New version will bring the UI inline with Windows Phone
Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8 operating system was a bold and risky gambit, which traded familiarity for an innovative new graphically rich (some say too graphically rich) user interface. Now the veteran operating system maker is eyeing more ambitious changes, notably a shift to an Apple, Inc. (AAPL)-like track of more frequent (perhaps annual) operating system releases.
I. Windows Blue to Land in 2013?
Originally thought to be a service pack, sources at Microsoft have been spilling word of an upcoming release called Windows "Blue" (perhaps a code-name) to ZDNet and The Verge in recent months.
According to the latest rumors, the 2013 release will be inexpensive or perhaps free, to incentivize upgrades. And it will be a full operating system upgrade. In this regard, the new development cycle Microsoft is moving towards closely resembles Apple's -- frequent, cheap operating system upgrades.
Microsoft is also planning a move that may shock and upset some developers -- it will reportedly release a new version of its SDK for Windows Blue, and at that point will stop accepting Windows Store apps built on the old Windows 8 SDK. Again, this choice is a calculated tactic on Microsoft's part to push developers and users to embrace the new platform.
The new OS will also shift Microsoft's position regarding leniency for users upgrading from pirate versions. With Blue, if you upgrade from a pirated copy of Windows 8, even if you bought a legitimate copy your Windows Store and the built-in-apps will still be bricked.
According to ZDNet, the term "Windows 9" has begun to creep into text in Microsoft employee postings, suggesting Microsoft may official dub the upcoming OS Windows 9, when it hits release next year.
Another report from Neowin suggests that the new operating system will move Windows 8 to using smaller Live Tiles, similar to those in Windows Phone 8. This would seem to agree with The Verge's sources who suggest Windows Blue/Windows 9 will be part of an effort to complete the transition of Windows Phone and Windows (PC) into a single code-base and consistent user interface. As part of this effort, Windows Phone may receive a corresponding "Blue" update, as well.
II. Are Windows Users Ready for Another Big Shift?
The news of the big shift in release cycles and upcoming new 2013 Windows release comes on the heels of Microsoft's first report on the health of Windows 8 sales.
In its release Microsoft announced that it had moved 40 million licenses in its first month of sales, despite no longer offering the free upgrades for purchasers who bought machines in the months leading up to the release (as it did with Windows 7).
Of course, critics will be quick to point that Microsoft reduced upgrade fees (albeit charging more of them), did not disclose its revenue associated with the upgrades, and did not disclose how many of its licenses sold to OEMs were resold.
Will Windows users embrace an Apple-like release schedule?
Nonetheless, it appears Windows 8 wasn't the complete disaster some doomsayers predicted. It should be interesting whether Microsoft's next big shift at least receives as warm a welcome as Windows 8.
DailyTech - Windows 8 Gets Possibly Free "Blue" Upgrade in 2013, May Split From Server Tree