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We're starting to hear more and more about Windows 9, but what big changes should we expect with Microsoft's new desktop OS? For starters, we should be treated with a new Start Menu, as well as windowed "Metro-style" apps.
Beyond that, it looks like Microsoft will be removing its Charms bar, which is an overlay from the right hand side of the OS that gives users quick access to search, share, the Start screen, devices and settings. This new information is being reported by The Verge, which has seen the changes in the latest builds of Windows Threshold, the codename for Microsoft's upcoming OS. Charms are useful for touch-based systems, something I often used to quickly search for something on my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Ultrabook, but outside of that, it's close to useless on traditional mouse and keyboard setups.
Another new addition to Windows 9 is the rumored virtual desktops feature, that will see power users and enterprise customers welcoming the new OS. Windows has supported virtual desktops before, but always through third-party software, but now Windows 9 users will be capable of creating their own separate active desktops, with the ability of switching between by clicking, or tapping a button on the taskbar. The addition of virtual desktops shows that Microsoft is getting serious about its focus on the desktop.
Ever since Google officially unveiled Android L at Google I/O 2014 a few months ago, we've been wondering which devices would receive the new OS, and when. Well, now we can confirm that the Moto X smartphone will definitely be receiving Android 5.0 when it is released.
Google+ user Josh B. asked Motorola's Punit Soni whether the Moto X is "still going to get android L (5.0) to which the Motorola executive replied "Yep". We don't know whether any of Motorola's other Android-powered smartphones will be getting the updated OS, but we should hopefully have more information on that closer to the release of Android L.
Mary Jo Foley, who is usually pretty good with rumors about Microsoft, has some more information on the next version of Windows, currently known as Windows 9. We should expect Windows 9 to be released in April 2015, which would see the next update to Windows 8.1, 'Update 2', should be released this month, with Update 3 only coming with a few improvements. We could see Update 3 scrapped if Microsoft diverts its energy toward Windows 9.
When it comes to Windows 9, there's an interesting spin on Microsoft's upcoming OS: it could be a free upgrade to Windows XP, Vista and 7 users in order to get the adoption of Windows 9 much, much higher than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. This wouldn't just be a great thing for Microsoft, but for the entire industry as it will shift many more copies of its OS, which would convince people to upgrade or possibly buy a new PC.
The latest numbers from market research firm Strategy Analytics for Q2 2014 see that Google is completely dominating the mobile OS market, with Android hitting a global market share of 84.6%, up from 80.2% in the same quarter of last year.
Google's biggest competitor, Apple, has just 11.9% market share, which is down 13.4% from the same period of 2013. Microsoft has also lost market share to Google, dropping from 3.8% in Q2 2013 to 2.7% in Q2 2014. BlackBerry is barely hanging on, dropping from an already low point of 2.4%, to just 0.6% this year.
When it comes to smartphone manufacturers, Xiaomi has become the world's fifth-largest brand, which has Strategy Analytics calling the company a "star performer" for taking control of 5% of the global smartphone market by shipping 15.1 million units. Samsung is still number one, with 74.5 million smartphones shipped in Q2 2014, down from 76 million units in the same quarter of 2013. Apple shipped more units this year, hitting 35.2 million shipments, up from 31.2 million in Q2 2013.
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.