Microsoft's Next Generation "Threshold" Product Releases Coming Next Year

The next major Windows 8 update and a new wave of Microsoft releases may arrive sometime in spring of 2015.

Those two possibilities were floated today in an article by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, based on her anonymous sources. Microsoft would not comment on the claims, describing them as "rumors and speculation." Foley offered no details about what this "Update 1" to Windows 8.1 might entail, although she indicated its release was planned to coincide with an update to Windows Phone.

Foley's sources told her that the 2015 product wave launch, expected to arrive in the second quarter, is currently known internally at Microsoft by its code name, "Threshold." The code name is thought to be derived from the name of a planet in the first Microsoft Halo game. This Threshold wave will be a broad update to the operating systems used across Microsoft devices (Surface), smartphones (Windows Phone) and gaming consoles (Xbox) that share the Windows NT core, according to the article.

The spring 2015 launch of Threshold, if real, would fall a few months later than the annual OS update cadence that Microsoft executed with Windows 8.1. Microsoft released its Windows 8.1 update back in October, about a year after Windows 8.

Foley also speculated earlier that Microsoft might consolidate its ARM hardware development. Windows RT and the Windows Phone OS both currently run on ARM-based chips, but Microsoft could focus on just one of them going forward. She suggested that the Windows Phone OS would win out because of its smaller size, and that Microsoft might make that sort of consolidation by the spring of 2015.

Microsoft officials had always promised from the beginning that the Windows 8 platform would provide a way for developers to write programs once, although they currently still have to tweak the code of "Windows Store Apps" to run on Windows Phone. Under this scenario, traditional "Desktop" apps become the legacy applications to fade into disuse over time. Desktop apps still run on Windows 8 devices, but they don't run at all on Windows RT systems.

That single-platform-for-developers kind of message was reemphasized recently in a talk by Julie Larson-Green, executive vice president of Microsoft's newly formed Devices and Studios segment. Larson-Green stressed that Microsoft's Windows segment is wholly focused on the mobile operating system competition with Android and iOS. She didn't say that Microsoft would consolidate Windows RT under Windows Phone. However, she described Windows RT as Microsoft's "first go" at delivering a simplified experience for consumer users, and that Microsoft saw a need to maintain that sort of experience going forward.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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