Details of Microsoft's next-generation operating system, codenamed Windows Threshold, have started to emerge even as the company offers its customers a last-minute reprieve on Windows 7.
Windows Threshold, rumoured to be launching in early 2015, is claimed to feature a common core and three SKUs: a tablet/smartphone centric Modern UI flavour; a mainstream consumer release; and an enterprise edition.
Part of Microsoft's new, more rapid release cycle - an attempt to emulate the rapid progress of rivals like Apple's OS X - Windows Threshold is claimed to be due to launch in early 2015 by sources speaking to ZDNet
's Mary Jo Foley - sources who have, in the past, correctly leaked details on Windows 8.1 or, as it was known at the time, Windows Blue.
According to Foley's sources, Windows Threshold will begin the process of moving the company's disparate operating systems - Windows 8.1, Windows RT, Windows Phone and whatever you'd like to call the platform used by the freshly-launched Xbox One - into a central core with as few as three main stock-keeping units (SKUs) at launch.
The next Windows release, it is claimed, will have three flavours: a consumer-oriented SKU will feature compatibility with ARM and x86 hardware, the divisive tile-based Modern UI, and have as its primary focus smartphones, tablets, hybrids, and low-end PCs; the second SKU will be more like the Windows of old, featuring both the Modern UI and a more traditional desktop along with x86 - but likely not ARM - compatibility; finally, an enterprise SKU will add in missing features like group policy control and device management and may, it is claimed, be available only to corporate customers.
's own sources suggest that Windows Threshold will also include the ability to run multiple Modern UI applications in windows on the traditional desktop, blurring the line between Modern apps and classic software, and may even include the Start Menu - not just the Start Button of Windows 8.1 - without the need for third-party add-ons.
The leaks come as Microsoft backtracks on claims that it had already stopped shipping Windows 7 to its retailers and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers, stating instead that it will do so at a time 'to be determined
.' Whether this is as a reaction to slow corporate uptake of Windows 8 and the looming spectre of Windows XP finally reaching its official end-of-life status in April next year is not known. Windows 7 itself, meanwhile, will not reach EOL until January 2020.