What changes should Microsoft implement in Windows 'Threshold'?

Microsoft took a huge gamble with Windows 8, reinventing its operating system for tablets and touch screen PCs. Unfortunately, when it was first released there really weren’t many touch devices for it to run on, and the majority of desktop users (myself included) hated the bolted on full screen Modern UI that replaced the traditional Start menu.

With Windows 8.1, a lot of the complaints aimed at the tiled OS have been addressed. Desktop users can pretty much avoid the Modern UI altogether, and overall 8.1 is a much more polished affair. Despite the improvements and near ubiquity on new hardware, Windows 8/8.1 is still struggling to find an audience. Last month, Windows 7’s growth was four times that of the newer OS. So where does Microsoft go from here? Mary Jo Foley of the All About Microsoft blog reports the answer is "Threshold".

Microsoft is at something of a crossroads, with four similar, yet different, operating systems -- Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8, Windows RT and the Xbox One OS. In a recent UBS seminar in Sausalito, California, Julie Larson-Green, executive vice-president of Devices and Studios at Microsoft, said: "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three". A lot of people took that statement to mean RT would be phased out, or converged with Windows Phone.

Foley says Threshold (the codename derives from a planet in the original Halo game) will be a "wave of operating systems across Windows-based phones, devices and gaming consoles" and bring the Xbox One, Windows and Windows Phone operating systems closer together.

As well as linking to a single app store, and making it easier for developers to create apps able to run across all devices, Foley says Threshold "will add another level of commonality across Microsoft's various Windows-based platforms" and "support the same core set of 'high value activities'". In July, CEO Steve Ballmer sent out a reorganization email to Microsoft employees, in which he categorized these high value activities as "serious fun, meetings, tasks, research, information assurance and IT/Dev workloads".

Foley’s article is light on details -- it’s just a name really, and some talk about shared commonality. But at this point, provided her information is correct, that’s to be expected.

The "shared commonality" aim is definitely a real thing, as Executive Vice President Terry Myerson is in charge of a new unified operating system engineering group at Microsoft designed for that very purpose. The different operating systems share many common elements already, yet are currently poles apart in many of the areas where it really matters. Tying them closer together is a serious no brainer.

Microsoft is working on bringing Windows Phone 8.1 out in spring next year, and will deliver a Windows 8.1 update, called "Windows 8.1 update 1" at around the same time, according to Foley (personally, I’d like it to be called "Windows 8.11" in a nod to the past). Threshold, is expected to arrive a year later. If that timescale is correct, it means Microsoft doesn’t have all that long to make sweeping wholesale changes, but if the primary aim is to unify the core elements of the existing operating systems without reinventing the wheel then it’s doable.

If you were in charge of Windows, what changes would you be looking to introduce to the next version of the OS?

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