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Windows Blue: How it could reinvent Windows (or sink Windows 8)

What does Windows Blue's standardized SDK and yearly release schedule mean to you?

By Brad Chacos, PC World
November 30, 2012 04:05 PM ET

PC World - With Windows 8's much ballyhooed launch barely a month behind us, alleged details of Microsofts next next-generation operating system have already begun swirling around the Net. And if those whispered rumors prove accurate, Windows Blue--as the rumored OS has been dubbed--will continue the seismic sea changes started in Windows 8.

Can you navigate Windows 8?

Blue would introduce a standardized software base shared between Windows proper and Windows Phone, and also move toward cheaper, yearly software updates.

Is the rumor true? We won't know for sure until the middle of next year, when Windows Blue will allegedly be released. We can, however, examine the deeper implications of each aspect of the Windows Blue rumors--as well as whether the very existence of these rumors could hurt Windows 8's success in the short run.

More frequent releases mean lower prices

It's uncertain whether Windows Blue could be a service pack, a feature pack or something else altogether, but both ZDNet and The Verge report that it will be the kick-off of a new yearly release schedule for Microsoft's operating system--similar to the cheap, annual releases favored by Apple. After Blue, the "big bang" Windows launches of the past will go the way of the dodo.

Yearly updates would translate into cheaper updates for consumers. Apple charges between $20 and $25 for its annual OS X release, and The Verge reports that Microsoft may give away Windows Blue a low cost or possibly no cost to encourage mass adoption to the operating system. Of course, if Windows Blue does in fact introduce a merged or standardized SDK across Windows Phones, tablets and desktops, Microsoft has a vested interest in pushing the release to as many Windows 8 users as possible, and follow-up releases should likely sport a low sticker price as well.

"I think we witnessed a new mode of aggressive upgrade pricing this year with Windows 8, and Microsoft could well try that tactic again, really dropping in an incentive for frequent upgraders to do so," says Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, an independent analytical organization focused on the Redmond company. "If (Windows Blue) is the full-fare cost of Windows, even for Windows 8 users, I can't imagine that going over too well."

Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, thinks users won't mind paying for annual Windows releases--if they're done right. "The Windows 8 update seemed to do well at $40 per download, so I think the market will take to this just fine if the updates provide solid benefits," he says.

Don't think you'll score a cheap upgrade if you decide to wait for Windows Blue's release, however. According to The Verge, you'll need to have a legitimate version of Windows installed on your PC to download a working version of Windows Blue.

More frequent releases mean more frequent features

Moving to a more rapid release schedule could also reap dividends for Microsoft on the innovation front, giving the company an opportunity to release new features on a far more frequent basis than with the traditional three(ish)-year Windows cycle. Three years is three lifetimes in the technology world.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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