Windows “Threshold”, the next big version of Windows, is coming, some even say a preview is due later this year and that the official Threshold announcement could happen as soon as WPC (July 13-17). I figured this would be a good time to list some of the features I’d like to see in Threshold…
What we already know
Windows 8.1 Update is a first step towards Threshold, with the right-click menu’s on the start screen, title bars for Modern UI apps and the ability to pin and show Modern apps on the taskbar. One strangely absent feature is the ability to have desktop shortcuts to Modern apps.
Microsoft already “demoed” some of the most important features in Threshold at BUILD 2014. We know Threshold will include a start menu and Windowed Modern apps and while that’s definitely a good start, I really think Microsoft can do more in Threshold.
UI overhaul (yes, another one)
“Metro” was a radical design change for Windows, but the desktop UI wasn’t updated at all. As I’m a big fan of the Metro design principles, I’d like to see a complete desktop UI overhaul in Threshold. (Some recent posts by Neowin and WinBeta actually confirm that current builds have a redesigned desktop)
Below are some mock-ups by Jay Machalani from his “Fixing Windows 8“-post. Although Machalani’s post is mostly about fixing the ModernUI-desktop schizophrenia, it has some very good designs for the future of the Windows desktop, quoting Machalani:
I did some simple obvious modifications to our beloved environment. The Desktop will now use the color from your personalization settings. In the future why not sync the color between your PC, tablet, phone and Xbox; that would be awesome! The time, date and icons got a little bigger and makes it easier for the users with a super small/dense screen like me with my Surface Pro 2 or even my Dell XPS 12.
You can see updated icons, a new flat look for window borders, title bars and the minimize/maximize/close buttons. Look at how Machalani integrated the charms into the windows for the metro apps, genius!
The thing I like most about his mock-ups is the taskbar, the padding around it is subtle yet beautiful and the way running apps are indicated is clean and simple. It could be further improved with notification indicators for shortcuts to Modern apps.
Notification centers have been the subject of a lot of buzz and rumours lately, on IOS, Windows Phone etc. so why not on Windows? Modern UI apps already have an advanced, robust notification API, why not display a list of these notifications in a single place?
This one is obvious, Windows Phone 8.1 shipped with Microsoft’s new voice assistant Cortana, I’m sure it would work great on Windows. I’d like to see some proper, OS-wide Cortana integration in Windows. It could be perfectly integrated with the existing speech recognition that’s already available since Windows Vista.
Tabs, tabs everywhere
We have had tabbed browsing in every major browser for years now and it works great, so let’s add some of that productivity in other places like the file explorer. There are already 3rd party solutions, like Clover, that will add tabs to the Windows File Explorer, but it would be nice to see a native implementation (and a proper UI for the tabs).
Another place where tabs *might* work is the desktop, so you can organize your desktop into different sections like “Games”, “Productivity” etc. This might turn out to be a bad idea, though…
Bring back desktop gadgets (sort of)
We all know the desktop gadgets from Windows Vista and 7 and we all cried when they were discontinued with Windows 8, right? Okay, maybe not, the start screen basically replaced the gadgets’ functionality with the introduction of live tiles, but with the advent of a ‘mini’ start menu in Threshold where are we going to keep all these live tiles? I think you should be able to put live tile gadgets on your desktop.
The last feature I would like to see in Windows is what Apple likes to call “Continuity”, that’s right, Apple! Cherish this moment, Apple fanboys, because I rarely ever admit OSX has cool features Windows should ‘borrow’.
The upcoming iOS 8 and OS X “Yosemite” will work together like never before, you can answer phone calls and respond to text messages using your iPad or Mac, all without ever touching your iPhone.
This would work great in a Windows – Windows Phone combination, Microsoft could even create an Android app to pair your Android phone with your Windows PC. (An IOS app would be difficult because you can’t achieve the same, deep level of integration you can on Android, too bad)
Another cool feature is using the seamless content hand-off between IOS and OSX, you can start browsing on your iPhone, pick up your iPad and continue right where you left off, or you can start composing an email on your phone and finish it on your Mac. You can even start working on a document on one device and quickly switch to another device using iCloud.
Windows and Windows Phone are already getting closer and closer to each other using the cloud power of OneDrive (IE tabs, for example, sync across devices) This functionality would look great in Office 2015, the Office “Gemini” apps (Modern UI apps), and the iPad and Android versions of Office 365.
This is all I could think of right now, let me know, on twitter or in the comment section below, what other features you would like to see in one of the upcoming versions of Windows.