All eyes will be on Microsoft Tuesday when the company is expected to unveil the next version of Windows complete with a revamped Start menu. But Microsoft jumped the gun and teased the next version of Windows a little early to IT pros.
Over the weekend, a landing page for "Windows TH" appeared on TechNet, Microsoft's information portal for IT pros, with the headline "Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise." On the page, Microsoft called Windows TH the "next version of the Windows client operating system."
The leak was first reported by The Verge and Neowin on Saturday. Microsoft has since removed the Windows TH page. As usual, however, you can still catch a glimpse of Microsoft's early preview by perusing Google's cache.
Why it matters: There's a lot of interest surrounding the next version of Windows, which is largely seen as a course correction following mixed reaction to Windows 8. Many traditional desktop users and large organizations balked at Windows 8 and its focus on the new touch-centric Start screen and modern UI apps, which was seen as relegating the traditional desktop to second class status. Microsoft tried to improve the experience for desktop users with Windows 8.1, but the release of Windows 9 is where Microsoft's OS is truly expected to return the desktop to its former glory.
TH for Threshold
Google's most recent crawl of the now defunct TechNet web page was on September 19, so even though the page was only discovered over the weekend, the public page mentioning Windows TH was live for at least a week before it disappeared.
Presumably the TH stood for "Threshold," which is Microsoft's internal codename for the successor to Windows 8.1.
There's little else to glean from Microsoft's Windows TH page, but it does say that the upcoming Windows refresh will offer users "a familiar experience across multiple devices."
That's a nod to the expectation that while desktop users will see the modern UI de-emphasized, it will still be there as an option. The revamped Start menu will also have touches of the modern UI thanks to the presence of live tiles that sit to the right of the more traditional Start menu options.
What's in a name?
Thanks to a steady stream of leaks and Microsoft's own discussions, we have a good idea about what to expect from the next version of Windows. We may see the return of the Start menu, a hidden Start screen for PC users, multiple desktops, and possibly Windows Phone features such as a notification center and Cortana.
One big unknown, however, is what the next version of Windows will be called.
Windows TH/Threshold was likely just an internal codename and wouldn't make sense as a marketable name for the Windows refresh. During the months leading up to Tuesday, many expected Microsoft to name its latest release Windows 9 in keeping with the Windows 7 and Windows 8 releases. The name "Windows One" has also been bandied about.
An interesting theory that gained some momentum in recent weeks, however, is the notion that Microsoft may dump the numbering scheme and simply call everything Windows.
That appears to be what Microsoft is doing on mobile, largely dumping the "Phone" in Windows Phone and just referring to its mobile OS as Windows.
Doing something similar on desktops and tablets could help emphasize Microsoft's focus on creating a unified experience across its software for PCs, tablets, and smartphones.
Two other questions still outstanding is when Microsoft plans on releasing a public preview of Windows (9) and how much it will cost to upgrade to the new Windows when it hits store shelves.
At the moment, most Microsoft watchers aren't expecting Microsoft to release a public preview until early October, which means we could see a beta version of the new version of Windows as early as Friday, or the following week.
As for pricing, the president of Microsoft Indonesia recently said Windows (9) would be a free upgrade for Windows 8 and 8.1 users.
While actual details about pricing and upgrade plans may not surface anytime soon, we should find out on Tuesday when the world will be able to get its hands on the public preview of the next version of Windows.