Up until now, we've referred to the next big Windows release as "Threshold." This version is expected to appear in Q2/Q3 of 2015, arriving after what's currently dubbed as Windows 8.1 Update 3 in Q1 2015. Right now it's unclear whether the Threshold platform will be officially called Windows 9 or branded as Windows 8.2.
Unnamed sources have told ZDNet that Windows 9 will address Windows 7 users by adding a whole set of new features for desktop users. Windows 8.1 Update 1 began to address this, but the news coming from those sources point to an even larger desktop-oriented focus. Windows Threshold will work and look differently on a desktop than it will on a touch-based device.
For example, when running Windows Threshold in a mouse and keyboard environment, the desktop will be the platform's main focus. If Windows Threshold is installed on a 2-in-1 device, the interface will depend on whether the keyboard is connected (desktop) or not (Start screen).
On devices like tablets and smartphones, "Threshold Mobile" will not have a desktop environment but will still support having apps side-by-side. This SKU is expected to run on ARM-based Lumia phones, ARM-based Windows tablets and possibly even Atom-based tablets.
Sources have also said that the Windows/Laptop SKU will feature the returned "Mini" Start menu, and the ability to run Windows Store apps in windows on the desktop. There's a possibility that Windows Threshold will have a toggle to completely turn off the Start screen as well as the live-tile interface on the Start Menu.
The big news here is that Windows Threshold may go into public preview mode this fall. ZDNet's report throws out the possibility of Update 3, and moves Update 2 to the end of July -- two weeks before August 12, aka August Patch Tuesday. Because the Mini Start Menu was pushed back into Windows Threshold, sources are now saying that Update 2 won't be anything major like Update 1.
The report states that Microsoft is pushing Windows 7 users to install Service Pack 1 and Windows 8 users to install Windows 8.1 Update 1 so that they'll be ready for Windows Threshold when it's released next year. Sources claim that Windows Threshold will be a free upgrade for Windows 8.1 customers and possibly even Windows 7 Service Pack 1 customers.