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With Windows Blue, Microsoft looks to take a page out of Apple’s Mac OS X playbook

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Windows 8 is here. Windows Blue, apparently, is next.

Windows Blue should arrive sometime in mid 2013 … and take Microsoft away from massive, world-changing OS upgrades every three or four years to something much more Apple-ish: evolutionary updates every single year. Reporter Mary Jo Foley posted today about the news.

The new approach will inevitably include user interface updates and changes; every new release does. But it also means that whatever changes are present will be smaller and easier for users to adapt to — a problem Microsoft has encountered with Windows 8.

In addition, Microsoft will likely adopt Apple-style pricing: $20-30 per point release, rather than a big $100+ hit for each new system upgrade.

Massive new operating system updates are risky for Microsoft. Some fail — see ME or Vista — while some succeed. Windows 95 and 7 are probably the best examples of that, while Windows 8 is still up for debate. They’re also dangerous for enterprises, which have to upgrade thousands of PCs to new software if they want to stay current, incurring millions of dollars in cost and significant business risk as the inevitable challenges of software compatibility arise.

The point-release strategy has worked well for Apple, which is known for quick adoption curves of new operating systems … and which has not released a real clunker of an operating system since, perhaps, the very first version of Mac OS X.

Windows Blue will also focus on synchronizing the Windows Phone and Windows Desktop platforms, according to the Verge, which has already been partially achieved with Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

One persistent rumor I’m wondering whether we’ll see more of in Windows Blue: an ad-supported operating system. In other words: a free update if you consent to having ads on your computer. We’ve already seen some of that in Windows 8 apps — more of a trial balloon than a serious attempt.

But the rumors have been around since 2005 … so an ad-supported Windows may be the PC equivalent of an Apple flat-screen TV: always-rumored, never real.


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