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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.

Windows Blue
[Image Source: NeoWin]

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.

Apple store NYC
Will Windows users embrace an Apple-like release schedule? [Image Source: Double DT]
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.

Sources: ZDNet, The Verge, NeoWin

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RE: Why?
By 91TTZ on 11/29/2012 3:57:07 PM , Rating: 5
The desktop and laptop market isn't going anywhere. You've been falling for the hype. In the past couple of years the news has been dominated by mobile offerings, but only because they're new. The PC market is becoming more mature and obsolescence is no longer the driving factor it used to be. People are keeping their PCs much longer than they used to. In 2007 you probably wouldn't have considered an 8 year old Pentium-2 running Windows ME as being usable. But it's almost 2013 and there are plenty of people running Windows XP on a Core 2 Duo. Windows XP came out in October, 2001 and millions of people still use it. How many people were still running Windows 3.1 in 2003? PCs are becoming like home appliances. They fulfill a purpose and you use them until they break.

But the mobile market is still relatively new. It hasn't reached maturity yet. Things are evolving quickly and people are throwing away perfectly usable phones because they seem so obsolete compared to newer offerings. I had to chuck my iPhone 3G last year because it was obsolete. It was only 3 years old. When the iPad came out everyone wanted a tablet and they sold like crazy, even at $500. Now many of those people feel that their iPad is obsolete so they threw down another $500 and bought an iPad 2, 3, or 4.

But profit margins are quickly falling for mobile devices. A few years ago the only tablets you could buy were several hundred dollars. Since they were relatively inexpensive to make there was a lot of profit made on those devices. Now you can get some quality devices for under $200. Low-cost tablets are coming to dominate the industry at a time when the heavyweights such as Microsoft are still trying to establish themselves in the industry with high-price devices. It isn't going to work. Already, Apple (#1 in the tablet market) is feeling the pressure and being forced to sell a smaller, stripped down version of the iPad in order to fend off companies with their lower-cost offerings.

It's just like watching sports news- every year you see analysts saying that this kid is going to be the next Joe Montana or Barry Sanders... only to have those predictions not pan out. What you end up getting is a lot of average players who nobody remembers.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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