I've had discussions over the past few weeks with groups that believe by skipping Windows 8 and waiting for Windows 9, they'll be able to avoid the whole Metro fiasco.
Microsoft continues to improve the variety of user experiences on Windows. What was clearly an attempt (and a mistake) to woo the consumer market with touchscreen capability with the first release of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and the upcoming Spring release (Windows 8.1 Update 1 is said to release in April 2014) have made advances in areas to bring the rest of Windows users into the fold. Windows 8.1 Update 1 builds on Windows 8.1 by providing a better computing experience for desktop users – those users that are the real reason why Windows enjoys a large market share. Microsoft ignored them completely. What will release in April is much closer to what should have released in the first place.
Many companies are continuing to avoid Windows 8 completely, almost in direct retaliation of Microsoft forgetting about them. Windows 7 is winning the day and the desktops within organizations. Obviously, Microsoft never wanted it to happen this way. In a recent keynote at XChange Solution Provider 2014, Cindy Bates, Microsoft VP of US SMB and Distribution, said that choosing Windows 7 over Windows 8 is a bad move. Bates goes on to suggest that Windows 8.1 fixed all customer complaints. Clearly, this doesn't sync with what customers actually believe. Even if Windows 8.1 Update 1 finally addresses all customer issues with the latest version of Windows, it comes too late. Those that are hustling through Windows XP migrations don’t have time to take a wait-and-see attitude over Windows 8.1 Update 1, so they are choosing Windows 7 – now.
Bates makes another statement, addressed to partners attending the event, that by promoting Windows 7 over Windows 8 for Windows XP migrations, the customer is getting a disservice. Initially, you might assume she said this because Windows 8 is better, more secure, and more modern, but it goes further than that. Bates is actually giving insight into the future of Windows and what could be shaping Windows 9.
Early on, during the initial release of Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface devices, Microsoft stated that Windows RT is the future. Windows RT is a powerful variation of Windows but was not well received, primarily because it cannot run "legacy" applications. Windows RT can only run apps available from the Windows app store, designed to run in the Metro UI. In a non-touchscreen computing society this is ludicrous. But, the "Metro" interface is not going away, in fact, if anything it will be further enhanced and extended into all versions of Windows and Microsoft products.
Microsoft's work on Windows 9 is ongoing and will continue to follow the company's strategy – a strategy that is all Cloud. As the availability of Windows store-provided apps increases, and legacy vendors rework their apps to run on touchscreens, there will be less and less need for legacy applications. For those legacy apps that are slow to catch up, and as VDI becomes a more prominent Cloud service, an RT-like OS can simply run the old apps from the Cloud.
So, if you think you can avoid "Metro" by skipping Windows 8, you're sorely wrong. With Windows 8, Microsoft is preparing the Windows world for the future. There will be more Cloud, not less. More Cloud and less reliance on-premise applications, services, and hardware. And, more touchscreen nonsense. Some seem to think that Windows 9 will reintroduce all of the things that Windows 8 took away. But, if anything, Windows 9 will start to look more and more like Windows RT.
Despite my public bashing of the Google Chromebook and how limiting the OS is, I've always maintained that this type of OS is the future. Heavy on Cloud and light on storage and local processing. I've also said that with ChromeOS, Google is ahead of its time. I truly believe that the computers of the future will be nothing more than a web browser with a keyboard. And, I believe that Microsoft foresees this, too.
There are those that have said Microsoft will abandon Windows RT completely, but I don't believe that's the case. I believe it will only be extended, enhanced, and improved and eventually come to be known as: Windows 9.