In my second article of what to expect from Microsoft in 2014, I have gathered my thoughts on another popular platform – Windows 8 and Windows Store apps. My first article about Windows Phone in 2014 is here.
Just two months ago we’ve received the free Windows 8.1 update to all current Windows 8 installations, codenamed “Blue”, almost exactly one year since the original Windows 8 release. This update fixed lot of quite annoying bugs when developing “Modern apps”, added new tile sizes, various app widths, multi-monitor support, improved the sync between devices, added native SkyDrive integration, brought IE11 and also lof fixes and improvements under the cover. But since then there is no future plan of this platform. I guess it’s quite early to predict any actual development in 2014, but let’s do it anyway…
So far we have seen only rumors about “Windows 8.1 Update 1”, “Windows 8.2” or “Windows codename Threshold“. Let’s see what all these rumours could mean:
One of the center-point of the future of “Modern apps” is the upcoming merge of Windows Phone Store, Windows 8 Store and upcoming Xbox One app Store into single Store, in a similar way iTunes and Google Play works. But this won’t happen any time soon, most likely not in 2014. We could expect first glimpses of this vision probably in 2015 in Windows 9, now codenamed Threshold, or maybe in Windows Phone 9?
Windows 8.1 Update 1
If we cannot expect Windows “Threshold” arrival in 2014, what’s then planned in this year? There is already planned BUILD conference in April 2014 and it’s hard to believe we won’t see anything new regarding Windows development there. One possibility is that there will be just minor update called Windows 8.1 Update 1, or SP1 or something similar (or Windows 8.11 for Workgroups? 🙂 ) in 2014, that won’t bring any new API, but it will improve the overall Windows experience. Maybe it will even bring back the original Start menu and improve the satisfaction of pure desktop users, that are not happy with Metro start screen yet. This is a one scenario, but I don’t believe this is what we will actually see next year, here’s why:
The update we could actually expect in first half of 2014 is Windows 8.2 with new features for users and new API for developers as well! It’s even highly probable that the release of Windows 8.2 will collide with the release of Windows Phone 8.1 and also yet to be announced Xbox One update that brings support for “Modern apps” similar to current Apps on Windows 8.1. The timing is perfect, upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 that I was dissecting in the previous article , should arrive in first half of 2014. There is also lot of hints that it will be possible to develop “Modern apps” on Xbox One similar to Windows 8 apps, using very similar Windows Runtime in Visual Studio 2013. Releasing all these updates around the same time could boost all three platforms more than anything.
What new features to expect in Windows 8.2?
Although I have not many ideas, what to expect in this update, let’s make a list of possible features, sorted by my subjective probability.
- Free for all Windows 8/8.1 users – 90%. I don’t think Microsoft will require money for this update, just like the 8.1 update was for free.
- Notification center for Windows – 75%. That’s right, Notification center is highly expected in WP8.1 and it just makes sense to add it to Windows 8.2 as well.
- Improved quick settings hub – 75%. Same to previous point, the quick settings charm option might get some improvements too. Turning the PC off in Charms bar is really not intuitive right now.
- Improved UI for pure desktop users – 70%. We already seen some movement to make the UX on desktop PC without touchscreen better in Windows 8.1, it’s easy to believe we will se more improvements or changes in Windows 8.2 as well.
- Possible screen sharing in Modern apps – 70%. From what I heard from various sources, one of goals in Windows 8.2 is to enable screen sharing in Windows Modern apps, for instance in Skype for Windows 8. In desktop app it’s working, but not in Modern app, because of the current sandbox.
- Improvements in app submission process – 60%. Just as I noted in the previous article, we can expect slow merge of WP8 and Windows Store features and of the submission process.
- Improvements for background app execution – 60%. We have already seen some rumors about upcoming improvements for background code execution in WP8.1. We might see the same API in Windows 8.2 as well.
- Merge of Windows RT and Windows Phone platform – 50%. Not highly probable as far as I can say, but lot of blogs already mentioned this possibility, so let’s keep it here as well.
That’s my a bit shorter list of features what to expect in Windows 8.2 in 2014. Let’s see in couple of months how accurate this list is/was.
Disclaimer – all these features are just my subjective notes I have either seen on various blog posts, heard from fellow developers “what should be really implemented” or I wish them myself. It’s probable, that the reality might be quite different.