There's been some worry that Microsoft's Windows team may be waiting until the "Blue" upgrade to Windows 8 and Windows RT to refresh the Microsoft-developed, first-party apps that are bundled with the operating system.
I'm hearing from my contacts that this is not the case. In fact, updates to the Windows Mail, Calendar, Music, and Games apps for Windows 8 and Windows RT may be available to users as soon as March (as in this month).
Microsoft officials aren't commenting on this bit of information that I received from one of my contacts who has been dead-on about Blue (so far). Blue is the codename for the operating system refresh for Windows 8 and Windows RT -- as well as a number of other Microsoft products -- that is under development and supposedly set to be released to users this summer.
Microsoft officials have acknowledged publicly that the Windows team is aware that the first-party apps on Windows 8 and Windows RT have room for improvement. Many users have been especially disappointed in the Mail and Music apps for the product, claiming they feel more like betas than full featured, polished products. Even though they're free, these apps, developed by the Windows team, just aren't very good, many of us Windows 8/Windows RT users feel. (The Windows 8/Windows RT apps built by the Bing AppEx team, on the other hand, are quite solid and usable.)
Microsoft made some changes to its built-in first-party apps between the time Windows 8/Windows RT were released to manufacturing (August 1, 2012) and when they went on sale (October 26, 2012). While minor refreshes have come to the Xbox Music app for Windows 8, not much else has happened on the built-in app front.
I've heard that Microsoft employees are currently dogfooding the updated first-party apps. The updated versions all will be pushed out via the Windows Store.
Meanwhile, because I know folks will ask, I don't have an update on the Outlook for Windows RT client that Microsoft employees also have been testing internally. I have no new word on when or if this will be made commercially available, possibly because of battery-life problems with the app, I've heard.
While on the topic of Windows 8 and Windows RT apps, there are a few new and/or updated third-party apps out this week worth noting:
- Stardock has released a public beta of its ModernMix utility, which allows Windows 8 owners to run all of the Metro-Style/Windows Store apps on the desktop, enabling them to be resized in a window. ModernMix adds minimize/maximize buttons to apps running this way, making them work like current Windows apps do. The public beta costs $4.99, as Neowin noted.
- The CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, Mayo Clinic and other health-focused agencies and companies have developed some Windows 8 enterprise health apps, which these companies showed off at this week's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) annual conference.
- Box added some new functionality to its Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 online storage apps, including new preview capabilities and Office support.