Microsoft confirms Blue to be free for existing Windows 8 users

Microsoft confirms Blue to be free for existing Windows 8 users

Summary: Microsoft plans to make its first update to Windows 8, codenamed Blue, free to existing Windows 8 users, company officials have confirmed.


As many expected and hoped, Microsoft is going to make the coming Windows Blue update to Windows 8 free for existing Windows 8 and Windows RT users.


Microsoft's Windows Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller, during an appearance at the May 14 JP Morgan Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, shared the pricing news. 

Reller also acknowledged what those who've downloaded leaked builds of Blue have known for a while: Windows Blue is Windows 8.1.

Windows 8 is currently available via a handful of SKUs -- Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows RT (not exactly Windows 8, but part of the family).  She didn't provide more information about plans for the coming Blue SKUs.

Reller also said today that Microsoft now has more than 70,000 Metro-Style/Windows Store apps in the Windows Store. She also noted that the final version of Windows Blue (both the Windows 8 and the RT flavors)  will be made available to customers through the Windows Store once they are available.

Last week, Reller acknowleged that Microsoft plans to have Windows Blue available by holiday 2013. (I continue to hear the release to manufacturing will be around August 2013.) Julie Larson-Green, the head of Windows engineering, also confirmed last week that Microsoft plans to make a public preview of Blue available by the end of June, 2013, around the time of the Microsoft Build 2013 conference. Reller reconfirmed the preview date today, noting the Blue preview will be out at Build, which kicks off on June 26. (I've asked Microsoft if Windows RT/Surface RT users will get the preview, too. The answer is yes, as a new Microsoft blog post mentions in its last line.)

Last week, Reller wouldn't talk about Windows Blue's price. She said Microsoft planned to disclose more about pricing and the SKU line-up for Blue before the end of May -- which set off a chain of angry reactions among some Windows 8 users who thought the word "pricing" meant Microsoft definitely planned to charge for Blue. But a mention of Blue being a free upgrade by All Things D's Walt Mossberg in an article from late April made me believe free was the plan. 

Reller emphasized that Microsoft's strategy in using the Windows Store to deliver Blue is focused around giving users choice about when they deploy the coming update. 

"Windows 8.1 will be a packaged set of updates which customers can say when they are ready (to deploy)," she said. 

Reller also was asked during a Q&A session about what's behind her own and Larson-Green's recent emphasis on Microsoft being "principled but not stubborn" about expected coming interface changes with Blue. Among those rumored changes are inclusion of an optional Start Button and boot-to-desktop capability.

Reller said that even though the Windows ecosystem needs to know where Microsoft is going so it can go with the company, the Windows team still needs to listen to its customers and partners about what they want.

Topics: Windows 8, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets, PCs, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Thank god

    Would've been incredibly stupid for Microsoft to charge for this considering how important it could be in repairing people's opinion of Windows 8. Hopefully Blue delivers on the rest of it's hype.
    • The problem with Blue...

      Is that it will not be enough. I am guessing Windows 8 will not be in a good state till about Windows 8.5. As others have noted, too many things need to be fixed with 8 and RT is just a mess. Don't get me wrong, I like 8, using it on 3 machines including a Surface RT. But the things that its missing are as frustrating as the things it does well.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • how?

        How is Win8 a mess? Can you not run your applications? Can you check your email? Facebook? What is it not doing?
        • Modern Mail is woefully lacking.

          In many areas. It's a joke of an e-mail client.
          • It isn't

            In fact, it is better than the one on ios AND the one on Android. Now of course it is lacking when compared to the many email clients on the desktop, but nobody is stopping you from running these.
          • I'm not comparing it to iOS or Android.

            I am comparing it to other PC e-mail clients because that's what we're discussing...PC's. Not tablets, not phones, not phablets...PCs.

            "Now of course it is lacking when compared to the many email clients on the desktop, but nobody is stopping you from running these."

            If the solution is to use the Desktop then what is the advantage to having Modern?
          • Did Windows 7

            Come with a build in email client ? Exactly, it didn't.

            Of course this wasn't a problem, you could download live essentials for instance, or you could use Outlook, or use many many other email clients. The exact same thing you could do on Windows 8.

            But at least Windows 8 does come with a built in mail client, and is therfore the first version of Windows that actually offers Exchange connectivity out of the box. And of course the metro interface is a touch first, consumption interface, hence the comparison with Android and IOS. This also relates to your notion that we are discussing pc's only, yet we aren't, as Windows 8 also runs on tablets and hybrid devices.

            The advantage of having metro is having a unified interface on different form factors, be it a tablet, a desktop pc, or a hybrid device. Where the same code can be compiled to run on these various form factors. If the build in email client does not live up to your standards, you could search for one at the store or use whatever you use now on the desktop. It is called choice.

            Finally, the built in email client has been updated several times now, and is certainly much better than it was 6 months ago. This blue update isn't needed to make it better anyway, as that's where the store comes into play.
          • Irrelevant.

            "Did Windows 7. Come with a build in email client ? Exactly, it didn't."

            Completely and 100% immaterial to the discussion. The objection to Windows 8 is MODERN. When I was using Windows 8 there was no other MODERN e-mail application that I could download. Now that may have changed since then but at that time the supplied MODERN e-mail client was it.

            The solution of downloading a DESKTOP e-mail client to work around it is ridiculous. I liken it to Mac users who recommend installing Windows in a VM in order to be able to use Windows software. If I'm going to do that why bother with using a Mac at all? The same applies to MODERN. If the solution is to use DESKTOP application than MODERN has failed.

            "The advantage of having metro is having a unified interface on different form factors, be it a tablet, a desktop pc, or a hybrid device."

            And you are, once again, ignoring the objections. I don't need a touch enable interface on a PC. They're two different platforms. The fact you can doesn't mean you should.

            "Finally, the built in email client has been updated several times now, and is certainly much better than it was 6 months ago."

            I was told, just yesterday in these very forums, they had not.
          • Why is downloading a desktop

            Email client ridiculous ?

            Do you actually believe that the desktop is just there for fun ? Nobody is saying nor claiming that you have to use modern. In fact, on a desktop it would be far more logical to use the desktop. Not only because of the fact that it comes with 20 + years of application history (the number of available applications is far greater than any other platform in comparison), but also because some of the restrictions that are being imposed on modern (no overlapping Windows, app store restricton) do not apply to it.

            Modern is the interface that would make the most sense when a tablet is used, or when someone would use their desktop pc in "consumption mode". I personally like IE10 on metro if I actually just want to read some websites, without being distracted with other stuff. Of course I already did mention that some metro apllications (such as remote desktop) are actually better than their desktop equivalent (mstsc) so even in production mode, I actually use modern apllications.

            Now the modern email apllication has been updated last month, and whilst it certainly hasn't reached feature parity with Outlook, it is certainly a decent email client, and as said, it is better than the one that comes with IOS.
          • Because the objection is to MODERN.

            "Why is downloading a desktop...Email client ridiculous ?"

            Not the DESKTOP. Suggesting people use the DESKTOP to work around MODERN's limitations is ridiculous.If the DESKTOP is the solution what is the value add of having MODERN?
          • I have no objection to modern

            And I am actively using both interfaces on my laptops and dekstops. I choose the interface depending on the application and the type of workflow that I need. Choice being the key word here.

            The desktop isn't a solution, neither is metro. They can both be used, one can choose to use only one or the other. Not sure why having choice is so difficult to handle for people, all of a sudden they feel forced or they scream bloody murder.
          • We're not discussing your objections.

            We're discussing other people's objections. You might be satisfied with the included Modern applications. Others are not.

            "Not sure why having choice is so difficult to handle for people, all of a sudden they feel forced or they scream bloody murder."

            I asked the very same question of you...why are you so against people who do not like Modern and ask for the CHOICE to boot straight to the desktop and the return of the Start Menu. No one wants to take away your ability to use Modern, the Desktop, or the combination that works for you. They just want the CHOICE to avoid Modern altogether. So how about it? Why are they being unreasonable?
          • How am I (or they) being unreasonable

            I never said anything against Microsoft bringing back the start button or offering a direct to desktop boot option. I do however think both are unecessary. The start button is still there but hidden. The start menu as such is a relic from the past, and I personally enjoy the startscreen much better. Having said that, I have nothing against Microsoft bringing it back, providing it is optional. The fact that Microsoft quite clearly has made the choice (which I indeed fully support) to target Windows to more form factors will indicate the return of the startmenu is very unlikely as it is totally unusable when using touch.

            The option to boot into desktop is silly, I have no other word for it. What benefit does it really provide ? Some claim it saves them one click, which of course it doesn't. Unless people stare at the desktop all day and then shut down the computer. But if you boot to desktop and then start whatever application(s), there is no benefit whatsoever as clicking on the tiles of the startscreen does the exact same thing. Apparently some complainers have lost their common sense. I find it amazing that people fail to grasp the function of the startscreen and why exactly it is called the startscreen. As if they left their brains at home or something.
          • You imply it with your characterizations those who object...

            "I never said anything against Microsoft bringing back the start button or offering a direct to desktop boot option."

   Windows 8's current implementation are idiots, incompetent, dumb, what-have-you. Statements such as the following:

            "The option to boot into desktop is silly, I have no other word for it."

            Says all that needs to be said. You don't agree with it? Fine. That's your opinion. Others disagree and their opinion is no less valid than yours. The fact we're even having this discussion implies as much.
          • And therefore I have no objections

            If Microsoft (as an option) reinstates it. The sillyness isn't any less, and I have also stated the reason why I think it is silly. I know using logic to explain things might be a bridge to far, but that shouldn't deter anyone from still using it..
          • I want to customize the start screen and the all apps screen.

            sjaak: "boot to desktop and then start whatever application(s), there is no benefit whatsoever as clicking on the tiles of the startscreen does the exact same thing."

            The desktop is not an application launcher. Both the desktop and the start screen are used to customize not only the way your computer looks (choose icons, colors and background), but more importantly, to arrange workflows, including shortcuts to documents, folders and scripts.

            I found all the nice add-ons for Windows 8 because I went to Stardocks for "Fences". I use the computer at home for many different purposes, including professional programming, building Web sites, working with photographs, ebooks and music, and trying out new applications and Cloud services. I also try to keep computer settings, vm management, server management and such at hand once I've figured out how to use them. I don't miss the start menu much if I can sort shortcuts into Fences any way I like, and save the arrangement.

            It is not possible to keep track of all this stuff in any kind of workflow or order using huge tiles that do not fit on my big screen. One blogger introducing Windows said she had a sticky (physical or virtual) note with the keystrokes she needs to access win8 desktop and settings - that's the kind of thing I have Start Menu or desktop shortcuts for.

            It would be fine to have a Start Screen (if only colors and design could be changed) for a few selected applications and live widgets when you start up the computer. Why not have tiles for as many desktops as you want?
          • Nou eigenlijk...

            The start-Menu is still here, it's part of the charms-bar named under various names (search and settings) + 2 new features, change the name and everybody goes bonkers.

            Boot to the desktop would be a diseaster, and I most sincerely hope that Microsoft won't make this Billion $ mistake (yes, it's actually a $,- mistake), and a start-button that brings people to the start-screen shows people it's ''an evolution'', + it would be ''touch-friendlier'' due to being an easy button you can push (similar to the home button on Android and iO.S., respectively).
            Văn Minh Nguyễn
          • um..

            The desktop has been a solution for decades. I'm still using one from 1991, (among newer things).

            Devo said it best:
            "Freedom of choice is what we've got, freedom from choice is what we want."
          • (question..

            And it has an answer. The MODERN UI is more than just a UI frosting on top of Windows Desktop. It actually IS the next Windows. It foregoes the many years of limitations and vulnerabilities of what has been know as Windows for (well) ever. The desktop GUI is rife with limitations for what is needed to move forward, the first of which is touch based manipulation which requires larger 'landing spots' for app manipulation inside and out. To overcome the precision needed when manipulating any/every program with a finger (instead of mouse), a new UI standard was needed, and now set in place. To overcome vulnerabilities of one application or browser instance granting R/W access to another, or worse elevation of privileges, a new app handler was needed, and now set in place. The real Windows 8 runs Windows 7 and below applications in much the same way Windows 95 allowed for DOS. The future of Windows is being introduced, with a greater set of limitations of app to app communication outside app-contracts, and simultaneously providing an OS app base that provides developers the ability to port their wares to the Xbox, the PC, the Tablet, and the phone. Write app for one, port to all, with little to no extra effort. THAT is what Windows 8 is providing, well over Apple iOS/OSX inconsistencies, and well over Chromium/Android/Chrome Browser inconsistencies. One app written for Windows PC, Touch, Tablet, Desktop, Xbox, and phone. All in one ecosystem for screen, TV, Tablet, phone, and device. No other ecosystem provides that range of devices with the same app base.
          • All the Apps and All that Jazz

            This may appear ignorant and arrogant on my behalf asking this question, but are you somehow unemployed, involved in IT or a Social Media freak ?
            Any of these options would explain the fact that you see Windows 8 as a great advancement. The rest of us don't have time to try and figure out how this mess works, we have work to do outside the IT industry, and we use computers and phones as tools, not as a play thing or source of frustration.
            The Windows 8 e-mail protocol system does not suit the mass of us who have registered domains that require us to use IMAP/POP3 protocol, and it will be the Frosty Friday when I or anybody who is involved in a successful business with our own brand domain allows the Microsoft account to be our dominant e-mail account, or allows anybody to hack our open internet SKYDRIVE account and gain access to our confidential documents !!!
            Have you really tried any of the applications available to the mobile 8 phones ?
            At least 80% of them are either duplicated or absolute garbage that don't work !!!
            Please think of us poor Mining Engineers who have hundreds of decisions to make and calculations to do and analysis of daily situations in the real world, with real family's, and real lives, we don't need the agitation of other people's incomplete social lives or Microsoft's incompetence to clutter our already busy lives!