Leaks Show Expanded Scope of Windows Blue Upgrades

“Windows Blue” apparently will offer more than just interface tweaks for Windows 8. Expect updates to Windows Server and Windows RT, plus the release of IE 11.

"Windows Blue" is turning into a bigger deal than initial reports indicated.

On March 24, an internal, prerelease version of Windows Blue leaked onto the Internet, offering the clearest picture yet of what Microsoft has in store for users of its desktop and tablet operating system. And in what is somewhat of a surprise, the leak also revealed that the highly anticipated upgrade encompasses more than just the client versions of Windows 8.

Intrepid Windows enthusiasts showered the Web with initial reactions and screenshots during the weekend. What followed was a deep dive into how Microsoft plans to fashion its desktop/tablet OS into an iPad fighter by rolling out several new features and user interface (UI) tweaks this summer.

First, Microsoft is taking the customizability of Window Phone 8 and supersizing it for Windows Blue. Post-upgrade, users will be able to resize their Live Tiles on the Windows 8 home screen with small, medium and large options.

According to a March 25 posting on Verge, Windows Blue adds another "extra large" option to the mix. Additionally, users will get more color options to add an extra dash of personalization to the home screen.

Blue will also borrow a feature from Windows 7 for the company's new touch-friendly, tiled UI.

A popular feature among multitaskers, Blue will allow Windows 8 style (formerly Metro) apps to "snap" together side by side. For high-resolution screens, up to four apps will be allowed to share the same screen real estate.

Blue will bring new networking options to the fore—instead of being buried deep within the control panel and desktop view—with a new app that switches connections on and off on demand. Internet Explorer 11, deeper SkyDrive integration, and revamped Mail and Calendar apps are also on tap.

Instead of sporadically releasing service packs, Microsoft appears to be taking a page from the Apple playbook by switching to a yearly upgrade release schedule. And those upgrades may encompass more than Microsoft's client OS.

Upon embarking on a "teardown" of the leaked edition of Windows Blue (build 9364), MSFTKitchen's Stephen Chapman discovered that upgrade is also set to affect Windows RT and Windows Server.

Chapman wrote, "Lucky for us, a few files in this build give us mentions of Blue for just about every Windows OS SKU known to man." The evidence was in a file named WindowsProducts.adml, which contained mentions of Windows Blue (Client), Windows Server Blue and Windows RT Blue. Further proof was enclosed in a file called comadmin.dll, which tellingly listed Windows Blue Personal, Professional, Standard Server, Enterprise Server, Datacenter Server and Web Server.

Eagle-eyed readers will note that some of those designations don't precisely match up with those of the cloud-enabled Windows Server 2012 OS. They may be placeholders or, according to Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, lingering traces of old code.

"Microsoft dropped Web Server and Enterprise Server from its Windows Server line-up," Foley said. "So there may be shadows of the past reflected in this in-development list. The current Win Server 2012 versions include Standard, Essentials, Datacenter and Foundation."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...