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Microsoft hints at Windows Blue agenda, speeds Windows updates

Microsoft finally acknowledges Windows Blue, but is not forthcoming with details on the initiative's operating system updates.

Microsoft plans to deliver Windows updates at a faster pace through an initiative it calls "Windows Blue," starting with a new build of the software.

That build, which can now be downloaded off some public file-sharing sites, appears to be more than a traditional service pack release, though industry watchers are confused about whether this is simply an update to Windows 8 or a different operating system version altogether.

In any case, the faster cycle for updating Windows could enable Microsoft to keep a competitive stance in the market. "[Microsoft] recognizes that the market is moving faster than before," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif. "They [realize] they need to keep up."

But faster technology updates might not make much of a difference to businesses, which tend to be slow at adopting new technology. For example, Windows XP end users are putting off upgrades to Windows 7 or Windows 8 despite Microsoft's end to XP support coming in 2014.

Ironically, Microsoft wants to operate like Apple, but Apple has never made its way into mainstream business, said Michael Hatfield, director of finance and administration at Metro North Regional Employment Board, a nonprofit in Cambridge, Mass. A newer Windows version will not make a difference to his organization, which just updated to Windows 7 and Office 2010 last year, he said. He has no plans to upgrade his systems in the near term, he added.

Windows updates in Build 9364

According to published reports, Build 9364 offers more cosmetic updates to the Windows user interface, such as resizing tiles. Windows Blue also adds applications, including a calculator, an alarm, Movie Moments and a sound recorder. In addition, it includes Internet Explorer 11 and the ability to split a Windows 8 screen in half and run a different app in each screen. The release is expected to be out later this year, according to those reports.

Previous published reports referred to Windows Blue as a "new operating system," but that does not appear to be the case. The company officially acknowledged the "Blue" reference in a Technet blog posted this week by Microsoft's Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications.

"With a remarkable foundation of products in the market and a clear view of how we will evolve the company, product leaders across Microsoft are working together on plans to advance our devices and services, a set of plans referred to internally as 'Blue,'" Shaw wrote. He added that chances of future products actually being named "Windows Blue" are "slim to none."

Microsoft will announce further advances to its product lineup, including Windows, Windows Server, Azure, Visual Studio and more during its Build 2013 developer conference in June. The company is expected to preview the updated version of the operating system at that time.

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