microsoft has held -- one in March where CEO Satya Nadella introduced Office for iPad, another in May when the company unveiled the new Surface Pro 3 2-in-1, both which were invitation-only -- were broadcast to all comers.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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