After acknowledging its Windows Blue codename publicly in March, Microsoft is getting closer to revealing all about the upcoming Windows 8 update. In an interview with The Verge this week, Microsoft's Windows CFO Tami Reller provided some details on where the company is heading with its Blue project.
Although Windows 8.1 has been spotted in a number of leaked builds recently, Reller says Blue is simply an "internal name" and that the company isn't yet discussing exact naming, pricing, and packaging details. All of those details will be revealed by the end of the month she says, well ahead of Microsoft's Build developer conference in June. "Blue is an update," says Reller. "That's a good way to describe it, that's a good way to think about it." It's an update to Windows 8 that Microsoft is focusing on three key areas with: the touch vision, addressing feedback, and new form factors.
Microsoft is addressing feedback with Blue
One of the biggest areas of Windows 8 criticism is related to its use on a non-touch PC and a lack of a traditional Start button and Start menu. "We do have an opportunity with Blue to address some of the feedback that we're seeing from customers and from the market," says Reller. Although Microsoft isn't listing the exact feedback, Reller admits that the company has heard the cries for a Start button. "We have heard that, we definitely have heard that and taken that into account," she explains. "We've really also tried to understand what people are really asking for when they're asking for that."
Reller stopped short of confirming the Start button will return, but sources close to Microsoft's Windows Blue plans have previously revealed the company will include this in the final version. Reller's open approach on Microsoft's plans to act on feedback is a stark contrast to the company's previous efforts under former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky. It appears the company is preparing how to best communicate its upcoming Windows changes in the coming weeks. Reller says Microsoft has also received a lot of feedback from businesses on what they'd like to see in Windows Blue. Microsoft is also believed to be adding an option to boot to desktop in Windows Blue. "I would say we've looked at a broad set of options as we've made decisions on where we take the product going forward, "explains Reller, while not discussing specifics.
7- and 8-inch Windows devices will arrive before Blue
Although the addressing of feedback is critical, Microsoft's other push with Blue is 7- and 8-inch form factors. While some of these types of tablets will arrive in the coming months, ahead of Blue, Microsoft has been working to allow OEMs to bring these devices to market running Windows 8 and Windows RT. "The product as you know it today can run on small screen form factors," says Reller. "We've made sure from the product to our pricing and offerings we are supporting 7- and 8-inch devices specifically." That said, "Blue does a nice job of optimizing for those small screen form factor sizes," says Reller. "Yes you'll see them before, but Blue also does more to support."
Demand for Windows tablets has been difficult to gauge due to a lack of touch-based hardware and high price points, but Reller believes there's demand for 7- and 8-inch Windows-based devices. "It's still early days in terms of exactly the size within that category, I think we will see some good range even within the small form factor category," she says. "There's definitely interest." Microsoft itself has been rumored to be preparing a 7-inch version of its Surface tablet, expected later this year. With a focus on these types of devices with Blue, due for the holidays, expect to see a greater emphasis on these tablets in the coming weeks and months as Microsoft moves closer to bringing Blue to market.