Windows 9 preview set to arrive late September

Dave James at

We're ready for Windows 9 to wash away the sins of Windows 8, and it looks like Microsoft is, too. According to ZDNet's veteran Microsoft reporter, a "technology preview" version of the OS is coming in late September or October, with the final release scheduled for spring 2015. More tantalizing: that technology preview may be freely available to the public.

Sources have told The Verge that Microsoft plans to unveil Windows 9, codename "Threshold," at a preview event on September 30. In the past, Microsoft has released developer previews for work-in-progress operating systems before making them publicly available. If the "technology preview" is available to the public, we'll all be able to check out Windows 9's improvements before the end of the year. The rumored changes in Threshold give us hope that Windows 9 will be to Windows 8 what Windows 7 was to Vista.

Here's the biggest deal: yes, the Start menu is coming back. Microsoft showed off a prototype mini start menu back in April, which retains the Modern tile look while bringing back the Start program list. Some version of this Start menu will supposedly come to Windows 8.1 in a fall update as well.

Prototype Windows 8.1 Start menu image via twitter user @bhows51.

Another change that's almost as important: Modern apps will be able to run on the standard desktop in a windowed mode, which hopefully means no more switching between the touch-friendly Start screen and the mouse-friendly desktop.

We’re also likely to get a desktop version of Cortana, Microsoft's response to Siri and Google Now. The struggle there is that it’s likely to be tied into the Bing search engine, so if you love you some Google action you’ll have a decision to make.

Microsoft is expected to go over the key features of the next version of Windows at its event in September. We're eager to see how Microsoft's improvements compare to what we want from Windows 9.