After the immensely successful Windows XP and the fairly well-received Windows 7, Microsoft drew a blank with its touch-supported Windows 8. Quite a few improvements and additional features are required in Windows 9, scheduled to come out next year, to pull up the popularity of Microsoft systems once again. We here focus on some of these requirements.
Microsoft has been trying its best to establish that its Windows 8 OS platform has overcome initial hiccups, and become relatively popular among worldwide users. This February, the company announced that over 200 million licences for the OS had been sold – a sign that people have accepted it. A closer look at this figure, however, reveals ample scopes for scepticism. For starters, sale of licences does not equate to the number of PCs on which Windows 8/8.1 is actually installed. Also, many users have availed of the option of downgrading to Windows 7, since Microsoft’s newest platform had failed to impress them. With Windows 9 expected to be unveiled some time in the first half of 2015, we highlight some features that would bolster its popularity levels:
- Motion control – Experts on software and iOS app development agree that the acquisition of PrimeSense has been instrumental in enhancing the user-friendliness of Apple devices. Microsoft has already dabbled in similar gesture control features in Kinect and, on a much more theoretical level, in Windows 8. If the motion control capabilities are implemented in a seamless manner in Windows 9, the OS would be innovative and user-friendly – and adoption rates are likely to be high.
- Bluetooth calling feature – Let’s face it – if in-car systems can be paired with mobile devices for voice calls, there’s no earthly reason why the same can’t be done with a desktop or laptop computer. Provided that Microsoft ensures that the Bluetooth adapter(s) of Windows 9 are robust enough, users would only need good speakers and a webcam to pair their Android phone or iPhone, for voice-calling. Of course, rigorous pre-release testing would be required – to minimize risks of frequent call drops.
- Speed and responsiveness – Windows 8 does not really lag on this count, but the upcoming OS platform has the opportunity of going one better. Instead of having to adjust features via the Control Panel (as in Windows 8), people should get a Windows Store-like seamless interface, where desktop properties will be much more easily manageable. In addition to the responsiveness to the latest hardware systems, Microsoft needs to pay attention to the cold booting speed of Windows 9 as well.
- More systematic Windows Updates – No one (okay, there maybe a few exceptions!) likes Windows Updates in their current form. The entire framework is old-fashioned, it takes frustratingly long to patch new updates, and users often find that additional updates have become available soon after they have finished installing a series. Cases of updates not getting installed (with diagnostic tests not yielding any results) are fairly common as well. In Windows 9, the updates framework needs to be revamped entirely. People should get fewer, more customized, and easier to install stuff.
- Improved searchability – A major bane of Windows 8 is its complicated in-system search option. In its bid to make things more organized, Microsoft had put in three different tabs under the search box – for files, web apps and settings respectively. A simpler, and more holistic search feature (maybe with the tabs being rearranged into columns) would surely find favor among users. Looking up a file or an application should not take more than a few seconds.
- Social sharing options with Internet Explorer – Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox might combine to take up the lion’s share of the online browser market, but Internet Explorer (IE) is not quite dead yet. To give it a much-needed, and much-delayed, thrust, implementing direct social sharing options in it (for sharing links and URLs to Facebook, Twitter, etc.) would be a great option. Also, Microsoft should seriously consider doing away with the concept of two modes of IE. Hardly anyone uses the immersive version without Touch, and a single version would keep things less confusing.
- Revival of Gadgets – Windows Vista was an unmitigated disaster all right – but it did bring Gadgets for the first time to desktop screens. They remained in Windows 7, allowing users to set up a wide range of things on their screens – ranging from calendar and weather updates, to CPU performance meters and foreign exchange converters. Most people were disappointed when Gadgets were discontinued in 2012, on the grounds that they opened up chances of online hack attacks. Surely the experts at Microsoft can bulk up the security controls in Windows 9, and bring back Gadgets? Windows apps have not been an adequate substitute.
- Availability of Hyper-V – When a user installs a new operating system on his/her computer, (s)he cannot simply say goodbye to the older apps. Sadly, compatibility is a major issue in this regard. Microsoft can take a cue from the server-side controls and latest mobile app frameworks, and include Hyper-V in its upcoming Windows 9 platform. That way, the old applications would remain operable in separate sandboxes/containers, and would be integrable with the newer apps.
- Smooth data backup options – The Time Machine feature in Apple iMac systems allow them to steal a march over Microsoft PCs. It’s high time the Windows platform allowed people to set up an automatic data recovery system – which would keep all their important files and folders secure and easily accessible, at all times. When users would have greater confidence in the security of their data, they will willingly move over to Windows 9.
- More personalized UI – Make no mistake, Microsoft has been aware of this requirement for some time now. The Live Tiles feature was launched precisely to provide users with a more customized desktop experience. Windows 9 should move this feature further, with easily changeable start screen backgrounds and display images. On the generally ‘locked-up’ iPhones too, Apple is bringing more customization via iOS 8. Doing the same should be a relatively straightforward task for Microsoft.
- Taskbar with enhanced functionality – Currently, creating groups of items on the Start screen of Windows is a pain, particularly for those upgrading from older versions (for instance, XP). Windows 9 should ideally have a taskbar that would make this easier. The overall data migration process should be automated (instead of the manual option present now). Mac fans are not going to switch to Windows anytime soon – the least Microsoft can do is make sure that users of Windows XP or 7 do not wander away too.
- Better battery backup – The Metro environment in Windows 8/8.1 has been only partially successful in enhancing the notoriously low battery life of computers. Devices powered by x86 processors still offer a maximum backup of 8 hours, while that on machines with ARM technology boast of battery life of one day (which, again, is nothing to write home about). The API’s on Microsoft’s upcoming platform should manage power consumption levels in a smarter manner.
- Lower the pressures on the solid-state drive – From downloads to system files, every file and folder related to the OS gets stored in the solid-state drive (SSD) of systems (usually, the C-drive). While it is not impossible to increase the space here, people have to incur additional expenses for doing so. The much larger hard-disk drives (HDD) should be brought more in use, in Windows 9. Creating a popup for asking users whether they would like to save data on SSD or HDD won’t be a difficult task at all.
iPhone app developers often point to the seamless syncing features of OS X platforms with mobile devices as one of the key reasons behind the former’s sustained popularity. Windows 9 should also be easily pairable with the new line of Windows Phones (that would help in the acceptance of the handsets as well). While the range of Metro apps (pictures, mail, and even the calculator) is decent enough, their quality requires a major overhaul in Windows 9. People would love to have better notification management features as well. Windows XP has more or less run its course, and Windows 8 (inspite of all the claims from Microsoft) has fared only marginally better than Vista. It’s up to Windows 9 to re-establish Microsoft as one of the leaders in desktop operating system development.