Redmond View

Microsoft To Reveal Windows 'Blue' in Coming Months

Now that Microsoft has confirmed recent leaks of "Blue" -- the code name for the next wave of Windows OSes, cloud services and developer tooling -- that roadmap will unfold in earnest next month. That's when Microsoft will hold its BUILD conference in San Francisco, tapping into the Silicon Valley IT and developer community to advance the new generation of Windows.

Leading into BUILD, which kicks off June 26, Microsoft indicated pieces of that roadmap would come to light early in May at TechEd North America. Leaks will undoubtedly continue to surface in the coming days and weeks. One hinted leak is that a major update to Windows 8 and its "Metro" interface.

According to several reports and leaked screenshots from reliable sources, Microsoft is looking at a Windows 8.1 release, Mary Jo Foley reported earlier this month. The refresh will include enhancements to the Windows Store interface including variable tile sizes, a larger desktop, more personalization and a substantial amount of other enhancements. Presuming those leaks are accurate (they reportedly came from partners and were reported by WINForum in late March), Microsoft could modify its plans next month.

Whether you look at Windows 8.1 as the equivalent of the first service pack or the next wave of the so-called continuous development cycle Microsoft has promised for Windows, it could be the much-needed breakthrough for Windows 8. Also sure to embolden Windows 8 is last month's release to production of Intel's new "Haswell" processors -- aimed at Ultrabooks and hybrid tablet-PCs -- that will give a substantial boost in performance and battery life to the next crop of systems.

Windows 8 has taken its lumps. Adding to Microsoft's woes is that PC growth is now shrinking. The most recent estimates say the decline will continue this year -- IDC says at a rate of 1.3 percent, with Gartner Inc. issuing a direr forecast of a 7.6 percent decline.

Critics lambast Windows 8 as a failure, arguing the much-maligned Windows Vista was in a better place six months after its release. But the world has changed a lot since the release of Windows Vista. Windows 8 is poised to grow, but at a much more granular pace. The latest NetMarketShare stats found that Windows 8 accounts for 3.17 percent of PCs in use, up from 2.67 percent in February.

Looking out four years, Gartner sees devices based on Google Android outpacing anything else, running on nearly 1.5 billion units. Coming in second is Windows at 571 million, and devices based on Apple Mac OS X and iOS will come in third at 504 million. Those forecasts combine PCs, tablets and phones, further skewing in favor of Android, given its dominance in smartphones.

So Windows isn't going away. Next month, we'll share data on Redmond readers' plans to advance the Windows platform in their organizations. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] and share your plans.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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