As Microsoft prepares to unveil a Windows 8.1 update that will reportedly make mouse users happier, the next version of Windows could spell doom for the desktop altogether. At this week's Build conference in San Francisco, the company is expected to provide a sneak peek of Windows 9, which will provide one experience across phones, tablets and PCs.
This particular version of Windows 9 won't be the only flavor of the OS, according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, but it's clear that Microsoft wants to move away from legacy desktop apps.
In fact, Microsoft is also expected to unveil a touch-friendly version of Office at Build, which makes sense in light of the recent debut of Office for iPad. Many see a Modern version of Office for Windows as one of the last key pieces of the puzzle.
Predicted to arrive in the spring of 2015, the sku of Windows 9 that would run on multiple types of devices is codenamed Threshold. It would power Windows Phones, as well as ARM-based tablets and PCs.
At Build Microsoft will also likely provide a clearer roadmap for developers on how to write one app for both Windows Phone and Windows 8. Despite the two operating systems sharing a similar core, we haven't seen many apps that take advantage of both platforms.
What about today's Windows? The update to Windows 8.1 should make keyboard and mouse users feel more at home with the OS. For example, rumors point to a taskbar that's easy to access when you're on the Start screen and using Modern apps.
So why go through this trouble to make Windows more desktop friendly if Windows 9 could make it irrelevant? As tablets and phones become the computing device of choice, Microsoft will likely offer a version of the OS that caters to traditional PCs, but the bigger thrust will likely be mobile. That's where the world is going, whether Windows fans like it or not.
What remains to be seen is whether Microsoft can really pull off an operating system that feels natural on small, medium and large screens. Apple, for example, has no plans to conjoin the mobile and desktop experiences. PC makers, however, have been a lot more aggressive in creating 2-in-1 laptop-tablet hybrids that seek to offer the best of both worlds.
We'll have to wait and see whether Windows 9 will finally realize that vision--or cause shoppers to embrace other platforms.