Windows 8 may only be a few weeks old, but already eyes are turning to what Microsoft will do next, with many focusing on a project codenamed Windows Blue.
Reports from anonymous sources suggest that Microsoft is working on a standardised OS that would further unite its different platforms and also reduce the three year cycle between updates to as little as a year.
The key aim of Blue appears to be to take Windows 8, the OS designed first and foremost for the Microsoft Surface tablet, even further with a standardised SDK across all forms of Windows device.
The project, if confirmed, could be a huge risk for Microsoft, which has already seen something of a backlash from desktop users who aren't keen on the mobile device-focused Windows 8. Indeed, the new OS was labelled "a catastrophe" months before release by Gabe Newell, co-founder and chief executive of largely PC-focused game developer Valve Software. The former Microsoft employee worked on the first three versions of Windows.
Additional cross-pollination of Windows operating systems could potentially further alienate fans of the traditional desktop, possibly driving them away to Linux, the OS Valve is now experimenting with.
If the rumours are true, Blue will be available in the spring or summer of 2013 at a very low price or even for free to those already running a Windows OS. The suggestion is that if this leads to rapid and widespread uptake, developers will then be encouraged to create apps for the multi-platform Blue OS rather than Windows 8.
This isn't going to spell the end of Windows 8, however, at least not in the near future. It's thought Microsoft wants to keep the Windows 8 name following the release of Blue, as it pushes for more frequent updates.
Releasing yearly updates could be a shrewd move for Microsoft, as it could encourage users to keep their device – be it a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone – completely up to date. By offering smaller, cheaper yearly updates rather than large and expensive upgrades every three years, Microsoft should find it has more potential customers for its latest applications.
And if Microsoft starts updating Windows on a yearly basis, it leaves room for much more gradual changes that are likely to be more palatable to users than the radical UI makeover that has deterred many from upgrading to Windows 8.
It could potentially set the scene for yearly update cycles between rivals Microsoft, Apple and Google, all of whom would be forced to complete fast turnarounds for OS updates. While Microsoft hasn't confirmed Windows Blue, the year ahead for operating systems looks as if it could be very interesting.
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