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9 Changes We Want to See in Windows 9

Daniel Bean

9 Changes We Want to See in Windows 9

UPDATE: Microsoft is expected to reveal Windows 9 at an event in San Francisco this Tuesday.

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The latest scoop in the Microsoft world is that Windows 9, the follow-up to the company’s fairly unpopular Windows 8 operating system, will be unveiled at the end of September. The drastic changes that Windows 8 brought to Microsoft’s OS — a confusing new system of tiles on the home screen, the removal of the Start button, a two-faced system that split itself between a new, touch-friendly interface and the more familiar mouse-and-keyboard Windows of old — were met with customer ire. Those complaints felt validated after the company backpedaled on the removal of the popular desktop Start button, announcing that it would soon return.

We’re not yet sure whether Microsoft will look to quell dissatisfaction by returning to the old Windows way, or maybe come up with some new tricks to improve usability and stoke excitement (or maybe a mix of both). But here are nine items that would sure make us happy if Bill Gates’ buddies were to decide to bring them to Windows 9.

1.Minimize the split.
Microsoft tacked the new tile-based Windows 8 interface (once called Metro, now called Modern) onto the classic Windows desktop that we’ve seen for years. It resulted in a schizophrenic operating system. And even if Microsoft’s ultimate goal was once to move completely over to its new Windows 8 look and “app” way of doing things, the numbers show that folks are not biting yet.

Windows Modern screen and traditional desktopThe Modern UI of Windows (top) and the desktop UI (bottom). (yungchou.wordpress.com/Microsoft)

Although we don’t expect Windows 9 to go all in on the “Start screen and apps” look, it would be nice to see at least a bit more intersection: Perhaps allow for the operation of Modern apps inside desktop windows, or completely replace the Start screen with the desktop Start menu. If Microsoft can somehow ax the disjointed Jekyll-and-Hyde feel of its OS, either by moving further forward or taking a few steps back, it’ll be an all-around better experience.

2. Bring back the desktop Start menu.
This was mentioned above, but it’s important. Whether Microsoft decides to supplant Windows’ new Start screen with a revamp of the desktop Start menu (unlikely), or simply augment the Start screen’s functionality by bringing access from within the desktop side of the OS (probably what will happen), we’re in favor.

Microsoft Windows screenshotAn alleged Windows 9 leak. (AFP)

It’s possible that going back to the Start menu will be seen as a retreat of sorts, but Microsoft has vowed to better listen to its customers, and they’ve apparently said they want a Start menu. So they will get it, one way or another, and we say good.

3. Create a universal app store for Windows 9, Windows Phone, and Xbox.
Microsoft is not doing nearly as well with apps as Android, iOS, or Mac are, but we think that combining efforts across device platforms could help.

Microsoft Windows ad showing three platforms(PCWorld)

The announcement that Windows developers will be able to create one app to run on Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox came this spring. And the rumor that a new unified app store is coming to Microsoft hit blogs last fall. Let’s hope this comes at the same time as Windows 9 and does a nice job of spurring the development of Modern Windows apps.

4. Give us more Google apps.
This very well may not be something that Microsoft can control, but more Google apps — Google Maps, Google Hangouts, Gmail, and so on — would be big for its fledgling ecosystem. The popularity of Google’s services is undisputed, never mind that some of them compete directly with Microsoft’s (and Yahoo’s, too). 

Windows Google Search app(Windows)

The only Modern-style Google app available for Windows right now is Google Search.

5. Turn Cortana into a Mac Spotlight–type feature.
We all love having the option to speak to our devices in order to launch quick Internet searches or to send out short text messages and emails. But one annoyance of ours with Windows 8 is that the Modern part of things is largely unfriendly when it comes to mouse and keyboard — not an ideal situation for laptops or desktops.

Spotlight search barMac’s Spotlight search. (Macworld)

One thing we love about Apple’s OS X, particularly the forthcoming Yosemite, is that it’s bringing Siri-like global information to its text-based Mac Spotlight search app. We’re already hearing reports that Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri competitor, is coming to Windows. We only hope it plays well with mouse and keyboard, not just voice commands, and gives us a robust, easy-to-use, systemwide search experience, something missing from Windows 8.

6. Give us less control.
Microsoft’s attempt at creating an OS that appears simple and touch friendly is admirable. But, in actuality, Windows 8 operates on multiple planes with umpteen thousand options to configure and can be tough for casual computer operators to wrap their heads around (and that doesn’t exclude technology news reporters).

This problem can be helped by axing one of the two OS planes that Windows 8 lives on (as mentioned in point 1 above), though simply killing duplicate settings menus and eliminating the need to hide options in charms bars offscreen (which may be on the outs) would do a world of good for the OS’s comprehensibility.

7. Revamp Windows updates.
We all know that Windows is known to update with software patches often, which can be good for ensuring that your system is operating as securely as possible. But constantly being asked to install and reboot is not fun, and always living in fear of running a machine that’s not up to date is unsettling.

Windows Update screen(Microsoft)

What should be done about this? We don’t know. We’re looking at you, Microsoft.

8. Set the device driver and compatibility problems straight.
One reason some have stuck with Windows 7, Vista, or even XP: non-compatible hardware.

Whether Microsoft can make Windows 9 more backward compatible or not, we’re not sure. But there are some customers (and Yahoo Tech team members) who are still clinging to old printers, webcams, wireless hard drives, audio recording equipment, and other peripherals that are preventing the move upward to Windows’ most current version. A fix here would be welcome.

9. Let us play Xbox games on Windows 9.
This may feel like a pipe dream, but it sure would be cool.

Xbox controller

(Play.com)

Plain and simple: Let us wirelessly connect an Xbox controller to our Windows computers, slide the game into the disc drive (or download it from the Xbox Games Store), and play. Please?

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Reports have the Windows 9 unveiling set for Sept. 30. Yahoo Tech will have all the info for you as it’s released, so stay tuned to see what of the above is actually realized in Microsoft’s next big release.

Have questions, comments, or just want to tell me something funny? Email me at danbean@yahoo-inc.com.