A new report by Neowin cites sources within Microsoft as stating that employees have begun widespread internal testing -- so-called "dogfooding" -- of two new versions of Windows. Dogfooding generally implies tests where employees not only test a product in limited groups or controlled settings, but distribute it to thousands of employees who use it for their day to day activities. An example of this was Ford Motor Comp.'s internal betas of its updates to MyFord Touch.
Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1
At Microsoft, employees (who often have company-provided Windows Phones) have begun to receive Windows Phone 8.1 GDR 1, according to the report. GDR 1 stands for "General Distribution 1". The current version of Windows Phone -- Windows Phone 8.1 -- is in the process of slowly being rolled out to Windows Phone 8 users via updates.
Windows 8.1 -- Microsoft's latest desktop OS -- has seen three such internal "GDR" builds, which transformed into "Update" builds upon release. For example, the previous distribution -- Windows Phone 8 Update 3 -- was tested internally as Windows Phone 8 GDR 3. Likewise Windows 8.1 Update 1 was tested as Windows 8.1 GDR 1. So it's safe to expect that Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1, barring surprises, will be renamed Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1.
The report does not give a time window for that update's release, but other reports and our own sources indicate it may be sometime in the July or August timeframe, with a second update (Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2) in October or November.
Previous reports indicate hands-free proximity controls will be a key feature of Update 1.
The new report suggests that the PC version of Windows -- which is being referred to internally as Windows 8.1 GDR 2 or Windows 8.2 -- is currently in widespread testing. The update is expected to roll out to large enterprise clients and other select public testers via a July RTM (release to manufacturing) build. The upcoming OS will see "a likely release in August or September", according to the report.
Windows 9 and Why the Next Release Will Likely be Called "Windows 8.1 Update 2", NOT "Windows 8.2"
It's probable that Microsoft will stick to the Windows 8.1 Update 2 title (rather than Windows 8.2) based on what we've heard thus far. Key features, such as the revised start menu have been shuffled to Windows 9, which some sources indicate could be released next April. Given the lack of marquee content (compared to Windows 8.1's more serious UI and settings changes), it seems unlikely that Microsoft would bump the version number to Windows 8.2.
Why is this likely? Look at the naming history. Its major versions of Windows have been:
- Windows 1.0: Nov. 1985
- Windows 2.0: Dec. 1987 (two years later)
- Windows 2.1: May 1988 (six months later)
- Windows 3.0: May 1990 (two years later)
- Windows 3.1: April 1992 (two years later)
- Windows 95: Aug. 1995 (two and a half years later)
- Windows 98: June 1998 (three years later)
- Windows ME: Sept. 2000 (two and a quarter years later)
With Windows 2000, Microsoft swapped in the "NT" codebase as its official consumer and client operating system. However, Windows NT was hardly new, having been commercially available for enterprise servers and workstations with the release of NT 3.1 in 1993.
NT 3.1 originated out of a 1988 effort to develop a future operating system, spearheaded by David N. Cutler -- a veteran of the now-defunct Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) who most recently helped to design Windows Azure and the Xbox One's hypervisor. Windows NT got its name from the acronym "WNT", which was a one-letter incrementing of one of the OSes designed by Mr. Cutler for DEC -- an OS called VMS.
- Windows NT 3.1: July 1993
- Windows NT 3.5: Sept. 1994 (a year later)
- Windows NT 4.0: July 1996 (two years later)
- Windows 2000 (Windows NT 5.0): Feb. 2000 (three years and a half years later)
- Windows XP (NT 5.1): Oct. 2001 (a year and a half later)
- (NT 5.2 -- 64-bit updates to Windows XP in 2003-2005)
- Windows Vista (NT 6.0): Jan. 2007 (five years and a quarter later)
- Windows 7 (NT 6.1): Oct. 2009 (two and a half years)
- Windows 8 (NT 6.2): Oct. 2012 (three years)
- Windows 8.1 (NT 6.3): Oct. 2013 (one year)
Looking at Microsoft's schedule, it's suffered major feature creep in recent years with long delayed releases like Vista (codenamed "Longhorn"). Also, aside from a handful of custom names "Window ME", "Windows XP", "Windows Vista", Microsoft has generally used numbered branding -- "Windows [0-9]" and "Windows [0-9].1" -- or branding by year -- "Windows 9x" or "Windows 2000".
A release branded Window 8.2 would be unusual as it would be a first in Microsoft's long history. However, internally it makes sense that the release may be called that as other products (e.g. Windows XP, Windows 8) were internally dubbed "NT [0-9].2"
Looking ahead, the next major version of Windows is expected to be Windows 9. Microsoft sources reportedly told Neowin that the OS is on track. Microsoft has shared updates on the new OS's development internally across various groups. However, no widespread internal testing has begun yet. Windows 9 is rumored to unify Windows and Windows Phone into a single OS.