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Smaller live tiles, new Internet Explorer 11 browser, and multi-monitor "snap" views are among highlights

Details have already started to trickle out regarding Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTWindows Blue -- the somewhat ironically named (BSOD anyone?) sequel to the coolly received Windows 8, a refresh which sources indicate will land later this year.  But a leak of a partner test build from earlier this month shows us the most explicit details about the Windows 8 UI makeover yet.

I. The Leak 

The leak came courtesy of photos posted to a Polish language forum in The leak also fell on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's 57th birthday.  Mr. Ballmer has shaken up the Windows team after Windows 8 received mixed reviews, with the biggest change being the departure of Windows President Steven Sinofsky.  The shakeups are expected to have a sizeable influence on the end product as Microsoft moves towards a shorter schedule of releases with Windows Blue.

The leaked build -- Build 9364 -- was compiled on March 15th, and is one of the builds that Microsoft sends to certain trusted partners in the months leading up to a Windows OS or service pack launch.

The build is current 2.63 GB

II. The Features

One of the biggest changes showcased in the leaked screenshots was an expected one -- smaller live tiles.  Much like Windows Phone 8, Windows Blue gives developers and customers more flexibility by allowing them to adopt a smaller/leaner footprint for seldom used apps' tiles.

Windows Blue

Microsoft has also borrowed Windows 7's desktop "snapping" and inserted it into the Windows 8 UI to allow snapped Windows 8-style apps.  The concept has been extended to allow a 4-app snapped configuration.  What's more, the snap-fest can extend to up to 8 simultaneously snapped apps in a multi-monitor setup.

Windows Blue

Windows Blue snaps (2)

The screenshots also show off a series of Windows 8-style apps --alarm, sound recorder, movie moments, and calculator -- which will come pre-loaded with Blue.  

Windows Blue

And there's new style options to allow users greater flexibility in customizing the look of their Windows 8-style GUI.

Windows Blue styles
Windows Blue Styles 2

The Windows 8 menu's controls have been streamlined and expanded to offer more intuitive control over hardware, uploads, networking, and other options so as to minimize the instances in which you have to return to the desktop control panel.

Windows Blue Control Panel (1)

Windows Blue Control Panel (2)

Windows Blue control panel (3)

Windows Blue Control Panel (4)

There's new gestures for touch users:
  • swipe up from the bottom -- gives a list of all apps
  • swipe up or down (in Desktop Mode) -- gives toolbar w/ access to Snap
Another highlight is a test build of the upcoming Internet Explorer 11.  The new browser has tab syncing, presumably to sync tabs between your mobile Windows Phone Blue device and your various Windows Blue tablets/laptops/desktops.

Windows Blue

Wrapping up the changes, there have been modifications to the "Charms" feature.  There's a new option in the Share Charm, which offers a quick shareable screenshot option for use with other apps like messaging and email.

Windows Blue Charms

Windows Blue Charms (screenshot)

The Verge and R27 (Italian) both reported on these leaked features.


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RE: craptastic.
By Flunk on 3/25/2013 1:09:53 PM , Rating: 2
I can't believe people are still posting about this.


Microsoft has announced over and over that this is what they're doing. To expect different at this point is silly. It's going to a take an epic failure for them to change their mind. We're at least 5 years away from them giving up on this.

Stop posting silly comments. Also, Windows 7 will be have mainstream support until January 12, 2015 and extended support until January 14, 2020. All of this stuff is readily available.

RE: craptastic.
By StevoLincolnite on 3/25/2013 8:32:14 PM , Rating: 5

Microsoft is a company, it's main goal is to sell products to consumers in exchange for money.
What happens if sales are poor? They will change their mind so they can continue to make more money.

From what I have seen, sales and reception of Windows 8 has been fairly poor, so it wouldn't surprise me if they back pedal a bit.

RE: craptastic.
By tastyratz on 3/26/2013 9:19:36 AM , Rating: 2
Sales have not been poor due to massive pricing restructures but correlation does not equal causation. People buy it because it's cheap, and they get it with new computers. They think 8 is better than 7 and are not educated to know the difference. why buy "old" on the shelf when new is significantly cheaper? Sales are through the roof.

None of that is an indicator of consumer preference however, the decision is halfway made for them by retailers and OEM's.

RE: craptastic.
By althaz on 3/28/2013 1:41:43 AM , Rating: 2
You talk about education, but the uneducated and open-minded people in my organisation mostly LIKE Windows 8.

The "education" that is out there tells you Win8 is bad, almost entirely for reasons that don't exist.

There actually isn't any reason to not like Windows 8 - it's faster, more stable, uses less power, has improved usability for desktop users, offers an interface for tablet users and improves a number of core functions (eg: Control Panel, File Copy).

The start screen is flat-out better than the start menu - which virtually nobody used because it was crap.

Sure, metro apps are pretty crap and the metro stuff for the most part is clearly not ready for prime-time, but it's all purely optional.

People complaining about Windows 8 are mostly demonstrating they have no knowledge of the product or complaining they don't like the direction they think Microsoft is headed (and if MS is headed to a full-screen only, app-store only future, I hope they burn in hell, though I din't think the former at least is likely).

You can say it's not worth upgrading to for you (a valid and reasonable view point, although for me the improved multi-monitor support and fucking UP button in file explorer makes it worth it, even it weren't for the noticable performance benefits), but it's demonstratably better in all areas than Windows 7, so you can't actually say it's bad and say Win7 is good.

Of course I've been fairly critical of Win8 as well, but that's because I feel like the new Metro stuff is half-baked - but I'm not saying Win8 is bad, it's just that I wish it were better.

RE: craptastic.
By Da W on 3/26/13, Rating: 0
RE: craptastic.
By freedom4556 on 3/27/2013 6:36:28 AM , Rating: 2
The difference is that Windows 95 didn't launch to a world largely devoid of mice like Windows 8 did with touchscreens. Hardware turnover was also much faster back then. Did you ever try to uses Windows without a mouse? I have. Often mice drivers didn't autoload. Windows 8 without a touch device reminds me a lot of that experience.

RE: craptastic.
By delphinus100 on 3/25/2013 8:43:19 PM , Rating: 2
It's going to a take an epic failure for them to change their mind.

You write as if that can't possibly happen.

If they start losing customer base, minds will change (or did you forget Vista?), UIs will change. That's how it works. Whether it actually will do that, remains to be seen.

All of this stuff is readily available.

And none of it etched in stone. Or did you forget the multiply-reprieved Windows XP?

RE: craptastic.
By mechBgon on 3/28/2013 2:43:48 AM , Rating: 2
I recently compared the Win8 adoption rate to Vista's, using Valve's Steam stats. Even among the gaming community, Win8 is being adopted at about half the rate that Vista was. And that's despite $40 giveaway pricing for several months. So yeah, I'd say it's time for Microsoft to read the writing on the wall... they've got a great OS trapped underneath a UI that many people just don't want.

My take: if Microsoft published a mea culpa acknowledging they were fools to artificially take away the choice of the traditional UI, and produced a Desktop User Option Pack that gave us a Win7-style UI option, then they'd see Win8 finally start to take off. People who really preferred the tablet/touch UI could have it, but businesses wouldn't have to be stuck with it and retrain their users and support staff just to satisfy Microsoft's self-serving agenda.

RE: craptastic.
By 0ldman on 3/30/2013 9:58:52 AM , Rating: 2
Just check the number of downloads of Classic Shell.

That is about the only reason my customers didn't take back their Windows 8 machines.

Just to be clear, I didn't sell them the PC, but I did have to talk them out of returning it because they hate the Metro Interface, every one that has gotten a Windows 8 PC.

The Windows 8 underlying architecture is great, the fluff on top is an irritation with a mouse at best. At what point were options decided to be a problem?

Microsoft opts to keep Metro, I choose to use 7. I set my customers up with Classic Shell.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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