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What is Windows Blue?

I wondered when I was going to use the Windows Mobile Marketplace logo again. It seems suitable this time. Microsoft fan sites have rumors of Windows Blue flying all over the place. We don’t know much, and some of the articles I’m reading are crossing themselves trying to explain what they think it is. Here’s my take on Windows Blue.

Windows Blue is what most people would call Windows 8 Service Pack 1. But don’t think of it as a service pack. Think of it as an upgrade. Because Microsoft is most likely going to charge a modest fee (honestly? I’m hoping it’s $20. If it’s much more than that, Microsoft will probably blow their chance, have to release it for free, and refund people’s money). They’re trying to cramp Apple’s style and get in on the pricing model much like how Apple has released several releases to OSX in the form of Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion.

If you were around for the transition to Windows XP Service Pack 2, you should understand what I mean when I say “upgrade” rather than just a service pack. Microsoft had every right to charge full price for Windows XP SP2. It replaced swaths of the operating system, it almost eliminated most Kernel differences between Home and Pro versions of Windows XP. For all intents and purposes, it was one of the largest operating system releases Microsoft never had! There were new features, additional support for new features, future-proofing the operating system in a way that hadn’t been done before. And it was all behind the scenes. Blue is supposed to really be a major step for Windows as brand.

It’s been discussed, but my theory as that Blue will unify the code bases of Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Windows 8. An app designed for one, will run on any. Blue has support for many resolutions, which is prepping it for things like a Microsoft Surface Mini. I anticipate a Surface Mini would likely run Windows RT (it would be hard to fit an x86 processor in such a small package with passive cooling – an Intel i5 would melt the plastic!), but if Blue does what we expect, it’s going to simplify the “app” Store a great deal and broaden the audience of developers in one quick move. People don’t want to develop for Windows Phone because it hasn’t seen mass adoption. But if you could develop your app and release it to every Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Windows 8 device with just a few clicks? Suddenly you have a massive audience which will grow by the day.

Rumors abound that Microsoft’s Windows team hit their first Milestone with Blue just a few weeks ago, and if it stays on schedule we’ll see an RTM in the summer, and early in the fall we should be getting access to Windows Blue. Time will tell what all that really means, but I’m pretty excited – and surprised at how little chatter there has been! I mention this to other people in the tech industry and they haven’t even heard of Blue! Open your eyes and ears, because it’ll be here before you know it! And whether it’s free or paid, I don’t care. I’ll be all over it!

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