Are Microsoft 'updates' like Blue really more than service packs?

“Update” is becoming an increasingly loaded — and important — word at Microsoft.
Windows Blue is an “update” to Windows 8, Microsoft officials stressed this week. The Office team is now using “update” to refer to collections of new features that the company is adding to a product or service (as opposed to “upgrades,” which are entirely brand-new versions). The Microsoft Dynamics team has been using “update” the same way for a while now. And the Visual Studio team has been rolling out regular “updates” to Visual Studio 2012 for the past few months; the third of these, VS 2012.3, is almost done and hit the release candidate milestone earlier this week.
A number of Microsoft users have questioned whether these updates are simply new names for service packs. I’ve pointed out that service packs in Windows were supposed to be “just” bug fixes and not new features. But Technical Fellow and Team Foundation Server Product Unit Manager, Brian Harry, made this point more eloquently in a blog post from earlier this week.
Harry posted a very candid response to a tester’s question about Microsoft’s thinking around the new Visual Studio update process. The questioner asked whether these updates were simply Service Pack (SP) 1 delivered in pieces. Here’s what Harry said:
“I also don’t think it’s ‘SP1 in chunks.’ The kinds of changes we’ve put into the (VS 2012) updates go FAR beyond what we would have historically included in a Service Pack. Service Packs had an ‘aura’ that they only contain bug fixes and while that was never strictly true – any time someone proposed a Service Pack change that didn’t smell like a bug fix, there was a lot of justification that had to be done. One of the fundamental mindset changes with the move from ‘Service Packs’ to ‘Updates’ has been that the primary value of Updates is new value – and sure we’ll fix a lot of bugs too, but that’s not the focus. Read my posts on the updates and you’ll that generally the bug fixes are a footnote. They are all about the cool new capabilities we are enabling.”
While no one from Windows or Office has been anywhere near this upfront about what constitutes and update, I’d bet the thinking is similar, if not identical on those teams.
Not so long ago, Microsoft execs would talk about a major/minor product delivery strategy. Windows, especially, was all about delivering a big-bang release, followed by a more minor one three years or so later. A greater emphasis on services and devices meant that thinking no longer made sense, as many users now expect more regular, frequent updates.
Does Update = Free?
Pricing is the one piece of the new Microsoft “update” puzzle that is still unknown — at least on the Windows and Office fronts.
With products like Dynamics CRM and Visual Studio 2012, Microsoft has been making updates available for free to users who purchased or subscribed to the latest versions of a particular software/service deliverable.
Microsoft’s Windows Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller’s pronouncement this week that Microsoft will be revealing Windows Blue SKUs and pricing before the end of May had a number of Windows 8 users up in arms. They immediately assumed that any mention of “price” must mean Microsoft intends to charge for Windows Blue. And a number of these users feel like Blue — at least the pieces of it that have leaked so far — are more product refinements and/or features that should have been in Windows 8 when it launched in October 2012 than features for which they should be charged more money.
I’ve heard rumors that Microsoft plans to make Blue free for existing Windows 8 users. I’ve also heard rumors that Microsoft intends to charge existing users a “nominal fee” for Blue (the same way that Apple has been charging for updates to Mac OS X). I’m more inclined to believe it will be free — especially given a late April “All Things D” laptop guide by Walt Mossberg indicated that Microsoft and/or OEMs had said Windows Blue “will be available to current buyers as a free upgrade.”
(I asked Microsoft officials this week about the All Things D post and was told the Windows team had no comment.)
One more tidbit from Harry’s post this week: VS 2012.3 is the last of the updates coming for Visual Studio 2012. The next deliverable on the roadmap is VS V.Next, which some tipsters have said is Visual Studio 2013. This is probably what I’ve heard called “Visual Studio Blue.”
I’d think Build 2013 is where we’ll hear lots more about this new version of Visual Studio, as well as about the evolving app-dev model designed to bring Windows Blue, Windows Phone and maybe even the new Xbox more into alignment.
via Are Microsoft ‘updates’ like Blue really more than service packs? | ZDNet.

Windows Blue may help, but Microsoft still faces hurdles

Microsoft’s failure thus far to significantly spark PC and tablet sales with Windows 8 has put high expectations on an expected 2013 refresh of the OS, dubbed “Blue.”
But changes to the operating system’s feature set, tweaks to its user interface (UI) and modifications to some of its subcomponents are actually solutions to minor problems, analysts said. They point to more important issues like pricing and positioning, app shortages, and enterprise reluctance as beyond the scope of an upgrade. (See also “Windows Blue wish list: 15 must-see improvements.”)
Few Blue hints
Microsoft has said little of Blue, the code name for the first Windows 8 upgrade, reportedly to ship this summer or fall, as well as the moniker for the company’s faster-paced development and release schedule. It’s only acknowledged the code name and touted what it’s called a new “continuous” update strategy for Windows on desktops, tablets, servers, and smartphones.
For example, last week Microsoft’s CFO Peter Klein used the “Windows Blue” label, and added, “With Windows 8, we are setting a new, accelerated pace for updates and innovations.”
Several long-time Windows watchers, including Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Paul Thurrott of Supersite for Windows and Tom Warren of The Verge, have been tracking leaked builds of Windows Blue—which may be named Windows 8.1—and describing its changes in detail.

The constant barrage of news, minor in each instance but cumulative over time, has many setting high expectations for Blue. “There are high expectations for Blue,” agreed J.P. Gownder, an analyst with Forrester Research. “It’s positioned as a much bigger release than a service pack, because it will augment the core products.”
Microsoft’s service packs, the historical form of its interim updates between new Windows editions, have included few feature changes, instead limiting themselves to collecting bug and security fixes released previously.
Windows 8 is not in danger of dying, analysts stressed, but many of them called the focus on UI changes and small-to-medium enhancements and additions misplaced. Microsoft has bigger fish to fry.
“I look at Windows 8, no matter how many iterations it goes through, as a transitional product,” said Michael Silver of Gartner. “Windows 8 is very transitional. It has lots of rough edges where the desktop and touch interfaces didn’t integrate. But the hardware is transitional, too. Really, 2013 is sort of a lost year for Microsoft and Windows.”
Future processors from Intel, including the Clover Trail, and Bay Trail upgrades to its Atom architecture, will be necessary, said Silver, to put enough power and long-enough battery life into Windows tablets.
Full Story: Windows Blue may help, but Microsoft still faces hurdles | PCWorld.

Windows Blue (or 8.1) to revamp search features

When users search inside Windows 8, they use the Search charm which then brings up three categories to search from inside the OS: Apps, Settings, and Files. Many Windows 8 owners feel that separating search strings by different categories by default causes those users to have to take extra time to click on one of those three categories in order to continue their search.
That’s apparently going to change for the next major update for Windows 8. The early build of Windows Blue that found its way to the Internet in March has been examined by the folks brave enough to install and run the OS. WinSuperSite.com reports that the search experience will be much simpler when the final version, which may be called Windows 8.1, is released.

Basically, the new search, which is disabled in the leaked Windows Blue build, does away with having to pick from either Apps, Settings, or Files. Windows 8.1 should allow users to simply type in a search string to find anything inside the OS. The search box will also apparently include a way to receive web-based search results from inside the search charm, presumably from Microsoft’s own Bing service by default.
It’s looking more and more that Microsoft is actually listening to feedback that it received from Windows 8 users and are trying to make Windows 8.1 a more accessible experience on the PC. We should learn a lot more about Windows 8.1 in June as part of the BUILD 2013 conference and we’ll be there as well.
via Windows Blue (or 8.1) to revamp search features – Neowin.

Windows Blue leaks online, includes smaller Live Tiles, new side-by-side Snap Views, and IE 11

An early build of Windows Blue, the next version of Windows, has leaked online on the same day that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer celebrates his 57th birthday. Build 9364, a partner version that was originally compiled on March 15th, has been made available on file sharing sites and includes some of the new changes that Microsoft is building into its significant Windows 8 update. Leaked screenshots posted at Winforum show that the company is bringing smaller tile arrangements and even a larger desktop one to its Start Screen, along with greater control over the color personalization options, and a whole lot more.
“Additional Snap view to place apps side-by-side”
Microsoft is building in additional Snap Views into Windows Blue, allowing users to place apps side-by-side in the Windows 8 view. The new 50 / 50 view is similar to the desktop mode snapping, but Microsoft also supports up to 4 snapped apps alongside each other. New alarm, sound recorder, movie moments, and calculator WIndows 8 -style apps will also take advantage of these new views, but we understand developers will be able to update their apps to support the additional Snap Views alongside other API changes and additions. The snapping improvements also apply to multi monitor support, where you can now run individual Windows 8-style apps across multiple monitors.

“Settings improvements to be more touch-friendly”
Other improvements include a number of new options in the Windows 8-style settings screen. Microsoft appears to be adding all of the necessary settings required to ensure tablet users don’t have to drop to the desktop Control Panel to change things. SkyDrive options are present, which appear to show greater integration with auto camera uploads and control over device back ups and files. There’s also an app settings section that surfaces options to change default apps and information on app sizes.
Settings and UI improvements aside, Microsoft is also making changes to its Charms. The Devices Charm includes a new “play” option, which looks similar to the existing PlayTo options found in Windows 8. On the Share Charm there’s a new screenshot option that lets you quickly share an image with applications. Internet Explorer 11 is also included in Blue, although it’s not immediately clear from the leaked screenshots what improvements have been made. A tab sync feature appears in some screenshots, suggesting that Microsoft is planning to make tabs available on additional Windows Blue devices.
Touch users can also use new gestures throughout Windows Blue. On the Start Screen you can swipe up from the bottom to bring up a list of all apps, and in the desktop mode you can swipe up or down to reveal a desktop app bar that provides access to snap, projector settings, and more. We’re looking into other leaked features and screenshots so we’ll update you on any other additions. Windows Blue is expected to enter public preview over the coming months, with a full release due later this year.
via Windows Blue leaks online, includes smaller Live Tiles, new side-by-side Snap Views, and IE 11 | The Verge.

Windows Blue rumors hint at major Windows update this year

Windows Blue rumors hint at major Windows update this year
Evidence of a big “Windows Blue” update this year continue to pile up, including the first alleged screenshots of the future Windows software.
As previously reported, Windows Blue may not refer only to an update for Windows, but to a set of coordinated updates for several Microsoft products, including Windows Phone, Windows Server, Windows RT, and services such as SkyDrive and Outlook.com. But so far, actual details on the software have been scarce.
That may soon change as screenshots are starting to bubble up. One image, posted on WinAero, doesn’t show any new features, but lists kernel version 6.3 on the About Windows screen. As The Verge notes, kernel numbers 6.0, 6.1 and 6.2 belonged to Windows Vista, 7 and 8, respectively, so it seems that Microsoft views Blue as a significant upgrade.
If this early screenshot is authentic, we can expect to see more in due time:

Courtesy of WinAreoReal? A screenshot that purports to show kernel version 6.3 on the About Windows screen.
Meanwhile, a report by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet lends some veracity to the alleged image. Foley says the Windows 6.3 kernel number is correct, citing an unnamed source.
She also reported that Microsoft has just hit its first milestone build for Windows Blue, which means that development is now at the halfway point. Microsoft may be aiming to launch the update in the late summer of this year.
Microsoft: no comment
Officially, Microsoft has not commented on its future Windows plans. However, a recent job posting from the company mentioned Windows Blue by name, and spoke of “enhancing ease of use and the overall user experience on devices and PCs worldwide.” It seems likely that Microsoft will do some tweaking to the Modern user interface and update its own native Windows 8 apps.
Of course, there’s been plenty of speculation about what Microsoft could and should do with future versions of Windows, including suggestions that Microsoft should try to make a cleaner break between its desktop and Modern interfaces, and perhaps work toward killing the desktop altogether down the road.
In Windows Blue, it’ll be interesting to see whether Microsoft does more for the desktop, or tries even harder to push away from it.
via Windows Blue rumors hint at major Windows update this year | PCWorld.

Quick Note: Start Button to Stay Dead in "Windows Blue"

For those upset about the lack of a start button in Windows 8, prepare yourself for another disappointment — “Windows Blue”, an upcoming short-cycle successor to Windows 8, is not expected to bring the feature back.
The source of this supposed leak is CNBeta, a site with close insider ties at Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), which gained respect by accurately leaking a number of early Windows 8 details.
Other info from the site includes suggests that Microsoft will further flatten the UI on the desktop (think the Metro/Windows 8 UI style), the taskbar/desktop will get tweaks, the price will be low (or free), and the new kernel version number will be v6.3 (corroborated by other independent reports). The final remnants of the Aero UI, which was a staple of Windows Vista and Windows 7 is also being bid adieu, like the Start button before it.

DailyTech - Quick Note: Start Button to Stay Dead in

The start button went the way of the Dodo with Windows 8.
Neowin reports that a summer launch of Windows Blue is expected. And its contacts close to Microsoft hint that the name will be some sort of riff on Windows 8, not Windows 9, as some suspected.
(For the record you can get a Start Menu-like menu by moving your mouse to the lower left corner of the screen and right-clicking. Voilà, magic!)
via DailyTech – Quick Note: Start Button to Stay Dead in “Windows Blue”.