Microsoft confirmed at the Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 in Washington that it was indeed working on the next Windows version, but the company hasn't provided any specifics on the new features that its future operating system is going to get.
Instead, a report published by Neowin today and citing sources close to Microsoft's development process reveals that Windows 9 is very likely to get a revamped user interface that would better differentiate it from its predecessors, including Windows 8 and Windows 7.
It's a well-known fact that Windows 8's desktop looks pretty much the same with the one in Windows 7 and Microsoft itself tried to advertise this, saying that its modern operating system is just Windows 7 but made better.
In Windows 9, however, things are going to change in a much more significant way. The taskbar, for example, will play a much more important role for the desktop and icons are very likely to become interactive. Sources cited in the aforementioned story call these icons “mini live tiles,” which could be a sign that Microsoft is indeed working to make them perform more tasks.
One possibility is that Microsoft could enhance the preview feature, so when you are running multiple apps and all are minimized, it should be enough to simply move your mouse cursor over a specific icon to see the current state. Such an option is already available in Windows, but Microsoft could further improve it in Windows 9.
Cortana is also very likely to make its way into Windows 9, the report states, with the revamped taskbar expected to serve as the main way to launch the personal assistant.
Metro apps running in their own windows on the desktop could also be part of the next Windows version, but it appears that Microsoft is also planning some visual and functionality changes for them as well. The titlebar might auto-hide automatically, while the whole window design will be flatter to better integrate into the desktop.
Gadgets could also return in Windows 9, but it's not yet clear how they could be implemented in the operating system. The last time we got to use gadgets was in Windows 7, but Microsoft removed them in Windows 8, making the desktop a much more static environment.
That's going to change in Windows 9 if all of these are true, so Microsoft is working to significantly improve the desktop in a way that would better address everyone's needs and make it easier to perform certain facts.