Windows 9 (Threshold): Welcome to Modern UI 2.0

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Modern UI

The Start Screen is a feature available in Windows 8.x and is loved by many. Admittedly, it had a rough start when it first entered the market thanks to Microsoft and its idea that the Start Screen was suitable for devices that didn’t support touch. The Start Screen and Modern UI has come a long way since it’s original debut with Windows 8.0, and it’s about to get a lot better with Threshold.

WinBeta can reveal that Windows Threshold will include an updated Modern UI when it launches in 2015. The new Modern UI is set to include a whole bunch of new features which is aimed to align it with competing tablet operating systems like iOS and Android. The Modern UI (being the Start Screen and related apps) will be front and center with tablets, and will remove the desktop for tablets devices which do not need it.

There is no middle ground between devices that have the Modern UI and devices that have the desktop. You either have the desktop or you have the Modern UI, you cannot have both. As reported around a month ago, the Start Menu for desktop users in Windows Threshold can ‘act’ like a full screen Start Menu however, meaning if you want that functionality you can have it on the desktop. This will be helpful for devices like the Surface Pro 3.

The removal of the desktop has been talked about about in the past, and will be mostly apparent with Windows RT devices. Current Win32 applications are being replaced with Modern UI alternatives which means the desktop will have no real use. Of course, the removal of the desktop isn’t for all devices, so don’t be alarmed fellow desktop users.

The idea with Threshold on tablets is to make it an immersive experience. The inclusion of the Desktop with Windows RT was a huge mistake for Microsoft. It’s a jarring transition between both environments and consumers never really knew which one they wanted to use. With Threshold, Microsoft wants to make sure that devices which run the Modern UI and devices which run the desktop and distinctly different, and the way they’re doing this is simple.

Consumers shouldn’t be able to tell that it’s Windows underlying the UI. This means no registry, desktop icons, close buttons, win32 applications or windows. The Modern UI is front and center and the only thing users should have to deal with.

The Start Screen in Windows Threshold sports a few new features. The first being interactive live tiles. Microsoft demoed an early version of this functionality before, and in Threshold this feature allows users to interact with live tiles without needing to open the app. Not all apps support this feature right now, and not all of them have to, but we expect the main ones will. Developers will need to update their apps to support the new interactive live tiles too. The interactive tiles aren’t as ‘feature rich’ as seen in the Microsoft Research project, meaning you can’t tap your phone on them and stuff, at least not yet.

The next notable feature with the Modern UI is the inclusion of a notification center. Details are still scarce regarding this feature in it’s entirety, but we do know it’s in the works. It’s likely that it will act very similar to the Windows Phone 8.1 version, as both Windows Phone and Windows RT are set to be merged with Threshold.

Of course, considering Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 includes live folders, Windows Threshold must have them too right? We understand that the feature is being worked on for tablets, however we’re not sure whether this feature will make the final cut. Considering the Start Screen allows for ‘groups’ already with Windows 8.1, Microsoft may opt to keep that strategy instead.

Cortana will have her own live tile on the Start Screen too. The Cortana app is similar to the Windows Phone version, which means there’s a search box at the bottom of the app and the Cortana circle is in the middle and bouncing around. We’re currently unsure whether Cortana will be accessible via a hardware command such as holding the Start button, we’ll have to wait and see.

We’ve already spoken about the removal of the Charms bar. The removal of said feature means developers are required to update their apps to include Charm functionality. Although the Charms bar has been removed, the ‘contracts’ are still there meaning developers can still utilize things such as Play To and Share.

Rather obviously there will be more customization options too, which will allow you to further make your Start Screen personal.

Not all of these features may make the final cut for RTM however, some of them may end up appearing in updates post-RTM of Windows Threshold, and others may not ever make it, so bare that in mind.

Now since the Modern UI and desktop is separated with Windows Threshold, we’re not entirely sure if the upcoming technical preview of Threshold will allow us to see any of these updates. Microsoft most likely will not release a technical preview of Windows RT Threshold, however you never know. Microsoft could opt to talk about Windows RT and Windows Phone Threshold this September too, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Current internal builds of Windows Threshold are no longer branded as ‘Windows 8’, which means things are beginning to change marketing wise. Windows 8 is in the rear-view mirror for Microsoft, and Threshold is the next big thing that Microsoft wishes to focus on. The most recent internal builds of Threshold are also much more stable than they were previously, which is evidence towards Microsoft preparing a technical preview, and is rumored to be hitting the public at the end of September.