Two years ago, Microsoft launched Windows 8 to great fanfare. It was faster, sleeker and more mobile-friendly than past versions of Windows.
It moved away from programs to "apps." It did away with the antiquated Start menu in favor of a flashy, modern Start screen. It was the future of everything!
And it bombed.
Even before it came out, the tech world was warning Microsoft that it was too big of a change for the average user. In fact, we said it was frankly too confusing for anyone.
Sure enough, for two years my inbox has been filled with listeners complaining about Windows 8 and asking how to get back to Windows 7 or even XP.
Microsoft has made a few tweaks here and there to improve the situation - bringing back a limited start button, letting users start on the Desktop instead of the Start screen, etc. It still isn't enough.
Like Windows Vista, Windows 8 already has a bad rep that won't go away. Fortunately for Microsoft - and us - the magnificent Windows 7 followed Vista and it's one of the best versions of Windows ever made. So, will the upcoming Windows 9 do the same thing for Windows 8?
The biggest news in Windows 9 is the return of the Start menu. This is a familiar sight for Windows users and should go a long way toward getting things back to normal.
The Start screen is still there for mobile users and if you want it, but for desktop and non-touch laptop users, Windows 9 will default to the Desktop and Start menu.
Of course, this isn't quite the Start menu of yore. It includes the fancy live tiles like the Windows 8 Start screen, and a few things have been moved around. Still, it's a nice compromise and I think people will like it.
Watch it in action courtesy of WinFuture:
Right now, the difference between programs and apps in Windows 8 is confusing. It doesn't help that apps launch full screen, whether they need the space or not.
Fortunately, in Windows 9, apps will run in windows, just like programs. So you can resize them and move them around the desktop. That means you can get more things on the screen at once.
I'm a big fan of multiple computer screens to increase productivity. However, a similar software-based solution is virtual desktops. Other operating systems have had this feature for more than a decade, but Windows has been a holdout.
Well, it's finally here. You can set up desktops for media, work, browsing and other tasks, each with its own programs running. Then switch back and forth with the tap of a key.
See how this will work in Windows 9, again courtesy of WinFuture:
It's coming soon and it might be free
The best part of Windows 9 is that it's coming soon. Microsoft is unveiling the first official preview version on September 30. The final version could be anywhere from Christmas to spring 2015, but it shouldn't be later than that.
Then there's the rumors that if you're upgrading from Windows 8.1, Windows 9 might be free - or at least as cheap as $20. That's a very Apple-like strategy and one Microsoft needs to adopt if it wants to shake off the bad taste of Windows 8.