Windows Blue release date, news and rumors
9th Apr 2013 | 15:02
All the latest on the Windows 8.1 update
Microsoft has revealed more details about its Windows Blue project, which promises to bring a big update to Windows 8.
The new features for Windows 8.1 look likely to hit public preview at Microsoft's Build developer conference in June - quite how that will work in practice remains to be seen, but it's likely you won't be able to plug it into an existing Windows 8 install.
A private preview is likely in the meantime. The final Windows Blue release date will be late in the year, while there will also be some new Windows Blue hardware.
There aren't likely to be too many massive surprises from Blue, which our writer Kate Solomon says "we feel a bit guilty for passing off as a minor Windows update" now that we've seen plenty of Windows Blue screenshots.
Is Windows Blue actually Windows 8.1?
Windows Blue will not be the software's official name. Shame. Instead Windows Blue is just the internal name for the software.
So speculation has turned to what the software's actual name will be. Microsoft's Windows Blue will officially be deemed Windows 8.1, said a new report in early April.
Mary Jo Foley of ZDNET's All About Microsoft blog said the Windows 8.1 tip came from a reliable source and screenshots of the About Windows screen also appeared on Twitter - see below.
In stores, the update will still be called simply Windows 8, according to Foley's source - that means Microsoft isn't about to start naming its incremental OS refreshes like Apple does (like OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion). But it does indicate a new attitude to software updates that it's previously called Service Packs.
New Windows 8 apps
As well as the operating system itself, Microsoft is apparently building some new Windows 8 apps, looking at new ways to run apps side-by-side on smaller-screened devices without needing hefty black-box-level resolution. That's in addition to the March updates for standard Windows 8 apps.
Blue is also bringing in new Snap Views so you can share your screen 50:50 between different apps rather than the current 70:30, including across multiple monitors.
As expected, Microsoft is upping the Sky Drive integration, with some new treats like auto-camera uploads and more back-up options, as well as tab sync which will see your tabs mirrored across devices.
The grabs also reveal the inclusion of IE11 but not much detail on the next iteration of browser beyond that.
And for the personalisation fans, the grabs show a quick and easy menu of options for customising your desktop background and other design elements
Windows Blue sync
Further Windows development
According to a February 15 job posting on the Microsoft Careers site, the software giant is seeking an engineer to join its Windows Core Experience Team.
That part of the operation will be working on improving the centrepiece of the new Windows UI, including the start screen, application lifecycle, windowing and personalisation, according to the post.
This seems to suggest that Windows Blue will bring more than a few tweaks under the bonnet and offer tangible visual enhancements to the Windows 8 software.
Indeed, the post mentions Windows Blue by name and says the updates will look to "build on and improve Windows 8" as time goes on.
An excerpt reads: "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."
Windows Blue will extend to other platforms
It is also thought that Windows Blue updates will be extended to multiple Microsoft platforms, including Windows server, the mobile OS Windows Phone 8 and applications like SkyDrive and Outlook.com.
Indeed, another post on Microsoft's job site mentions Windows Phone Blue by name, so that is definitely on the horizon.
The plan from Microsoft's point of view is reportedly to move towards a more regular update pace, rather than the three year gap that separated Windows 7 and Windows 8, with little improvements in between.
Apple has enjoyed great success in this arena, gradually adding new strings to the bow of Mac OS X every year, through its feline-themed updates.