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Hot on the heels of Microsoft's so-so fiscal fourth quarter earnings, CEO Satya Nadella has pledged that the Windows experience is set to be unified across all devices capable of running a variant of the OS.
Speaking with analysts during an earnings call, Nadella suggested Windows is currently a fragmented experience. "We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes," he said in the call. It is thought the efforts could also provide a much-needed boost to the company's ailing app ecosystem, which pales in comparison to the marketplaces on iOS and Android.
It was also confirmed that the company had scrapped a "new form factor" being developed - which could well be the Surface Mini, a teeny tablet running the much-mocked Windows RT, details of which leaked earlier this year. "During the quarter, we reassessed our product roadmap and decided not to ship a new form factor that was under development," CFO Amy Hood said in the call. Of course, it's unclear right now just what this means for the future of Windows, other than users hopefully getting a more seamless experience between devices, and perhaps a rethink of the future for Windows RT.
Microsoft hasn't hit the same popularity it did with Windows 7 with its latest two operating systems: Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, but will it strike the iron again with Windows 9? We are now being treated to an early look thanks to some leaked screenshots of the next version of Windows' Start Menu.
The new build of Windows is still codenamed "Threshold" which is another major desktop revamp, with one of those bits being the much-talked about Start Menu. We can see that the new screenshots show off an impressive looking Start Menu that features some "Metro-style" apps that are pinned to the Start Menu itself, as well as the usual applications to the left.
The Verge is reporting that these images are genuine, and are from the current development versions of "Windows 9". The second screenshot shows that Microsoft is hoping to have Metro-style apps run in the desktop as either fullscreen or windowed. This is a large part of Microsoft's plans for the upcoming version of its OS, something that will make mouse and keyboard users have a better experience on the desktop.
Microsoft's Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Turner, has said that his company faces a tough future, where he has said that Microsoft operating systems (in whichever form) only power a small amount of devices across the world.
During a presentation at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), Turner said: "The reality is the world's shifted, the world's evolved. We now measure ourselves in the total device space. And in the total device space we have a 14% share of devices, total worldwide devices". The new figures come from Gartner, which estimated that Windows share of the shipped devices market in 2013 was just 14%, and would decrease this year to 13.7%.
It's not all doom and gloom for Microsoft, which is under fresh control and direction, with Turner saying: "We have a much bigger opportunity than we've ever had in the past to grow our mutual businesses, but we have to rethink how we look at our businesses". The numbers are quite a shock considering Microsoft's operating systems power smartphones, tablets, desktop and notebook PCs, and a bunch of other devices such as 2-in-1 devices and much more.
Even thought millions upon millions of people still use Windows 7 across the world, Microsoft will be ending mainstream support of its most popular OS early next year.
The company normally supports its operating systems for a minimum of 10 years, with a minimum of five years for its 'mainstream' support - or for two years after its successor is released (in this case, Windows 8). Another minimum of five years (or an additional two years after its successor is released) in something Microsoft calls extended support.
During the first few years with mainstream support, Microsoft offers the OS security updates, non-security hot-fixes, performance enhancements, feature improvements and design changes, all for free, as well as still accepting warranty claims. Once this mainstream support has passed, and it is entering extended support, the company only provides security updates, and paid hotfix support.
Google has seen a nice increase in Android 4.4 KitKat usage over the last seven days, where the mobile OS has jumped onto 4.3% more devices. Last month, KitKat was sitting on 13.6% of Android devices, with this number now sitting at 17.9%.
When it comes to Android 4.1 - 4.3 Jelly Bean, it dropped from 58.4% last month to 55.5% in the first week of July. Android 4.0.x Ice Cream Sandwich is also down, from 12.3% to 11.4% and so is Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which dropped from 14.9% to 13.5%.
If you're an Android user, you should begin to get excited for the next iteration of Android, simply known right now as the 'L' release. Rewinding back to when Jelly Bean was released, which featured Project Butter - an initiative that improved the overall speed and performance of the entire OS.
When Google unleashed KitKat, we saw Project Svelte tightening things up, optimizing the installation of Android to run on just 512MB. This allowed entry-level smartphones and tablets to rock the latest mobile OS from Google, without requiring the latest and greatest hardware. Moving onto the new L release, which should arrive as Android 5.0, and its new Project Volta.
Project Volta has the aim of battery life in its sights, with Ars Technica getting its hands-on Android L's Project Volta, and chucking into a battery life test. In their Wi-Fi browsing test, the Android L Developer Preview was able to beat out Android 4.4 KitKat by 36%, which is a huge difference. This provides an additional two-or-so hours of battery life, which is some what of a small, but gigantic victory for Google. The testing itself was performance on what Ars Technica explains as a "beat-up, daily driver phone" so we should expect even better numbers with Google's official release.
Microsoft is having a very hard time convincing users of its operating system that it is worthwhile to upgrade. That means that the profitability for its Windows division isn't what it used to be. The next major Windows release is expected to happen in the spring of 2015.
The name of that major release is up in the air, it is being called Windows "Threshold" right now, but it could ultimately be called Windows 9. The main goal of the operating system is to lure Windows 7 holdouts to upgrade. To get Windows 7 users to go to a new OS, Microsoft will fit it with features specifically aimed at desktop users that interface with a mouse and keyboard or touch.
Reports indicate that the OS will use profiles that make it look different depending on what type of hardware it is running on. The next version of Windows will have versions that are designed for desktops and put Windows Desktop for legacy apps in the forefront and version that supports switching for convertible devices between metro-style mode and Windowed mode. Interestingly, there is some indication that Threshold may be a free update for everyone on Windows 8.1.
Google I/O 2014 - The L release of Android is getting a good tease at Google I/O, with the next iteration of Google's mobile OS fusing together the world of personal and corporate smartphones - seeing the same applications installed on both.
Within the OS, there is still data separation, so your personal data doesn't mix with the important work data. This will pave the way for the bulk deployment of apps too, which will make the lives of IT support staff that much easier. Samsung has worked closely with Google on this, with Google thanking Samsung for its contribution on their work on Knox.
Google I/O 2014 - There's an update coming out later in the year, which will allow you to use your Chromecast to blast your screen on your smartphone, to your TV.
You can mirror anything on the TV, including the camera app if that's what you wish. LG, HTC and Samsung will be supporting it, with a slew of smartphones to work with this technology, and many more to come.
Google I/O 2014 - Google just announced the impressive looking Android TV at Google I/O, but one of the bigger announcements that didn't seem to get much attention was who Google were working with.
Google will have Android TV powering the entire 2015 lineup of HD and UHD smart TV ranges from Sony, Sharp, TP Vision and Philips. Sony is a big partner here, and seems to be center stage for the Android TV platform. I'm excited to see what Sony can pull off with Android TV with its future HD and UHD sets.
Razer and ASUS will also be making Android TV-powered streaming boxes, which is another interesting thing to see.