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Friday, 24 May 2013

Windows Blue (8.1)

Windows Blue (8.1) release date, price and features

Updated: Microsoft's Windows Blue is set to debut at the Build 2013 conference in June. We run through all the key features.

What is Windows Blue?

Windows Blue is the codename for Microsoft’s first major upgrade to the Windows 8 desktop operating system. 
The launch of Blue will mark a change in strategy for Microsoft. Instead of releasing new editions of Windows after lengthy development cycles, going forward Redmond is expected to refresh its OS on a yearly basis. Blue will offer much more than a traditional "Service Pack", making it comparable to Apple's annual OS X updates.
Microsoft will not release the the software under the name "Windows Blue". Screenshots of a leaked build at the end of March all but confirmed the software will simply be officially known as Windows 8.1 upon release. Microsoft has taken a similar strategy for its other core products. The Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8 operating systems were codenamed "Mango" and "Apollo", respectively.
Known as “Build 9364”, the leaked code included key features which are expected to make the final release.

Straight to desktop

The most controversial features of Windows 8 were the lack of “Start” button and the direct booting to the Live Tiles screen instead of the traditional desktop.
Although both problems can be solved by downloading apps, users have been crying out for native controls. As it stands there are no plans to bring back the Start button, but the firm looks like it will give users the option to boot directly to the desktop.
Microsoft Portal has examined code within the leaked edition of Windows Blue. In the Dynamic Link Library code was found which can be “responsible for disabling the Start Screen”. By activating this, users will automatically be sent to the desktop.

Live Tiles

Users will be able to resize Live Tiles, offering an increased level of customisation which has been shown on Windows Phone. Important tiles such as the Desktop will also have a super-size mode.
Users will also be able to “snap” up to four Metro apps alongside each other. Developers are expected to be able to update existing apps to support these new Snap Views.

Improved Charms settings

Users will be able to access and configure advanced settings without having to switch into desktop mode. There’s also a Share Charm option which will allow users to quickly share an image with applications.

Enhanced App control

Users are able to snap Metro apps side-by-side within Windows 8, but at present one app takes up 75 per cent of the screen. Windows Blue will allow users to adjust the display so that two apps can share 50 per cent of the screen when run concurrently.

An App Sizes feature will make it easier for users to see which apps are eating up disk space.
Microsoft also aims to make it easier to control the notifications within individuals apps, to make sure that there is no annoying beeping during the middle of the night.

Internet Explorer 11

Screenshots posted in the Winforum show Windows Blue will be pre-loaded with Internet Explorer 11. There are no firm details on what benefits the latest edition of IE will bring, but syncing tabs across multiple devices is expected to be a core feature.


TBC. There are no details on pricing, but Windows Blue is expected to be low-cost much like Apple’s yearly Mac OS X upgrades, which retail at $30 per licence.

Release date

TBC. More details will be released by Microsoft at its Build conference in June. A public preview is expected to be launched at this event, with RTM pencilled in to follow in Autumn.
Update 24/04/13:
As well as allowing users the option to boot directly to the desktop, Microsoft is reportedly bringing back the Start button. Reports suggest that Windows Blue will include a button, but it will have reduced functionality compared to previous editions.
The Windows 8 Start button is tipped to simple act as a way to transition between the desktop and Metro interface. This lack of functionality means users are likely to continue downloading third-party apps such as Start8 from the Windows Store.
Update 2 08/05/13:
Speaking at the Wired Business Conference on May 7, Julie Larson-Green corporate vice-president for Windows, revealed that a public preview of Windows Blue will be made available on 24 June. The update will be available for all Windows 8 users to try and Larson-Green added that Microsoft was having "meaningful discussions" about bringing back the Start button - although it is unlikely to be as comprehensive as it was previous editions of Windows.


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