by Shane O'Neill

Microsoft Execs Offer Windows Blue Preview Date, But Few Details

May 08, 20134 mins
Computers and PeripheralsMobileOperating Systems

Windows executive Tami Reller did the media rounds to discuss Windows 8 and upcoming update, Windows Blue. While her comments offered little substance, she made it clear that Windows Blue will address user complaints. But is that enough?

The much-hyped update to Windows 8, for the moment called Windows Blue, could be considered Windows 8 Take Two. Take One was Windows 8/Windows RT as we know it and sales of that OS have fallen short of expectations.

Two Microsoft Windows execs have been opening up (as open as two highly guarded corporate executives can be) about Windows 8’s struggles and what to expect in Windows Blue.

The good news is that Windows Blue will be exposed to the world in late June. During an interview at the Wired Business Conference in New York, Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft Windows corporate VP, said a public preview of Windows Blue will release in time for Microsoft’s Build conference for developers in San Francisco on June 26-28.

Tami Reller
Meanwhile, in a company blog and in various interviews with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and ZDNet, Windows CMO and CFO Tami Reller (pictured on left) discussed Windows 8 shortcomings, its redeeming qualities and hinted at what’s to come in the Windows Blue update.

Reller boasts of 100 million Windows 8 licenses sold but also admits in an interview with ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley that a lack of Windows 8 touch hardware in retail hurt the company. But Reller promised an increase in Windows 8 and Windows RT devices this summer as the company ramps up for the back-to-school selling season.

It’s worth noting that a “license sold” is not the same thing as a Windows 8 device being purchased and used by a customer. The minute that a PC rolls off the manufacturing line with a new version of Windows on it, it is counted as a “license sold,” Reller told Foley.

Two of the big rumors swirling around Windows Blue is that it will be more desktop-friendly with some version of the Start button brought back as well as the ability to boot directly into the Windows 8 desktop. Currently, users can only boot directly into the tile-based Start screen.

Reller did not confirm that these features will be baked into Windows Blue, but if they are it’s Microsoft acknowledging that it went too far in force-feeding the Start screen to users. And while that’s a victory for disgruntled users who want Windows 8 to be like Windows 7, it could be a defeat for Microsoft because the whole Windows 8 architecture is based around the Start screen and the Windows Store for mobile touch-screen apps (and thereby revenue).

The most Reller would reveal is that a compromise will be met with Windows Blue. If you’re looking for specifics from her you’ll be disappointed. But she does admit that Microsoft is aware of being stuck between a rock (desktop) and a hard place (touch and mobile) and that Windows Blue is an effort to meet Windows 8 users in the middle.

“The learning curve [of Windows 8] is absolutely real, given the level of change,” she told ABC News. “We can do work to address that. We see a lot of where customers could use some more help from us.”

On complaints about the lack of a Start button and the awkward transition between Start screen and desktop, Reller said: “We have heard the feedback on that, and it’s one of many pieces of feedback we have listened to with an open mind,” Reller told ABC News.

Reller and her Windows cohorts are in a compromising position as the demand to make Windows more desktop-friendly mixes awkwardly with cries for smaller Windows 8 touch-screen tablets to compete with the popularity of the 7.9-inch iPad Mini, and the 7-inch Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Access to a desktop is really not useful on a tablet that small.

In the New York Times interview, Reller declined to comment on Microsoft’s plans to build a 7-inch version of its Surface tablet.

We’ll know more about Windows Blue at the end of June. But what do you think? Are Microsoft’s struggles with having one operating system serve both tablet and desktop needs even solvable? Should Microsoft do like Apple and have a desktop OS and a tablet OS?