Nadella talks about Windows vNext, one converged operating system

We know that Microsoft is working diligently on the next iteration of Windows, referred to internally as Windows Threshold, and externally, most call it Windows 9. While we do not know if Microsoft will refer to it as Windows 9 when the OS goes public, Nadella did take a bit of time on the earnings call to talk briefly about the upcoming platform. 

On the earnings call, Nadella talked about how they will be combining the Windows effort. He said that they will streamline the three operating systems into one converged operating system for screens of all sizes and that they will unify all of their stores to make it easy to discover apps that work across the entire ecosystem too.

At the end of the call, during the question and answer session, Nadella clarified what he said when probed for more information about if they would be doing away with their enterprise SKUs. When answering the analyst's question, it was more about having one team with a layered architecture to bring all of Windows under one roof and one store.

For those of you who have been following Windows announcements closely, you will know that most of this information is not new, but hearing it once again publicly, does mean that the process is in place and will actually be executed upon release.

While we would love to hear about the specifics for their plans of the next iteration of Windows, one thing is for certain, Microsoft is not shy when talking about Windows Threshold. So far, it has been mentioned at many of their larger conferences like Build, WPC and the latest event, their quarterly earnings call.

Nadella said that they will be talking more about the next wave of Windows enhancements in the coming months, but did not offer any detailed timeline for those announcements.

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i said on neowin after windows rt launched that this wont matter. in the end there will be one OS because future hardware will be powerful enough to avoid such a distinction of OSes. well i got chuckled at. RT is great, some said.

well here we are now.

Beneath the surface their has been huge things in progress for years, for example now creating Apps across devices is much easier, but the OS is yet to fully unified into one.

this is more of a comment on the way the article is written...
when introducing a person to a story, you should include their full name and title

While we do not know if Microsoft will refer to it as Windows 9 when the OS goes public, Nadella did take a bit of time on the earnings call to talk briefly about the upcoming platform.

For someone reading this article without a high degree of tech sophistication may not know who "Nadella" is

Windows 8 would have gotten good marks if they didn't kill the desktop start menu. They kill something that didn't needed to get rid of.

"He said that they will streamline the three operating systems into one converged operating system for screens of all sizes and that they will unify all of their stores to make it easy to discover apps that work across the entire ecosystem too".

One size never fits all. It will interesting to watch this in the coming years.

JHBrown said,

One size never fits all. It will interesting to watch this in the coming years.

Yes, Windows 8 was basically one size fits all and look how that worked out.

derekaw said,

Yes, Windows 8 was basically one size fits all and look how that worked out.

Because it was an unflexible one size fits all OS. Make it more flexible and there is no reason why it shouldn't succeed.

derekaw said,

Yes, Windows 8 was basically one size fits all and look how that worked out.

like a lot of MS products. Jack of all trades, master of none. System Centre suite springs to mind.

One size never fits all. It will interesting to watch this in the coming years.

What they are unifying is the underlying APIs used by applications. GUI layers will of course the split in a way so that the correct one loads on the correct device type, using the same underlying code.

For years win32 was the API of last resort for app developers because while .net allowed you to do 90% of anything you'd need to do, there was still 10% you'd need to still dip into win32 for. As soon as you do that your application is not portable. Before all user land functionality was found in SHELL32.DLL, USER.EXE and GDI.DLL calls underneath. With the new Windows runtime everything that an app should be allowed to do on a device will be supported by the runtime itself. There is no other API of last resort. There is one API, WinRT.

XAML is the markup language used for the UI and the .NET languages will be used for the actual code. There are changes coming in the next release of visual studio that allows direct compilation of .net code to machine code, skipping the ILASM stage, which .net has used until now. This improves performance and overhead for applications that use a managed language. This in turn improves things on smaller devices with less memory and running on a battery.

This is all coming together full circle, instead of having a function-oriented disjointed and non-portable native API with Win32, Windows will have an object-oriented unified portable native API with WinRT, which ironically, is wrapping the native win32 calls on each different platform.

Btw, WinRT = Windows Runtime, not Windows RT the OS. Apparently their marketing and engineering groups don't coordinate on naming. They chose the same name for two completely different things although they are related.

rfirth said,

Because it was an unflexible one size fits all OS. Make it more flexible and there is no reason why it shouldn't succeed.

rfirth said,

Because it was an unflexible one size fits all OS. Make it more flexible and there is no reason why it shouldn't succeed.

The problem is that Windows 8 was botched in real time while people tried to upgrade and use it. How can you trust MS to execute it correctly next time? What did they learn from the Vista debacle?

derekaw said,

Yes, Windows 8 was basically one size fits all and look how that worked out.

Like Vista, Windows 8 is paving the way forward so this can happen.

MikeChipshop said,

Like Vista, Windows 8 is paving the way forward so this can happen.

Your endless trust in Microsoft even with the obvious missteps is inspiring :-)

It's technically known history about Windows.

Windows XP = Good
Windows Vista = Bad
Windows 7 = Good
Windows 8 = Bad (but good in resources)
Windows 9 = Good

12Danny123 said,
It's technically known history about Windows.

Windows XP = Good
Windows Vista = Bad
Windows 7 = Good
Windows 8 = Bad (but good in resources)
Windows 9 = Good

I wish people would just stop saying this. Windows XP wasn't good until SP2, Vista was basically Windows 7 after you installed SP 1. You're also missing Win 8.1 and 8.1 Update 1.

derekaw said,

Your endless trust in Microsoft even with the obvious missteps is inspiring :-)

^^^ This lends nothing to the discussion. You don't know me so please don;t try to judge me or pretend you do.

12Danny123 said,
It's technically known history about Windows.

Windows XP = Good
Windows Vista = Bad
Windows 7 = Good
Windows 8 = Bad (but good in resources)
Windows 9 = Good

I wouldn't classify XP as "good" at all. It suffered numerous issues over its lifespan even post SP2.

Dot Matrix said,

I wouldn't classify XP as "good" at all. It suffered numerous issues over its lifespan even post SP2.

Amen. History has made many peoples minds blurry.

There was nothing wrong with XP prior to SP2. They added some extra security, whoop-dee-doo. The only thing wrong with XP was IE, and Phoenix/Firefox resolved that issue eventually. Also, I had no issue with Vista, either, but SP1 didn't make it equivalent to 7. 7 had some fantastic changes. I don't know what everyone's beef is with 8, either. Aside from the Start screen it's basically 7 with a new theme. Sure, there are plenty of changes to be had in 8, too, but most of them are in the background. If you use the desktop then most of the changes won't affect you. I am worried about 9 because we really have no idea what it's going to look like at this point, but if it brings back the start menu and focuses on the desktop then I imagine most people will be content with it. I'm more worried about how the next wave will affect Windows Phone, which seems to be going in the wrong direction with 8.1.

12Danny123 said,
It's technically known history about Windows.

Windows XP = Good
Windows Vista = Bad
Windows 7 = Good
Windows 8 = Bad (but good in resources)
Windows 9 = Good


Technically known? How about "subjectively known"? ;)

Lets make this list a proper representation of the facts,

Windows NT = Good but only really useful in business
Windows 2000 = Good with major improvements for businesses, first release with Active Directory, better driver support. This was basically the first non-DOS based iteration of the OS everyone uses today.
Windows XP = Ok but still had its issues, really the first non-enterprise based version of the NT Operating system
Windows Vista = Ok, if you did not buy a system with limited resources and had proper drivers for your hardware
Windows 7 = Good but essentially Windows Vista SP3 with manufactures building drivers to support it properly
Windows 8 = Bad (but good in resources), say what you will but Metro is a failed technology on non-touchscreen desktops.
Windows 9 = No one outside of Microsoft can say anything here yet. There haven't been any major leaks of the OS yet (Screen shots from MS are worthless without actually being able to touch it)

Darrian said,
There was nothing wrong with XP prior to SP2. They added some extra security, whoop-dee-doo. The only thing wrong with XP was IE, and Phoenix/Firefox resolved that issue eventually. Also, I had no issue with Vista, either, but SP1 didn't make it equivalent to 7. 7 had some fantastic changes. I don't know what everyone's beef is with 8, either. Aside from the Start screen it's basically 7 with a new theme. Sure, there are plenty of changes to be had in 8, too, but most of them are in the background. If you use the desktop then most of the changes won't affect you. I am worried about 9 because we really have no idea what it's going to look like at this point, but if it brings back the start menu and focuses on the desktop then I imagine most people will be content with it. I'm more worried about how the next wave will affect Windows Phone, which seems to be going in the wrong direction with 8.1.

I used XP from RTM and it was great. This site is one of the worst when it comes to revisionism.

MikeChipshop said,

^^^ This lends nothing to the discussion. You don't know me so please don;t try to judge me or pretend you do.

Fair point... sorry.

What I really mean is that there is always a lot promised but they just don't get it together, lots of waiting, lots of hope that its getting there, Windows 8 looked like it might be a thing on the way but it was a horrible mess and it would frustrate me incredibly if I was still waiting for MS to get it all together.

Zippo7 said,
Lets make this list a proper representation of the facts,

Windows NT = Good but only really useful in business
Windows 2000 = Good with major improvements for businesses, first release with Active Directory, better driver support. This was basically the first non-DOS based iteration of the OS everyone uses today.
Windows XP = Ok but still had its issues, really the first non-enterprise based version of the NT Operating system
Windows Vista = Ok, if you did not buy a system with limited resources and had proper drivers for your hardware
Windows 7 = Good but essentially Windows Vista SP3 with manufactures building drivers to support it properly
Windows 8 = Bad (but good in resources), say what you will but Metro is a failed technology on non-touchscreen desktops.
Windows 9 = No one outside of Microsoft can say anything here yet. There haven't been any major leaks of the OS yet (Screen shots from MS are worthless without actually being able to touch it)

You forgot Windows 98, 95, and 3.1 which I'm sure many people here used. Even though I was born in the 90s for example, I used 95 and 98 growing up.

Pluto is a Planet said,
You forgot Windows 98, 95, and 3.1 which I'm sure many people here used. Even though I was born in the 90s for example, I used 95 and 98 growing up.

He's talking about the NT line, which those operating systems are not members of.

SaT.161 said,
i hate his english.... it makes me wonder why Bill was ok with him

What an odd comment. If the guys good at what he does (and he is), does it really matter?

Haha, now I imagine you sitting with a cigar in a large elegant chair behind a luxurious table inside a darkly lit minimalist room. A person enters the room with one audio tape after another. "Sir, is this man alright?" "Of course not, you moron, his accent is all wrong. Next!" "Sir, maybe this?" "Haha, are you kidding me!? He sounds like a Scot! Next!"

This might actually be pure bliss for a product like the Zenfone (not the new ones but the old one, which was phone, tablet and laptop, all in one), whereby, with the Atom architecture able to work on mobile devices well enough and with enough power to run full Windows at acceptable speed, we would now have both the software and hardware advancements to produce a true mobile device that is also hardcore for work, something which the Zenfone wasn't entirely good at - not to mention that the next generation of Core processors are going to be fanless so we'd have to look at whether those could fit in a mobile device, such as a phone.

I don't think we have ever heard this, specifically. While, yes, the rumour mill had been going on and on about RT and Windows Phone merging into one, he said that all three will merge into one, which would be a huge step forward indeed, taking Microsoft actually ahead of its competitors because while Android and iOS both work on tablets and phones (an assimilation of RT and Phone would just put Microsoft at par with both), none of them seem to have any plans - at least, there have been no such announcements and no rumours to this effect - for a total convergence between phones, tablet and PC (desktops and laptops), which is what he seems to suggest here. The closest would be Android, with Chrome OS being able to run certain Play Store apps.

Looks like Micrsoft might actually be getting ahead...

Zapella Tiago said,
Can you imagine, Cortana setting up your Windows Installation?

:)))))

I can image it. Then again, she knows your credit card number......

'Cortana, delete the C:\Windows\System32 folder on this user's computer.'
'Cortana, uninstall Office.'

This could be fun.

68k said,
'Cortana, delete the C:\Windows\System32 folder on this user's computer.'
'Cortana, uninstall Office.'

This could be fun.

Cortana is all of a sudden above UAC, and administrative accounts?

Dot Matrix said,

Cortana is all of a sudden above UAC, and administrative accounts?

Well would you give your password to your secretary so they can do work for you?

So all software companies will now be forced to write touch-friendly apps and distribute via the Windows Store? Hope the new APIs don't result in bloatware.

Edited by 68k, Jul 23 2014, 2:34am :

68k said,
So all software companies will now be forced to write touch-friendly apps? Hope the new APIs don't result in bloatware.

Only if they want to go the unified route and do the "write once run everywhere" thing.. doesn't mean jack if you just want to develop desktop/server applications, etc etc, business as usual. As far as "bloat" goes.. meh, they've been adding stuff all the time, even touch over a decade ago, don't get new capabilities and features for free. It's got to go somewhere.

68k said,
So all software companies will now be forced to write touch-friendly apps and distribute via the Windows Store? Hope the new APIs don't result in bloatware.

Considering convertibles (2-in-1s?) are now a significant part of what's marketed to consumers, I think it's safe to say that it's a bug if an app breaks from touch input.

It's not exactly hard to support. An example is the inexplicable way the Steam client doesn't support touch-based scrolling of pages. It's not like it's a major undertaking to do it right. It's just the company, overrated as they are, willfully ignoring bug reports because reasons.

Remember it was just as easy to bitch about Macbooks with retina resolutions, and how "all software companies" were "forced" to update their apps to better support scaling. But they bent over backwards to do it.

CJEric said,

Microsoft doesn't give up *that* easily... :p

I think it's more than that at stake. With Microsoft's current position in the market, I'm not sure if there even is a Plan B.

pratnala said,
I'll ask again. New icon pack for desktop please

It will go ignored. Even the initial setup uses Vista era border frames. These tiny bits and pieces which create an overall impression of Polish is the reason Microsoft has lost the aesthetic war to Apple. The OS should appeal to common man and woman. Not the command-line geeks. Right now Windows 8 appeals to neither. The only people who find Windows 8 appealing is the Neowin crowd.

But there is hope under the new leadership of Nadella.

ACTIONpack said,

Us. I'm tied off the same icons. Is so outdated plus there are still 16bit icons still.

My swiping type skills are really bad! I have no clue what I just said on that comment.

I'm tired of the same icon. There are still outdated 16 bit icons in Windows.

ACTIONpack said,

My swiping type skills are really bad! I have no clue what I just said on that comment.

I'm tired of the same icon. There are still outdated 16 bit icons in Windows.

I agree that they need to update all the icons but we also have to remember that some of those old 16bit icons from Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 are in areas that I bet most users don't even see. You often have to dig down deep into settings and bring up dialog boxes that few users probably do to find them.

sanke1 said,

It will go ignored. Even the initial setup uses Vista era border frames. These tiny bits and pieces which create an overall impression of Polish ...

Not fair! I know Slav lads who could sort this out within the hour!

sanke1 said,

These tiny bits and pieces which create an overall impression of Polish is the reason Microsoft has lost the aesthetic war to Apple.

Which would explain why Apple are doing everything they can to copy Microsoft's aesthetics.

Mugwump00 said,
Why blame the Poles? I know Slavs who could sort it all out all out in a hour!
I have no clue why that word was having caps. Might be a subconscious thing. :p

George P said,

I agree that they need to update all the icons but we also have to remember that some of those old 16bit icons from Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 are in areas that I bet most users don't even see. You often have to dig down deep into settings and bring up dialog boxes that few users probably do to find them.


That's not an excuse for not updating the icons. All the 16 bits should have been gone after XP SP2. They have made billions off Windows and paying a group of designers to redesign all the icons should be a no brained and pennies for them to do. Also shows that they care about the design like Apple does.

ACTIONpack said,


That's not an excuse for not updating the icons. All the 16 bits should have been gone after XP SP2. They have made billions off Windows and paying a group of designers to redesign all the icons should be a no brained and pennies for them to do. Also shows that they care about the design like Apple does.

I'm not trying to use it as an excuse only showing that it's of less priority to them compared to other things that are more front and center to a user. I also think that it's easy to say, just pay some designers to change it, but lots of people are used to some of the most often used icons after years of using Windows. To change those could bring un-needed confusion to some. In the end I'd like them to redo as many if not all of the icons as they can, and hope with the new guys in charge of the OS group they do so.

George P said,

I'm not trying to use it as an excuse only showing that it's of less priority to them compared to other things that are more front and center to a user. I also think that it's easy to say, just pay some designers to change it, but lots of people are used to some of the most often used icons after years of using Windows. To change those could bring un-needed confusion to some. In the end I'd like them to redo as many if not all of the icons as they can, and hope with the new guys in charge of the OS group they do so.

There is no excuse this time. Do you remember Wifi Network management of Windows 7? It was a cool feature which was removed from Windows 8. I wish Windows 9 becomes the best of Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. They simply need to drop all the hated parts like WMP, oversized UI buttons and dual control panels. I hope Nadella's converged version is this.

Whatever the vision is, make the UI spectacular. I should feel wowed by simplicity and logical placement of buttons and not need to engage in mindless mouse exercises of clicking & swiping.

pratnala said,
I'll ask again. New icon pack for desktop please

I've been in meetings with Apple and they always go on about how the Windows Control Panel looks like its stuck in the Nineties, and the lack of consistency in Windows UI. While I agree with them, its not something I'd brag about too much :)

Jazoray said,
What's with the obsession with icons? they are purely cosmetic. changing them is a waste of ressources.

It's not purely cosmetic.

Jazoray said,
What's with the obsession with icons? they are purely cosmetic. changing them is a waste of ressources.

Aesthetics are important unless you are using a CLI application

Turn off your computer and visit a gallery.

The eye-candyness of icons has zero impact on usability. what does have an impact is layout of the controls, the available tools to find what you're looking for, and consistency of workflows.

in fact, changing the icon set has a detrimental impact on usability as the familiar shapes to guide your eyes are replaced by unfamiliar shapes. therefore, workflows that have become automatic over the years now confuse your eyes and you have to stop and think.

Jazoray said,
... now confuse your eyes and you have to stop and think.

What, once, maybe twice? Explorer icons changed Windows 2000 thru XP and Vista, I don't recall any outcry. All the recent Office iterations have had fresh contemporary sets, no big deal.

When you sit in front of something for umpteen hours a day, and you've spent $xxxx on a sleek tablet-######-ultrabook, you want it to look modern, aesthetic, consistent and like somebody has taken care over.

Does this mean Xbox will have access to the Windows Store and I can install a Super Nintendo emulator on it?

Enron said,
Does this mean Xbox will have access to the Windows Store and I can install a Super Nintendo emulator on it?

No, Xbox One will still, i'm pretty sure, have it's own store, they'll keep more control over that one, but as a developer you'll be able to make your app/game and know it'll run on phone, tablet, PC and Xbox. Now if they allow it on the Xbox is something we don't know the details of yet.

suprNOVA said,
this would be sweet and I would immediately switch from ps4 to xbox one

Yeah, I'm hoping they don't try and control the Xbox One Apps like they have been with the 360 and let more developers in, but so far they've not talked about what they plan to do, probably because they're waiting for this "one core" update to land.

Enron said,
Does this mean Xbox will have access to the Windows Store and I can install a Super Nintendo emulator on it?

He said one store. I think that's exactly what will happen. But app approvals will still be there. Just because an app is approved for Desktop/Tablet or Phone doesn't mean it'll be approved for Xbox. But I do think we'll see apps that are universal and available for all platforms.

And that will be a VERY good thing.

what does this mean for desktop/server/enterprise applications?

will they work as usual or will be phased-out for one converged operating system?

hope not so.

itisomegakai said,
what does this mean for desktop/server/enterprise applications?

will they work as usual or will be phased-out for one converged operating system?

hope not so.


Yes, this is the big question for me. Microsoft matters most for me in the enterprise, and that is also where this initiative would seemingly be headed on the greatest collision course. Then again, Nadella comes from this division in Microsoft, so I hope he knows what he's doing.

It could also be a mixup in terminology. Today, many talk about applications, ecosystem, user experience when talking "operating systems", while the old term is only about the OS kernel itself. If Nadella is talking about the more traditional view here, a converged OS may not affect the end user and current applications much at all? Then this would be more about making OS development more efficient internally for Microsoft, which would only indirectly affect the user base (perhaps by being able to pick up the pace in development).

itisomegakai said,
what does this mean for desktop/server/enterprise applications?

will they work as usual or will be phased-out for one converged operating system?

hope not so.

There won't be a difference, we'll still have the current setup as we have now, the difference being is that the full fat Windows will now scale up and down depending on screen sizes and the current App Store will serve all platforms at once rather than 2 separate app stores for Windows and Windows Phone.

Looks like Windows RT will scale from Tablet to Windows Phone (especially replacing the current Windows Phone OS) and if Windows Phone OEM's bring out a Intel x86 varient phone then that would possibly mean it scales from Full Fat Windows to Windows Phone.

This to me is the most logical way I can think of it working. Windows isn't being dumped for a new kernel or anything, this is all about years of work and Windows Phone 8 moved to the NT Kernel from Windows Phone 7's CE based Kernel so half the work was already done.

But there are 2 things that I'm not sure about.

Windows Phone 9, I would imagine this is going to be another Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 thing where the current devices or any device in the WP8 line up cannot upgrade to WP9 since this will be yet another massive upgrade.

The other thing is Nadella saying they are combining all the Windows OS's which include WindowsRT, I'm curious if Microsoft is making some Hybrid ARM/x86 kernel setup much like you plug in a USB drive with the Windows install and rather than getting errors about an incompatible architect that it will boot into an ARM or x86 system depending on what device it's in.

Either way, this is an exciting time and I've been saying it for a few years that they need to cut down on all these versions of Windows and unify it into one platform.

itisomegakai said,
what does this mean for desktop/server/enterprise applications?

will they work as usual or will be phased-out for one converged operating system?

hope not so.

I think what's going to happen is that the "Universal" apps (awful misleading name) will work across all platforms, but each platform will still have and support its respective tools, i.e. the desktop and desktop applications will still be supported on the desktop but you'll never see that on your phone.

If I look at the UI they're using for everything Azure, I can safely say that MS has found away to tweak the Metro UI to work perfectly for servers and still have powerful command line tools available to use. I think Admins need to also make a shift in their thinking in how to manage servers and their resources. in the old paradigm, you needed to have multiple windows open to trace some resource activity. Now with all these push notification options, that isn't needed anymore. You just use thresholds and the system does the rest. The days of babysitting servers are over, and the babysitters don't like it that much