Screenshots of Microsoft's upcoming operating system Windows 9 leaked yesterday on the German website ComputerBase.
Microsoft calls this build Windows Technical Preview and the build number is 9834 (Windows 8.1 is 9600).
It is interesting to note that the 9 is missing in the name. While that does not have to mean anything, it could mean that the operating system will be launched under a different name after all (simply Windows for instance).
Microsoft plans to release a public preview build of the operating system at the end of September. While September 30 is the most likely date, it has not been confirmed by the company yet and it can happen that the build is made available at a later point in time.
The screenshots provide us with a closer look at the current state of development. It is likely that the feature set is similar to the one of the preview version that Microsoft will release later this month.
The first screenshot displays the new desktop start menu. While that is great for users who did not upgrade to Windows 8 because of it not being available in the operating system, it is quite different in several aspects.
Note: A hands-on video leaked earlier today. It is from another German site and concentrates on the start menu exclusively.
The start menu combines desktop programs, folders and apps on the left side with Start Screen tiles on the right. While it is likely that users can modify what is being displayed here, it is unclear if there will be a switch to only display desktop program links in it.
It appears possible however to pin tiles to and remove tiles from the start menu.
Another difference is that the shutdown button is not at the bottom of the menu but at the top next to the username of the logged in user.
A right-click on an app on the left side displays the familiar menu that you get on Windows 8.1's start screen as well. You can open or uninstall apps using it, or pin/unpin the app to/from Start or the taskbar.
Several other Start-only menus have been moved to the desktop as well. PC Settings, a configuration menu that is only available on the Start interface in Windows 8.1 is now available as a window on the desktop. The same is true for the store interface which also runs in a window yet.
It was clear that the Start screen interface would not simply go away for mouse and keyboard users. Microsoft's compromise appears to be that it moved several Start-only features to the desktop. This includes a start menu that displays live tiles and programs like the store running as windows on the desktop.
The PC Settings screenshot that shows the settings running in a window indicates that there won't be a unified Control Panel available unless Microsoft plans to move all Control Panel applets to the PC Settings window as well (which is unlikely).
Another feature that has not been removed completely from the preview is the Charms Bar. The taskbar and start menu properties window refers to it which means that it is still part of the operating system.
While Microsoft could remove it at a later point in time, it is unlikely that it will do so after the preview gets released. So, it is likely going to stay even on non-touch systems.
If you have watched the video embedded above, you may have noticed that the animating tiles can be quite irritating at times. It is unclear if you can disable the live tile functionality directly. What you can do however is reduce the size of the icon to get rid of it.
Windows 9 will introduce some changes for desktop users including the return of the start menu. It is too early to tell if Microsoft's main effort was to move important Start-only features to the desktop or if there will be substantial new features as well. We only know of one so far, a multi-desktop environment.
If remains to be seen if the changes go far enough to convince companies and users to upgrade to the new version of Windows.
What's your take on this first preview? A step in the right direction or not what you expected it to be at all?
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