Windows 9 preview beta download
An early, leaked version of Windows 9 shows that Microsoft Corp. is combining the old with the new in an attempt to win back desktop users from Google, while making Internet search a key component of the operating system. Microsoft Corp.

Can Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) win back former users lost to Google Inc. (NASDASQ:GOOGL)? Images of a Windows 9 preview that leaked online Thursday reveal how the software maker plans to try.

Screenshots for a preview version of Windows 9 released by a pair of German tech blogs (via The Verge) show that Microsoft is hoping to please PC users who were turned off by its touchscreen-centric approach to Windows 8: by integrating some of its new features into something that looks more like earlier Windows versions. Microsoft will also integrate Internet search into the Windows 9 desktop, with a new search button placed directly next to the Start button.

The button gives users one less reason to open up a browser window and conduct a Google search, similar to how Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is adding more Web-based information to its desktop search with OS X Yosemite. Microsoft disclosed earlier this month that the next version of Windows, codenamed "Threshold," will most likely be called Windows 9. The screenshots confirm earlier reports that Windows 9 will include an actual Start menu, as opposed to the button that only allowed users to alternate between Windows 8’s “Modern” (or “Metro”) user interface and a more traditional desktop.

Update (9/12/14): WinFuture has uploaded a video showing off the Windows 9 preview in action. The video, which is available on YouTube, is embedded below.

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Apps made for the “Modern” user interface are now able to run inside of a window, as opposed to taking up the whole screen, and a new button in the window for Windows Store apps lists previous “Charms bar” functions like search, share and play. Windows 9 will also allow users to switch between multiple desktops, each with their own layout and apps, as they can with Ubuntu Linux “Workspaces.” A button on the right side of the taskbar will also list messages from apps, similar to the “Notifications” bar in OS X.

Since this is an early preview of Windows 9 in an unfinished state, any of these features could change before Microsoft officially releases the OS. It is expected to release a public beta of Windows 9 later this month.

windows 9 release date beta preview
Leaked screenshots of a Windows 9 beta preview confirm Microsoft's plans for a traditional Start menu. On the right of the Windows icon, a search button will also give users one less reason to open a browser window and conduct a Google search. Microsoft Corp.

In efforts to compete better against Google’s Chromebooks and Android devices, Microsoft reduced the minimum resolution for Windows 8.1, to allow it to run on low-end tablets like Toshiba’s 7-inch Encore Mini ($119) earlier this week. It has also reportedly lowered its licensing fees “close to zero” in the past few months so that manufacturers could produce cheaper Windows 8 devices, according to ZDNet’s Ed Bott.