Microsoft: The Buzz About Blue, And A Shot At Google

Details about Windows Blue leaked out earlier this week, raising expectations the new release could be out sometime this year.

Microsoft launched Windows 8 and its tile-based interface geared for tablet computers in October. In early January the company said 60 million Windows 8 licenses had been sold in the first 10 weeks of the software's availability, and Microsoft executives have expressed satisfaction with the product's sales. But industry analysts have generally portrayed Windows 8 sales as lackluster.

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In a blog post titled "Looking back and spring ahead," Frank Shaw, Microsoft corporate vice president of corporate communications, said that "product leaders across Microsoft are working together on plans to advance our devices and services, a set of plans referred to internally as 'Blue.' "

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Shaw didn't disclose any details about Blue. He referred to a letter from CEO Steve Ballmer to shareholders last year in which Ballmer said Microsoft was transitioning from a software company to "a devices and services company." Shaw cited Microsoft's Office 365 cloud applications and SkyDrive hosted file storage service as examples of Microsoft's direction.

Reports earlier this week said the Windows 8 upgrade would provide the ability to view as many as four multitasking applications in what is being called "Snap Views." The software also is expected to offer a more customizable look and a range of new touch gestures and options.

"Our customers have already experienced the ongoing rhythm of updates and innovations over the past six months including new devices, new apps and services, better performance and new capabilities," Shaw wrote in his blog. "This continuous development cycle is the new normal across Microsoft -- we'll tune everyday experiences as well as introduce bold, connected and exciting new scenarios. Our product groups are also taking a unified planning approach so people get what they want -- all of their devices, apps and services working together wherever they are and for whatever they are doing."

The next release of Microsoft's Web browser, Internet Explorer 11, also could be released at the same time as the Windows 8 upgrade.

This week Microsoft said that its Build 2013 conference for developers is scheduled for late June in San Francisco. Shaw referenced both Build and the TechEd North America 2013 conference in New Orleans in early June in his blog, saying Microsoft will use those venues to discus advances in Windows, Windows Server, Windows Azure, Visual Studio and other products.

Shaw also used his blog to take a shot at rival Google, noting that while Microsoft was moving forward, "some folks were out doing 'spring cleaning,'" adding a link to published stories about Google's recent decision to shut down its Google Reader service.