What’s Next for Windows?
The last two weeks have given us a few clues about the future of Windows, they are slight, but they are exciting nonetheless. For those who haven’t heard at Microsoft Build two weeks ago, CEO Satya Nadella dropped a small hint during his keynote address, “one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade.” This was followed up by a tease and invite this week from Panos Panay (Chief Product Officer):
An invite to watch a livestream for press, enthusiasts, developers, Microsoft MVPS, and anyone curious to see what is coming next for one of those most used Operating Systems on the planet. This begs the question, what is it? What could possibly be coming? As a Windows Insider MVP I am not going to speculate, nor do I know anything. I will present what we know and lay the facts out on the table.
For many years Windows was on a fairly predictable schedule of a whole new version every 3 years(ish). We went from 95 – 98 – ME – XP – Vista – 7 – 8 – 10 at a nice clip. Some of these versions were more well received, and some less so by consumers (As an IT admin I really appreciated some of the under-the-hood things they did in Vista and even 8). 95 was a huge release giving us the Start Menu for the very first time. XP was probably the next major release as it further refined its predecessors and became the “Modern” OS of the Internet age. Windows 7 gave us refinements of Vista with a fresh look and some very nice aesthetics with Aero. 8 tried too hard to be a tablet, and 10 gave us the foundation of where we stand today. 10 was and still is an amazing version of Windows. It is by far the most stable, secure, and productive OS released to date.
If Windows was still following the same release pattern as before we would have had one more major release since the release of Windows 10 in 2015, with 2021 being the release of the next-next version, or 12 following a conventional numbering scheme. That being said there have been some major Feature Updates to Windows 10 since the 2015 release, and many of you (myself included) would be surprised to go back and use that 2015 version. Reaching for features that didn’t exist or wondering why certain features are so limited.
So what could possibly come next? There are many theories out there and the Windows Team is not engaging with any of them as we wait for June 24th to reveal all to us. I watched Build with a close eye to see if they slipped up and demoed any thing using the new product, and there were no surprises, everyone using versions of Windows that are public. There are a few things in the Dev channel builds that can give us some ideas. Recently the Dev Channel builds have been a little flat with not much in them (and in fact this week we didn’t even get one). My thinking is this is on purpose as they are not wanting to reveal anything before the public event. By now the Beta Channel would be testing the next Feature Update and it is still stuck on 21H1. I have three PC’s/VMS in the three different channels and they are all the same as my production computer.
However, in the most recent Dev channel builds there has been a lot of work on aesthetics, with Microsoft further rolling out the Fluent Design that they created in 2017. We have seen new icons for Task Manager, Windows Explorer, shell folders, and even Windows Defender. There are updates to the Segue font used in the UI. For the more advanced you can run a Linux GUI app directly within Windows Subystem for Linux (WSL). Windows Terminal has even made it directly into the build (YES!!!) as well as the poison pill for Internet Explorer.
To me this all suggests a focus on increasing productivity, usability, while giving Windows a fresh (and I hope consistent look) as Windows enters this next decade with increased competition from mobile first OS’s that are more for consumption then creation of content. The PC is the workhorse, it’s the pickup truck of the modern world. Windows .Next is the new model coming out of the factory with new creature comforts but built on the same foundation that has led us to this point. You still recognize it as a truck, but it’s got better handling, better shocks, better MPG, and a sweet look.
Whatever it will be, tune in on Jun 24th to find out! And while you are at it, spin up that VM, dust off a PC, or live on the wild side and join the Insider program today. Whatever the next version is, you know the first people to take it for a test drive will be the Windows Insiders. Ask me how! I can’t wait to see what’s next!