Windows Blue preview due at end of June
Microsoft has also discussed bringing back the Start button in the next upgrade of Windows 8
IDG News Service - Microsoft plans to release a preview version of Windows 8's update, code-named Windows Blue, at the end of June, according to Julie Larson-Green, a corporate vice president in charge of the OS's development.
Larson-Green didn't say what changes Windows Blue will feature, but conceded that Microsoft has discussed user complaints about the removal of the Start menu on Windows 8 and that it might be useful to restore it.
"We're principled in the direction we're heading but we're not going to be stubborn," she said on Tuesday during a Wired conference in New York, where she answered questions from a moderator and from audience members.
The Windows Blue public preview will be released at Microsoft's Build developer conference, slated for June 26 to 28 in San Francisco, the company later confirmed.
Earlier in the day, the other Windows chief, Tami Reller, announced in a blog post that Windows Blue would be released before the end of the year.
Reller, Windows CMO and CFO, didn't say what will be new in Windows Blue, but she said that the OS update would be "an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we've been closely listening to."
Windows 8 has been controversial from the beginning. It sports a radically redesigned interface based on tile icons intended to make the OS optimized for touchscreen devices like tablets. However, it has not been an unqualified success, and the lack of uptake by users has been blamed in part for the dismal performance of the PC market overall.
Larson-Green also acknowledged that Microsoft has "some work to do" to better articulate the benefits of its Surface RT tablet, which apparently hasn't sold as well as expected and which runs Windows RT, a Windows 8 version for devices based on ARM chips.
Reller said in her blog post that Windows 8 has topped 100 million licenses sold after about six months on the market, but Gartner analyst Michael Silver said the statistic shouldn't factor into any decision about Windows 8 in enterprises.
"IT directors and CIOs shouldn't really take anything away from these momentum numbers," he said via email. "They need to consider what they have and what they need and make decisions based on that."
That means organizations with a large contingent of Windows XP PCs need to prioritize upgrading from it because support for that 12-year-old OS is ending in April of next year, he said.
"If they are in the midst of deploying Windows 7, they need to keep going," Silver said.
Organizations looking to deploy hybrid devices, such as laptops with detachable keyboards that can double as tablets, should consider Windows 8, as long as "a big business benefit" can be obtained, he said.
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