Feeling Blue?

It seems like just yesterday that we were assaulted with Windows 8, and yet the release of its first major update – Windows Blue – is rumoured to be just around the corner.

Things are still very much at the rumours stage, as Microsoft have yet to make any official announcements about Blue (that’s it’s working codename, incidentally, rather than its official title), but here’s a brief roundup of the bits and bobs that have been unearthed so far.

Spoiler alert: don’t get your hopes up. It’s more Windows 8.1 than Windows 9 we’re talking about here, so really just little tweaks added on top of what’s there already.

  • You’ll be able to split your full screen apps 50/50 on the screen with other apps, instead of the somewhat limiting 75/25 restriction at present

  • You’ll get Internet Explorer 11 (Eric’s excited, the rest of us use Chrome)

  • And you might, you just might, get the start button back (although early suggestions seem to imply that it won’t give you back the old-skool “Start Menu”).

  • You might also be able to boot directly to the desktop, rather than the Start screen

And, yeah, that’s about it so far. It’s getting a lot of press for something so seemingly underwhelming, but frankly that’s more because of what it represents than the actual features it’s touting.

So, what’s the real deal then? Well, the process Microsoft is currently going through marks a significant deviation from their previous update process.

In the past, a major version of Windows (XP, Vista, 7 etc) would be released, followed up with minor updates and then a big “Service Pack”. Then another year or two of minor updates, then another Service Pack. Typically each version of Windows would see two Service Packs before starting off the whole process again with a new version of Windows.

The shiny new update model revolves around a series of more frequent updates, more akin to the Apple way of doing things. Apple have been rocking “Mac OS X” for 12 years now (!), issuing a series of updates along the way to bring us up to the latest 10.8 (“Mountain Lion”). Each update represents a series of changes based on the previous iteration, but nothing so major as to require much of a learning curve (although if you were to hop even from 10.4 to 10.8, you’d find it a slightly strange world).

Whether Microsoft will charge for an update to Windows Blue is, as yet, unknown. If they do I should expect it to be around the £20 mark, as has been the case with Apple’s most recent updates. Instinctively I feel as though even £20 will seem steep to a lot of people (remember, Windows 8 has sold 100 million licences) – especially given the freshness of this departure from their previous update model – but by the time Windows “Green” is released in 18 months or so, people will be pretty well used to it. It’s amazing how quickly people adjust these days.

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