Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Windows Blue: What Do We Know So Far?

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Author: This article is written by Louise Miller. Louise graduated from LSE in 2011 with an MA in engineering and is now working as a freelance web designer. She loves blogging about tech and social media in her free time, especially all things Android.

As is the case so often in the tech world, it was a job posting that changed the news of Windows Blue from rumour to semi-corroborated fact. In this case, it was now-deleted careers posts on the Microsoft website looking for “an excellent, experienced SDET to join the core engineering team in Windows Sustained Engineering (WinSE)” and a developer who could build a “high quality excel app for Windows Phone Blue”. Both posts mentioned Windows Blue by name and seem to hint that Microsoft may be planning to release substantial update to Windows 8 shortly, an operating system, which after an initial hiccup, now seems to be finding acceptance among ultrabookand tablet users. In fact, ultrabooks – like this ultrabook by Lenovo or ultrabooks by Acer and Sony – are coming up at the top of lists of the best and most affordable Windows 8 laptops by groups like Consumer Reports.

Reading through the jargon, it seems that for the Windows 8 side of Windows Blue, Microsoft is planning significant changes to the OS’s interface, with the ad mentioning terms like “core experience”, “application lifecycle”, “windowing” and “personalization”. For Windows phones, the quote above seems to suggest that improvements to spreadsheet capabilities are being prioritized, although this may be only a part of a wider focus on improvements to the mobile version of Microsoft office that comes installed on all Windows phones.

More generally, the apparent existence of Windows Blue seems to imply that Microsoft are leaning towards releasing the sort of iterative updates that Apple have made almost de rigueur for device manufacturers, and that add new features and refine existing ones. It is a business strategy that has also been adopted by Android which has thus far proceeded alphabetically through Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. Whether Microsoft is planning a similar progression through alphabetical colours is not clear, but it does seem that the computing behemoth is recognising that some sort of update program is now expected by consumers, and is vital to engendering brand loyalty. Releasing regular updates makes the relationship between manufacturer and consumer a two way street, and, in Apple’s case, the release of a major new iOS update alongside a new device launch undoubtedly softens the blow for those not yet able to upgrade.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Windows Blue will see the light of day, and, moreover, no one seems to know whether it will be free. A major free update would be a vital statement of intent, and suggest that Microsoft could yet reassert its once unquestioned dominance. Whatever happens though, millions of eyes from across the world will be fixed on the US tech giant over the next few months, with any further developments likely to give a vital insight into the company’s future strategy.

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