Beta software for the next major version of Windows, expected to be called Windows 9, may be available as a public download as early as September. Photo: Mashable
If you upgraded to Windows 8 or 8.1 and want out, there may soon be an alternative to simply downgrading to Windows 7. Microsoft is reportedly going to offer pre-release versions of the next major Windows upgrade, currently codenamed "Threshold," as a public download in the fall of 2014.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reports Microsoft is planning to release the software in late September or early October. Although there's no official name yet for the release, it's widely expected to be called Windows 9.
To be clear, this will be beta software — probably buggy and lacking all the planned features — not the general release what everyone expects to be called Windows 9. Although Microsoft hasn't said anything about when Windows 9 will go on sale, the report mirrors others that point to early 2015 as the general timeframe.
Before then, though, users will be able to get Windows 9 from a public beta site, the report says. This isn't unusual for Windows: Microsoft offered "preview" builds for both Windows 7 and Windows 8 before their release. Although the software was ostensibly for developers, anyone interested could download and install it.
The report suggests there will be a more streamlined public download process for Windows 9, however. Those who choose to install it will need to agree to automatic monthly updates, making it similar Apple's public beta program for OS X Yosemite, whose download/upgrade process is separate from what's already in place for developers. For previous Windows cycles, the beta software progressed from developer, consumer and release previews, but there was no distinction in what was offered to developers and members of the public.
Microsoft previewed some of the features of Windows 9 "Threshold" at its annual Build developers conference in 2014. For starters, it's bringing back the Start Menu — whose absence is a big criticism of Windows 8/8.1. It'll also let users run Window Store apps (AKA Modern apps) within individual windows on the Desktop.
Other rumoured changes include the elimination of the Charms menu that peeks in from the right side of the screen in Windows 8.1 as well as possible integration of Cortana, the digital assistant in Windows Phone.
Representatives for Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
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