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Windows 9: To be free or not to be free, that is the question

Windows 9
Credit: Microsoft

Rumors are flying about the upcoming release of Threshold "Technical Preview for Enterprise" and whether or not Windows 9 will eventually be free or $20 for Windows 8.x and Windows 7 users.

I hate Windows 8, so I’m ready to move on to Windows 9, or “Threshold,” Microsoft’s next operating system. Rumors are flying about Microsoft planning to offer Windows 9 at no cost if you are currently running Windows 8.1 with all other updates installed. But before Windows 9 is released, Microsoft is expected to release a pre-release version of the OS as a Windows Threshold “technical preview” during a press event on September 30.

There seem to be two possible flavors of the technical preview, at least according to sources whispering in the ear of pro-Microsoft bloggers. One preview may be for the general masses, while another is aimed directly at "Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise," according to the watermark on the build. The final enterprise version is expected to have Cortana “living in the taskbar,” and the taskbar is expected to flaunt other improved functionality. Neowin warned that improved UI elements for the desktop will not be included in the technical preview. If that means desktops won’t have the much demanded Start button functionality users have been screaming for, then that might be a huge mistake by Microsoft.

The final Windows 9 is expected to be released in the spring of 2015…Chinese leaker Faikee claims that Threshold and Windows 9 are two distinctly different products; whether or not that means enterprise will have one version or regular users will have another is unclear.

Russian leaker WZor has an excellent track record of letting us know Microsoft’s plans. According to WZor, if you bought a retail version of Windows 8, or if the OS came installed on a new PC or laptop, then an OEM version of Windows 9 will be available for a special offer of $20.

Threshold will be free or 20 upgrade WZor (translated)

WZor indicated that Windows 9 will support ultra-high-definition (UHD) TVs and 3D mode, will include capabilities to backup and restore the system image to the cloud. He added that Microsoft is developing the “ability to virtualize backups of physical systems in the cloud. ‘Cloud hypervisor’ - it's a reality.”

Windows 9 leaked details WZor (translated)

Yet details about whether Microsoft will charge Windows 7 users to upgrade to the new OS are a bit hazy; Mary Jo Foley’s sources suggest Microsoft may make Windows Threshold a freebie for anyone running Windows 7 and Windows 8.x. Why would the Redmond giant do that? Microsoft does not want to get stuck in another Windows XP situation with enterprise hanging onto Windows 7. So the idea of a “free” upgrade to Windows 9 may do the trick.

Both Neowin’s and Foley’s sources indicate that Microsoft will make monthly updates mandatory for enterprise users who participate in the Threshold technical preview. Remember how Microsoft changed the name of Patch Tuesday to Update Tuesday? Part of that is to change customers’ mindset; Foley said that “after Microsoft releases Threshold, sources say, the operating systems group is expected to go the route of Azure and Office 365 by releasing regular, incremental updates to Windows client and Windows Phone on a regular schedule, rather than bigger updates every year or two.”

About deploying those fast updates…

Visual Studio Online outage explanation

Microsoft’s Brian Harry offered a frankly refreshing explanation for the Visual Studio Online outage. “We've gotten sloppy. Sloppy is probably too harsh. As with any team, we are pulled in the tension between eating our Wheaties and adding capabilities that customers are asking for. In the drive toward rapid cadence, value every sprint, etc., we've allowed some of the engineering rigor that we had put in place back then to atrophy – or more precisely, not carried it forward to new code that we've been writing. This, I believe, is the root cause,” he said.

$199 laptop running Windows 8.1

Microsoft to offer $199 dollar on Aug 29 Microsoft

If you or your kids need a laptop for general purposes, as opposed to gaming, then you might want to visit Microsoft Store super early on Friday, August 29, and snag one for the low special offer of $199. It’s an Acer Aspire E 15 with a 15.6-inch HD display and an Intel Celeron N2830 processor clocked at 2.16 GHz. The specs indicate it comes with a 500GB hard drive, 4GB DDR3L RAM running at 1333 MHz, and 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 with Bing loaded but with “no junkware.” Normally this laptop cost $249, so you could save $50. And if “Threshold” rumors are true, then you’ll be able to update to Windows 9 for free or $20. It’s likely to sell out early, so if you want it, get it while the getting is good.

Lower Azure SQL database prices

Aimed more squarely at enterprise, Microsoft announced it will lower Azure SQL database prices and offer new service tiers starting in September. Customers using the standard and premium tiers will see a 50% price reduction. Another change includes hourly billing for new Azure SQL Database service tiers. Microsoft also increased their Service-Level-Agreement (SLA) from 99.90% to 99.99% availability. The pricing and explanations are listed on the Azure blog.

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