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Microsoft talks up 'next version of Windows'

The company opens up more about its plans to build bridges between the Windows 8.1 Modern UI and the desktop.

Screenshot of the desktop on the "next version of Windows," as Microsoft's Tony Prophet described it at the company's Partner Conference. Microsoft

Microsoft's Tony Prophet took a moment Wednesday to expand on a key feature in the next version of Windows at a Microsoft conference.

Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows Marketing, offered a bit more clarity on comments executive Terry Myerson provided at Microsoft's Build Conference in April.

"We are hard at work on the next version of Windows," Prophet said at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference taking place in Washington, DC.

"And while we have nothing to announce today, I will share with you a couple of features we're thinking about," he said, explaining that the screenshot (above) was originally shown at the Build Conference in April.

He began by mentioning that a new Start menu is "better because this one has Live Tiles and modern apps."

His slightly more detailed discussion focused on the desktop.

"The second feature we're thinking about is enabling modern apps to run windowed on the desktop versus only running in the immersive full-screen mode. This will enable you to run multiple modern apps side-by-side or layered or a combination of modern apps and desktop programs side-by-side or layered," he said.

Microsoft is trying to bridge the relatively strict separation -- that currently exists on Windows 8.1 -- of the Modern, aka Metro, UI that is touch friendly and the more traditional desktop UI, which is geared more toward the mouse and keyboard.

Myerson has described it as "building smart bridges" to the Modern UI.

Why? To state the obvious, the Windows world still revolves around the desktop, so the Modern UI can be an unnecessary distraction -- in its current segregated form -- to desktop-centric users.

One question that hasn't been answered is whether Microsoft is talking about the rumored Windows 9, aka Threshold, or an update to Windows 8.

But note that Prophet did say, "the next version of Windows." Informed speculation is pointing to an update as early as this fall or something bigger next year, when a major new Windows release may come.