Windows 8.1 “Blue”

Microsoft Windows 8.1 "Blue" Update

The intrigue surrounding Windows 8.1 Blue is the possibility that Microsoft may relent and re-introduce the Start Button.  There are also rumours that Microsoft will even provide a boot-to-desktop option.Microsoft Windows 8.1 Blue

Windows 8.1 "Blue" Topics


"Blue" Replaces Microsoft Service Packs

If you strip away the hype surrounding Windows 8 "Blue", you can see that it heralds a new era of Microsoft's service packs.  Gone are the old style SP1 and SP2, in their place will be packages such as "Blue", which introduce new features, as well as fix imperfections in Windows 8's Apps and GUIs.

Hmm… I was wondering how this model would affect Microsoft's income streams.  Then I realized, 'Duh… Windows 9 is under development'. "Blue", and its successors, will be in addition to major OS releases.

What amuses me is the marketing spin; last year when Microsoft launched the new Windows 8 operating system the talk was of:- 'New style apps are great', and 'you will be wowed by the entertainment services'.

Now in May 2013 we hear, 'Windows 8.1 Blue will fix all those apps that aren't working properly, and will transform the entertainment services'.

Windows 8.1 Release Date

Windows 8.1, also known as "Blue", was released in October 2013.  This fits in with the idea of issuing and update bundle 1 year after the original operating system shipped.

Blue, and its successors will be free, just like Window 7 SP1 and other service packs.  Microsoft will also produce a version of "Blue" for ARM RT hardware, Windows Phone 8, and even Windows Server 2012.

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Start Button Changes

There is intense speculation about what will change with the Metro-style interface, and with boot options.  If Microsoft go ahead and supply an option to boot into Desktop option, then app developers may not be happy if people can swerve the Metro-style UI.

Another option, which is being touted, is to mollify vexed users with Start Button, which allows users access to their favorite programs.  In this scenario Windows 8 would still boot only into the Metro UI, and from there users have the option of using a Windows 7 style Start Button.

I don't issue many disclaimers, but I would say 3 months is a long time in development, what we hear now may well change as the result of further testing and 'focus group' recommendations.  As an aside, at times of speculation it's funny how nobody believes the official spokesman, but everyone trusts an undisclosed source.

Cynics View

Ever since Windows 95 Microsoft has had more than their fair share of cynics.  I heard yesterday that the "Blue" upgrade, complete with Start Button was Microsoft's best chance of increasing Windows 8 sales, because it would make it acceptable to existing Windows 7 aficionados.

Windows 8.1 Possible New Features in Windows 8

Many of the other new or improved features will center on the apps and the Metro interface, after all, these are the newest technologies, and thus are evolving the fastest. 

  • Windows 7 style Start Button returns.
  • Boot-into-desktop, also known as 'Direct to Desktop'.
  • Metro-style UI has super-sized tile, for example for the desktop.
  • The search 'Charm' has more options.
  • Internet Explorer 11 (IE 11).
  • Allowing to apps to 'snap' equally, 50:50 rather than 75:25 as now.
  • SkyDrive navigation enhancements.
  • A Kiosk mode for a 'Single immersive app experience'.
  • A new Apps List.

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History of Microsoft's Unloved Features

Microsoft has a chequered record for listening to users' pet hates concerning a new product.  For my part, I wish they would honor the backwards compatible promise made in the last millennium; why not give people what they want, namely familiar features such as the Start Button? 

At the same time Microsoft can provide new stuff that we did not know we needed.  In this scenario, there is no fuss, Luddites get gently teased about using old-fashioned methods, and if you show people the benefit, then they are going to switch to the new Metro style of working.

Microsoft's history of supporting previous features is patchy, going back to Windows 3.11 backwards compatibility was guaranteed.  In later products features such customizing the XP Taskbar were dropped despite user protest.  However, Microsoft relented with the Office 2007 ribbon, and allowed customizing in the Office 2010 version.  They also listened to techies who said that Vista's UAC (User Accounts Control) was too restrictive, and now provide options to restrict those nagging confirmation requests. 

My point is there a precedent for Microsoft re-instating features users loved in previous OS, but are just not available in a later version.  As an aside, I see Windows 'Blue' will have a new version of IE, yet I was amazed that the usage of Internet Explorer is down to 12% – where did Microsoft go wrong?

See more about IE 11 »

Microsoft’s Versions of Windows 8

  1. Windows 8
    Basic for home edition.
  2. Windows 8 Pro
    Business edition, joins domains.
  3. Windows 8 Enterprise
    Software Assurance customers.
  4. Windows RT
    Run-time version for ARM devices.
    Get it directly from manufacturer.

Windows Media Player
Freely available through the Control Panel: 'Turn Windows features on', scroll down to: 'Media features'.

Media Center (For watching TV shows)
You will need to purchase this as a separate product called Media Center Pack.  However, there may be a free Media Center promotion where you can 'Add feature' until January 2013.

Windows 8 Requirements

Remember that the minimum specifications for Windows 8 are the same as Windows 7.

Processor – 1 GHz
RAM – 2 MB for the 64-bit
Disk Space – 20 GB for the operating system
DirectX 9 Graphics WDDM (Windows Display Driver Model) 1.0
DVD drive to install the operating system.

Summary: Windows 8.1 "Blue" Update

"Blue" is the code-word for the update packages for Windows 8, ARM RT versions, Windows Phone 8, and even Windows Server 2012, that Microsoft will release in late summer 2013.

The key point is that Microsoft is shifting from issuing occasional service packs, to releasing combined service and feature updates every 3 to 4 months.  Windows 8.1 "Blue" is the first example of this new style of upgrades.

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Microsoft Windows 8 Milestone Topics

Windows 8 Overview  • Windows 8 Milestones  • Windows 8 Requirements  • Windows App Monitor

When Does Windows 8 Expire?  • How to Install Windows 8  • Windows 8 Microsoft Account

Windows 8 Versions  • Windows 10  • Windows 8 Image  • Windows 8.1 Blue