Posted by: Onuora Amobi
Microsoft, Windows 8, Windows RT
Microsoft’s mobile direction is clearly a bold one. Windows Phone 8 is dramatically different from a typical mobile OS, using a fresh live tile approach instead of a simple icon style that is more similar to a desktop OS.
As for Windows 8, it is equally different, bridging the mobile and desktop world with a unique UI, known as Modern (or Metro in some circles).
Microsoft’s success could lie in thinking differently, but its not always an easy path. Both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 have come under fire by some in tech and media world for these differences, and this is especially true with Windows 8.
Some of the biggest concerns with Windows 8 have been that it forces uses to learn a new interface, ditching the older start menu and that the new Modern UI still doesn’t feel quite “finished”.
What’s Microsoft’s solution? Further change direction by giving yearly updates that address some of the UI concerns of modern (no, that doesn’t mean you will get the start menu back).
You likely have already heard about Windows Blue, but what exactly is it?
Windows Blue – A Change in the Way Microsoft Updates Work
There have been tons of rumors about Windows Blue, but what do we actually KNOW for sure? Sifting through the rumors, our biggest evidence comes from two recent job postings. The first post is from the Windows Division:
We’re looking for an excellent, experienced SDET to join the Core Experience team in Windows Sustained Engineering (WinSE). The Core Experience features are the centerpiece of the new Windows UI, representing most of what customers touch and see in the OS, including: the start screen; application lifecycle; windowing; and personalization. Windows Blue promises to build and improve upon these aspects of the OS, enhancing ease of use and the overall user experience on devices and PCs worldwide.
The Second is from the Office division, and confirms that Blue doesn’t just affect Windows 8:
As a development lead you will hire and manage a team of top-notch developers, be personally involved in designing and coding features, and work closely with PM and Test counterparts across multiple orgs to help realize the vision of building high quality excel app for Windows Phone Blue. In partnership with the Excel MX, Data Visualization and Excel Web Services team your team will be responsible to develop a common code enabling us to build a mobile app which will (1) allow users to have a consistent experience with spreadsheets across Web, Slate and Phone end while leveraging the power of the cloud (Excel Web Services, Office Client Services, SkyDrive and O365).
Admittedly, these listings don’t exactly clear Blue up, but they start to paint a picture. Windows Blue isn’t a new version of Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 from the sounds of it, rather it is a compilation of new features and major updates to core Windows apps.
Think of it as a Service Pack on steroids. As you might have noticed from the first listing, the SDET position is even mentioned. People employed in this area tend to usually work on Service Packs.
Although this is technically still speculation, I’d wager that Service Packs are done. There will be no more. Instead, Microsoft is going to go with a yearly update approach, that is somewhat like Apple’s with OSX but more akin to Android or iOS.
Why Yearly Updates?
For the enterprise and home PC world, yearly updates could certainly create extra mess. Unfortunately, it’s part of the struggle that Microsoft has with managing an OS that is attempting to work for both typical PCs and tablets.
If Microsoft were to stick with Windows 8 for two to three years and then unveil Windows 9 as a paid upgrade, they would be a hard sell for tablet users. Why? Android and iOS update every year, and often have minor updates that brings small changes and features several times each year.
Its about keeping up with the Jones. If Microsoft is “greedy” with new features, only giving them out with fully new versions of Windows every few years, they will risk angering and alienating tablet users that are used to more frequent changes.
That’s not to say that paid updates for Windows are done and over with. Microsoft relies on these big updates for a good part of their income. Instead, expect Windows 9 to be pushed out to at least 3 years (maybe longer) and these color-named packs to fill in gaps between now and then.
It remains unclear what Blue will be called when it hits, though. It could easily become Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1, or they could go with Windows 8 Blue and Windows Phone 8 Blue. My guess is that the later will be used, but it is hard to say for sure.
Is Windows Blue a good idea? That’s a good question. I think if it isn’t handled right it could be a total nightmare for enterprise users. For everyday consumers, it could be awesome (as long as they are free).
Only time will tell for sure. What do you think?