Microsoft isn’t talking about its huge Windows intentions at Build 2021 this week because it’s working on a separate announcement for its PC operating system. During his Build presentation this morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella previewed this surprise, noting that he has been testing “the next version of Windows” for the past few months.
Build is a conference for developers, Nadella mentioned the rumored changes to the Windows app store several times while teasing the new Windows:
“Soon we will share one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators. I’ve been self-hosting it over the past several months, and I’m incredibly excited about the next generation of Windows. Our promise to you is this: we will create more opportunity for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications. We look forward to sharing more very soon.”
In recent months, Microsoft has been working on a new app store for Windows, as well as significant UI modifications to the operating system. With a vow to open a better economy for developers and creators within Windows, Nadella appears to be referring to the store changes.
This will very certainly involve big improvements to the Windows Store, including the ability for developers to submit any Windows product, including browsers like Chrome and Firefox. Microsoft may even enable third-party commerce platforms in apps, according to rumors, so developers may dodge Microsoft’s own 15% cut on applications and 12% cut on games.
Over time, Microsoft’s vision for the Microsoft Store has evolved dramatically. Content from the former Windows Marketplace, Windows Phone Store, Xbox Video, and Xbox Music stores is included in the current version of Windows 10. Despite this, the software selection is poor, even when Microsoft allowed ordinary Win32 games to be sold on the shop.
It’s also worth noting Nadella’s specific mention of a “next generation of Windows.” Microsoft usually refers to everything as “Windows 10,” and this language could indicate that the company is planning a more significant shift in Windows branding than just the user interface.
Developers must currently bundle Win32 apps as an MSIX and use Microsoft’s update and payment platforms to be accepted in the store. Developers may be able to upload non-Microsoft EXE or MSI packages to the new store, allowing for a bigger software library.
The rest of the planned Windows updates aren’t revealed in Nadella’s teaser. Some features from the now-cancelled Windows 10X will presumably make an appearance in the “next generation,” and there’s also the rumored Sun Valley project to revamp the Windows UI.
It’s worth noting that Nadella refers to this as “one of the most significant updates in the last decade,” implying that Windows 8 was released less than a decade ago. After only a year, Microsoft reversed their nearly complete touch-focused makeover of that edition. As a result, we should expect the next changes to be less severe than the transition from Windows 7 to 8 – which is probably for the best.
Nadella promises that we will hear more about the redesigned Windows “very soon.”