A refrain that's becoming fairly popular among enterprise Windows users is that they will wait for the next version of the OS before they consider upgrading. Of course, holding off because your systems are simply not ready for an upgrade makes perfect sense. Stalling in the hopes that the next Windows will have major, significant changes from Windows 8 appears to be a losing battle, however.
Murmurs about the next Windows release have blossomed into full-fledged rumors and news stories in the past few weeks. Sometimes called by the code name "Windows Blue" and sometimes "Windows 9," the terms seem to be merging to describe the same development path.
As Michael Endler wrote in InformationWeek:
Rumors have been circulating for months that Microsoft is prepping an update called Windows Blue, and chatter has recently suggested not only that the release will include interface tweaks but also that Redmond intends for Blue to galvanize adoption. Blue is essentially vaporware at the moment, based on gossip and tips more than anything Microsoft has said. It's not even clear if Blue is a codename for Windows 9 or some kind of service pack.
It seems as though Blue is actually more than "vaporware," because Microsoft posted a job opening for an additional Windows software engineer in test on the Microsoft Careers site last week, according to an article by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet. The job details have already been removed, but Foley reported that the position would focus on features comprising "the centerpiece of the new Windows UI," including the start screen, application lifecycle, windowing, and personalization. "Windows Blue promises to build on and improve upon these aspects of the OS, enhancing ease of use and the overall user experience on devices and PCs worldwide," Foley quoted from the post.
So if you were hoping the next version of Windows would be a radical departure from Windows 8, or it would revert back to something just like good old XP, that seems unlikely. It looks as if the company's plan is to tweak the UI and "build on and improve upon" what exists, not completely throw it out and start over.
Blue is expected to debut in late summer or early fall. It will be a cross-platform update to Windows 8, Server 2012, Windows Phone 8, and services like SkyDrive and Outlook.com. This marks a change in how aggressively Microsoft develops and delivers software, according to Paul Thurrott at the Supersite for Windows. Instead of major releases every three years with services packs in between, Microsoft intends to update major platforms around the same time on an annual schedule.
ZDNet's Foley suggests that we "think about Blue -- and Lilac and Fuchsia or whatever Blue's successors are codenamed -- as updates to Windows 8, rather than as Windows 9, 10, and beyond." That would require us to begin thinking about Windows as we do iOS -- something users can download and update themselves without a lot of IT oversight and no application incompatibility. If enterprise-class software were that easy to use, Microsoft could have it in the bag.