Windows Blue: What can we expect from Microsoft’s next operating system?

windows_8_blue_650

These days, “blue” isn’t just used in the same sentence as Microsoft’s Windows platform when talking about the operating system’s infamous blue screen of death. “Windows Blue” is the supposed name of the company’s next OS, and if various reports and rumors are to be believed, it’s coming out as soon as this summer. 

Based on rumors, rumblings and some ideas of our own, here’s what we know about and what we think will be included in Windows Blue.

What is Windows Blue and how’s it different from previous iterations?

Speculations about what exactly Windows Blue is have evolved since we first heard about it late last year. We now know that Blue might have been designed more as an update to Windows 8 – a low-cost version, even – rather than Microsoft’s full-fledged next-gen operating system. You won’t have to pony up a lot of cash as you’ve done with earlier versions of Microsoft’s OSes. The company plans to issue yearly, paid incremental updates, and although the company has yet to disclose how much Blue will cost, or even to confirm whether it will actually be called “Windows Blue” when it does hit the market, there’s a chance Microsoft will price it pretty close to $20 OS X upgrades Mac users are accustomed to. 

Which devices is Blue meant for?

Despite keeping the nitty-gritty under wraps, Microsoft does leave us crumbs of information to pick up here and there. In February, the company’s job postings revealed that the company is looking for people to add to the team responsible for Windows 8’s tiled start screen and software life-cycle, which told us that Microsoft is developing  a unified Blue for both computers and phones. The fact that Microsoft wanted more employees for that particular team is a huge sign that Blue will have a start screen similar to Windows 8, and that the company really does plan to roll out frequent software upgrades. 

Blue, according to PCMag, might have also been built specifically for affordable pint-sized tablets with 7- to 8.9-inch displays. Current Windows 8 tablets aren’t cheap, and prices usually begin at around $500, but word is that hardware manufacturers can get Blue for $30, which is significantly less than the current prices ($85 to $125) they have to pay for current Windows versions. Thus, manufacturers can sell tablets on the cheap and could price 7- to 8.9-inch tablets at roughly $200 to $350 each. This might give Microsoft the edge it needs to be able to compete against Android tablets, Kindle Fires, and even iPads. 

What are some of Blue’s new features?

We’re still in the dark when it comes to Blue’s full list of features, but based on an early build of Blue leaked online recently, despite a number of improvements, it will look very similar to Windows 8. Screenshots of Blue posted on a Polish forum show that it features a view with smaller tiles one-fourth the size of Windows’ medium tiles, and one with larger tiles around four times the size of medium tiles, along with a new Customize button that you have to click to rearrange tiles so you don’t accidentally move them when you just want to launch an app.

It has a new 50/50 Snapping option, wherein two running apps equally share the Snap window on the side of the screen. The consolidated PC settings section gives you easy access to most of the things you can usually tweak via the Control Panel, but it also includes a new SkyDrive option that hints at Blue’s ability to sync changes made to files stored on your SkyDrive account – the Windows 8 SkyDrive app can only access files, not change it.

Windows Blue is also rumored to ship with Internet Explorer 11, but since the version that was included in the leaked OS was an early build that’s pretty similar to IE 10, save for the nonfunctional Show synced tabs option on the Menu bar, we still don’t know what the new browser can offer. Four new apps – Alarm, Calculator, Sound Recorder, and Movie Moments – were spotted on the leaked version, but their overly simple white-text-on-black-background icons cast doubt on whether they’re actually pre-installed Microsoft apps and not software installed by a third party. 

The Bing team is reportedly working closely with the folks behind Windows Blue to significantly improve Charm’s search function. Whereas you have to search within apps to find what you need on Windows 8, you might be able to cut that process in less than half on Blue, which might give you the capacity to deep search even outside of apps. The leaked screenshots also reveal the  new play option on the Devices charm, and the Share charm’s new screenshot sharing option that lets you easily share screen captures with apps. A new Personalization button appears on the Settings charm, giving you a convenient way to personalize Blue’s modern user interface. 

More recently, in a video of the company’s private meeting (in which company insiders have called the new OS “Blue”), a company exec mentioned that Microsoft is working to dramatically improve Blue’s touch capabilities. That’s a vague way to describe it, but those who’ve tried the leaked copy of Blue reported new gestures, including swiping up on the Start screen to bring up a list of apps, and swiping either up or down on the desktop screen to access a bunch of settings. We’re guessing there might also be considerable improvements  made to Blue’s core apps, but that doesn’t  mean Windows 8 users have to wait that long before theirs get updates – the company will roll out Windows 8 core app improvements before Blue becomes available.

When will Windows Blue be released?

If all goes as planned, Microsoft might be releasing Blue within this year. Win8China, a Chinese publication, claims the company is gunning for an August consumer release, after making it available to manufacturers sometime around June 7. Prior to that, however, Windows 8 users might have to chance to take Blue for a spin before everyone else can as Microsoft is expected to roll out a public preview of the OS within the next few months. 

Mobile

Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.
Gaming

Wage war on a budget with these fun and free first-person shooters

We all know about Halo and Call of Duty by now, but what about quality titles that won't cost you upward of $60? Check out our picks for the best free first-person shooter games from Paladins to Quake Champions.
Computing

Windows 7 is still immensely popular. Is it really better than Windows 10?

With the end of support of Windows 7 approaching, have you been holding off on upgrading to Windows 10? In this guide, we give look at some of the biggest differences between the most popular operating systems.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Computing

Think crypto’s dead? JPMorgan to offer first cryptocurrency backed by a U.S. bank

J.P. Morgan Chase is making history by rolling out a trial, over the next few months, of the first cryptocurrency, dubbed JPM Coin, which is backed by a large United States bank.
Computing

Opera web browser targets enhanced accessibility with major redesign

The browser wars are heating up. In the latest move for Opera, a new development release pushes it even closer to Chrome with a redesign and overall goal of redefining the modern web browser. 
Computing

Breaking: Amazon won’t build headquarters in New York in face of opposition

Amazon has canceled plans for a New York City headquarters afer citizens, civic groups, and politicians pushed back on Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's exclamation of economic joy over Amazon's earlier…
Computing

DLSS is finally arriving in games, but how does Nvidia's super-sampling actually work?

Nvidia's new DLSS technology is exciting, but what is it and how does it work? It's not quite anti-aliasing and it's not quite super sampling. It's a little bit of both and the end results can be impressive.
Computing

A new Mac Pro is supposedly coming in 2019, but what will it be like?

Our Mac Pro 2019 rumor roundup covers all the top news, leaks, and rumors about the new Mac Pro set to be announced sometime in 2019. Here's what Apple has said, what the experts think, and what's likely to show up with the new Mac Pro.
Gaming

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.
Computing

Enjoy Windows on a Chromebook with these great tips and tricks

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only software.
Computing

Switch your WMA files for MP3s with our quick conversion tips

The WMA codec may be great when it comes to multi-channel surround sound, but unfortunately, it falters in terms of compatibility. Check out our guide on how to convert WMA files to MP3 via web-based or desktop methods.
Computing

Looking for a new laptop? These 5 notebooks are on sale through Presidents’ Day

If you're ready to ditch your aging notebook, you can score some fantastic Presidents' Day savings right now on Microsoft's Surface Pro 6, Dell's XPS 13, HP's Spectre x360, Lenovo's Yoga C930, and Dell's G5 15 Gaming laptops.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.