You can expect the next major version of the Windows operating system to debut as a "technology preview" in September or October of this year, it's claimed.
According to ZDNet, a technology site with a good track record when it comes to Windows rumours, Microsoft wants to release a technology preview of its Windows 9 operating system, which currently has the codename Threshold, by late September 2014 or early October 2014. The report cited multiple unnamed sources and said the technology preview should include monthly automatic updates.
Windows 9 Threshold is expected to abandon the colourful tile layout of Windows 8 in favour of the traditional Start menu. Microsoft is even rumoured to be working on a feature called the Mini Start menu, and a leak from earlier this year showed that it looked like an old Windows Start menu but with some Metro-style apps that debuted with Windows 8. Microsoft basically wants the next major version of Windows to be noticeably different from Windows 8.
In fact, the company also plans to completely remove the Charms bar from its operating system and add virtual desktops. Although the Charms bar is considered useful for touch-enabled devices, its effect is largely lost when a mouse and keyboard are thrown into the mix. That said, the current build of Threshold, which is expected to launch sometime next spring, reportedly has Metro-style windows apps featuring title bars with menus and Charm features.
Threshold will also allegedly include a number of new features to improve Windows' usability on non-touch devices and hybrid devices. There hasn't been any leaks so far that indicate how much Threshold will cost (let alone what it will be officially called or when it will specifically launch), but ZDNet emphasised Microsoft wants to release a public preview of Threshold to anyone interested toward the end of calendar 2014.
It's not clear if the Windows 9 Threshold public preview and the Windows 9 Threshold technology preview are considered the same thing, but we've contacted Microsoft for a comment and will update if we learn more.