Microsoft's next Windows Blue test build said to be a public preview

Microsoft's Windows Blue operating system update may be on its way to a public, consumer preview in the next few months. And it might even be free, according to the latest scuttlebutt.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

More rumors about Microsoft's next Windows release, codenamed Blue, are trickling out from Win8China.com, a site known for leaking information about new Windows releases. 


Though I cannot corroborate all Win8China's specifics, I'd say based on previous Windows Blue tidbits I've heard, the site's latest Blue information seems largely believable.

In August 2012, I blogged about Microsoft's Windows Blue work, noting that a summer 2013 debut was the internal Microsoft delivery target. On February 24, Win8China claimed that the release-to-manufacturing phase for Windows Blue is supposedly June 7, with retail availability planned for August 2013.

Looking back, Microsoft released Windows 8 to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, but didn't make the release available at retail until October 26. Up until now, there's typically been a roughly three-month lag between RTM and the date when at least some PC makers would have the latest Windows release preloaded on new PCs. With Blue, Microsoft is trying to get Windows on a faster development track, and also get the final bits into consumers' hands almost as soon as the product RTMs, I've heard.

Win8China is also reporting that the second of the two expected Windows Blue milestones will be a public "milestone preview" build. I blogged recently that there would be two Windows Blue "milestones," according to my contacts, but had no information as to when and whether Microsoft planned to release a developer or consumer preview before RTMing the product.

In January 2013, I reported that Windows Blue was expected to include tweaks to the user experience, new dev-platform related bits, as well as new versions of Internet Explorer, Mail, Calendar, Bing and other integrated apps. Blue also was expected include some kernel and driver-level updates which could help with battery life and overall performance, according to my sources.

It sounds like Win8China also is hearing the same, noting there will be performance enhancements. The site is also claiming there will be scalability improvements for Metro-Style (Windows Store) apps so that they render correctly on differently sized screens. (We know Microsoft officials are touting Windows 8's ability to support multiple screen sizes, so this seems like a good bet.)

Win8China also mentions windowing improvements will be part of Windows Blue. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'd be really happy if we could run more than just two apps side-by-side like we're stuck doing with Windows 8. A woman can dream....

Win8China also said that Microsoft intends to make the Windows Blue upgrade free for Windows 8 users. I have no idea if this is true, or if Microsoft will go the Apple route and make OS refreshes available for a relatively nominal fee.

Win8China hasn't posted about the other products that I've heard are part of the upcoming Blue wave. Windows Phone, Windows Server, Outlook.com and SkyDrive are all set to get "Blue" refreshes at some point. I've heard from my contacts that Windows Phone Blue is running later than Windows Blue. It's unclear whether that means Windows Phone Blue will be a fall/winter 2013 or a 2014 release. (This should not be interpreted as Windows Phone Blue being "delayed," as I have no idea what the Windows Phone team's target for Blue is/was.)

Microsoft officials are declining to comment on anything pertaining to Blue.

(Thanks to Sebastian, a k a @Windows4Live, for providing a link to a succinct translation of the latest Win8China rumors about Blue.)

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