For those of you who didn’t read my review on Windows 8, I’d suggest you go catch up on it and see what it has in store for you. I’ve been using it since launch and its working pretty well for me. In my review, I noted that its possible that with the low prices Microsoft chose to launch the new OS at, that the company is targeting a pricing scheme and release schedule similar to that of Apple – that is, release an update every year that includes major bugfixes and new features that would normally come in a service pack or new version of the OS. But instead of making a new OS every three years with it all built in, you merely do incremental releases every year. And it looks like the ball may get rolling with Windows “Blue”, a set of incremental updates to Microsoft’s entire lineup.
For now, “Blue” is a codename for the various milestones in the new builds that each OS is going through. According to ZDNet’s Mary Foley, the new release of Windows 8 painted with the “Blue” brush will be going to RTM sometime in June and will be on sale in August. Its possible that Microsoft will target an upgrade to the new platform at a reasonable price of $40, falling somewhat in line with what Apple charges for OS X platform updates, which is $20. The “Blue” version of Windows 8 will tick it over to version 8.1, going beck to the days when you had Windows 3.0, 3.1 and so on.
What are they actually improving? That’s anyone’s guess at the moment. Foley reports that it could be tweaks to the user experience in the Start Screen, platform updates that makes devving for the OS easier and possibly new versions of Internet Explorer, Mail, Calendar, Bing and other Modern UI applications. There’s possibly also some Kernel and driver-level updates to improve performance and battery life. There might also be some improvements to the way Modern UI applications scale to different screen sizes.
In fact, it might even be a free upgrade to existing Windows 8 owners. Microsoft is expecting their entire software range to hit the “Blue” milestone in July – Windows 8 desktop, Windows RT and Server 2012, as well as Office 365. By the time the “Blue” versions of these OSes hit the July RTM deadline, Windows Messenger will be dead and buried, replaced by the much more useful Skype.
Here’s the thing, though. We’ve seen in the past that improvements to an OS using service packs wasn’t always noticeable, or even gave you better performance. SP1 for both XP and Vista increased stability and sorted out a few drivers and memory management, but SP1 for Windows 7 hardly had any effect. Will the incremental updates of Windows 8 be worth the $40 Ballmer wants to charge us? Obviously it’s in Microsoft’s best interests to have a steady stream of revenue, so the yearly updates benefit them more than the users.
Additionally, do I want to be paying yearly upgrade fees for what’s essentially the same product? Sure, it might be needed for things like tablets because that’s new territory for Microsoft, but I’m pretty much fine with the way things are on the desktop. I may even skip a year or two of the updates and just go for 8.4 when I’m ready. What about you guys out there? Would you update as the new versions become available, or would you be more likely to consider using alternatives like Mac OS X or some form of Linux?
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