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Rumor Roundup: Windows' Future Lacks Clarity

With the upcoming release of Windows 8.1 Update 2 reportedly immanent, expected to fall on Patch Tuesday in August (8/12/2014), there’s certainly been a lot of fuss and bother lately about what’s coming (or not) for upcoming Windows releases including that particular one. With a variety of Russian and Chinese leakers posting sometimes irreconcilable (or incorrect) suppositions, separating the fruit from the nuts can sometimes be challenging. That’s why I was relieved and delighted to find a rumor roundup story from Windowsmaster Woody Leonhard over at Infoworld entitled “What we know about the next versions of Windows” to lay things out in workmanlike fashion.

1. Windows 8.1 Update 2
Woody confirms that what we know about the upcoming update  — scheduled less than a week from today — is best summarized as “not much.” Nobody’s leaked credible details or particulars, and most rumors have agreed that there won’t be much new visible functionality making it onto the scene with that update. Russian-speaking readers may be pleased to learn that Windows 8.1 Update 2 is highly likely to include support for the Ruble currency character, which isn’t even available as a Unicode character at this point in time to my great surprise and astonishment.


A character layout map for the rouble symbol, probably headed for Unicode representation no later than year’s end.

2. Windows 8.1 Update 3?
Woody has some interesting things to say about a possible Windows 8.1 Update 3, which is represented as a “fallback patch in case work on the next big version of Windows falls behind.” In such an event, it would probably include the recently promised and much-ballyhooed return of the Start Window,  along with “Modern UI app in a desktop window” (a la Stardock ModernMix), both of which MS has promised to deliver in some form or fashion sometime sooner or later (this is where things get muddier still, in case you hadn’t noticed).

3. Threshold versus Windows 9 versus Plan 9 from Outer Space…
The second page of Woody’s roundup is where things get really wonky, bizarre, and interesting. My favorite sentence: “Perhaps there are updates and there are Updates, if you know what I mean” (capitalization his, and worth noting). He notes that the next big version may not even be called Windows 9, however popular that terminology may be outside Microsoft right now. He also notes that the number of versions — which he labels as Metro, desktop, consumer, and corporate — isn’t completely clear, and then tosses in the OEM version Windows 365 which is currently tied to Bing but upgradeable online. How many versions does this mean? Nobody knows right now.

He also points out that a Brandon Paddock tweet via @BrandonLive on 6/27 equates the next update (3, not 2) of Windows 8.1 with Threshold, and that Chinese leaker Faikee opined in a Neowin discussion on July 16 that it’s really a “Plan B” (or “Plan 9” if you prefer) in case the next major release of Windows gets delayed (which puts it in the same hopper as other rumors already reported under the Windows 8.1 Update 3 heading). From there, Woody goes on to point out some inconsistencies he spotted in various purported screenshots of leaked future Windows versions to emphasize the indisputable fact that nobody seems to have a definitive handle on future Windows versions right now. His summary of circumstances is both apt and a little scary: “There are no legitimate leaked screenshots of any future version of Windows, no leaked builds. We have unattributed reports of planned features, many of which contradict each other.”

If there’s one limited ray of sunshine amidst this morass of muddy madness, I would guess that the situation demonstrates the apparent success of Microsoft’s attempts to shut down leaks, and to make things more difficult for would-be leakers. Though we know less now than is typical for this stage in various Windows development cycles, maybe that’s a good thing? Woody demurs, and closes his article with “It’s almost like living under the Sinofsky lock-down, all over again. We need a Myerson glasnost.” I’d settle for a clearer sense of future plans, features, and directions.

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