With the leak of a build (apparently of development milestone 1) of Windows Blue the blogosphere is abuzz over what is coming in the next few months. Most of that buzz is about nice modest improvements to the Modern (yes, I’ve conceded this is what it should be called) environment. The usual trolls abound. And then there are some bloggers who are just being bizarre.
If you go back and read my earlier posts you know I’ve been expecting changes like allowing more concurrent apps on-screen than just the one full size view plus one snapped view. I’m really happy to see that coming. And I’m very happy that Microsoft will apparently make even greater use of Skydrive to sync state and backup data in the cloud. I also expect there are numerous improvements that won’t really appear until the second, and final, development milestone.
Windows Blue is a completion release, taking Windows 8 to where Microsoft wanted it to be but couldn’t fit in to the available timeframe. Its primary influence is almost certainly things that Microsoft had on its Windows 8 planning list but fell below the line. How does that happen? Well you’ve got functionality (and performance etc.), time, and resources as the principle variables in any development effort. Resources are hard to vary once you are into a project, so that leaves schedule (time) and functionality that you can tradeoff. Windows 8 used up every inch of the schedule available. Originally it was planned as a 3 development milestone release (which is where rumors of an April 2012 RTM date first came from). Somewhere mid-release they realized they needed an additional development milestone, which pushed RTM out a few months. But with “Holiday 2012″ as a hard deadline, that left many things undoable in a “V1″. Windows Blue picks those things up.
Windows Blue is also the first place where Microsoft could really react to the feedback coming from the Developer, Consumer, and Release Previews. Pretty much what we have in the market today was cast in drying concrete by the time the Developer Preview hit the market. At best minor tweaks came out of the Developer Preview and bug fixes out of the later previews. In planning Windows Blue Microsoft would have taken both customer feedback and telemetry from the previews into account. Post-RTM usage would come too late for influence over Blue and will instead factor into Windows 9.
I find two topics coming out of the blogosphere rather bizarre. The first was an expectation by some that Microsoft would abandon Modern and return to the classic desktop. This is bizarre because it would mean a decision to turn Windows into a pure legacy offering with a slow death ahead of it. But hey, the 5% of the overall user population who are in the “desktop is the future” camp would have been happy. Anyway, there was not a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. Microsoft may want to provide a solution optimized for the 5% for years or decades to come, but that isn’t the future for the other 95%. The right answer for the 95% is to rapidly evolve Modern to meet their needs.
The other side of this bizarre coin is those claiming that Microsoft would abandon the desktop by Windows 9. I’ve pointed out that the move away from the desktop is a 5-10 year evolution. Many other observers thing it is well over 10 years. Windows 9 would be only two years into that cycle. David Vaskevitch used to point out that people tend to overestimate the amount of change that is possible in 2 years and underestimate the amount of change that will occur in 10 years. Once again I think he’s right.
The other thing about moving away from the desktop is the standard logic error so many people make. A is B does not mean B is A. Microsoft will move quickly to make the desktop superfluous for those who just need Modern applications. That says absolutely nothing about removing the desktop for those who have a need for it. The desktop will disappear from Windows RT relatively soon, perhaps by Windows 9, because once you have a Modern Office and Modern system utilities it is superfluous. It will live on in mainstream Windows for many years to come because customers have a need to run desktop applications. But that will be a continually shrinking market, and at some point Microsoft will use various moves (pricing, licensing, etc.) to accelerate its decline. I don’t expect any of that to happen with Windows Blue or Windows 9. Maybe Microsoft will ramp up the pressure to narrow the desktop focus to only things that really need the desktop by Windows 10. Maybe.
In the meantime we’re just a few months away from a pretty significant evolution forward on Windows 8. Some of that evolution, in the case of first party apps, is already rolling out. By the start of the summer it looks like anyone who wants will be able to try out Windows Blue, and by the fall we’ll all be enjoying Windows 8 the way Windows 8 was always meant to be.