The mainstream media has picked up Mary Jo Foley’s report about a public preview of Windows “Blue” — the next version of Windows — arriving soon. Foley quotes the Chinese-languageWin8China site (which has consistently provided good insider information about Windows 8), saying RTM for Windows Blue is planned for June 7, with retail availability in August. She also quotes the site as saying the next Windows Blue milestone will include a public preview — “MP” for Milestone Preview — in the coming months.
There’s a synopsis of the Win8China posts on the Neowin forum. According to poster Windows4live, the Blue UI “hasn’t changed much.” It will have better performance, a downsized kernel, lower power consumption, better screen-size scaling, and improved windowing (with no explanation as to what that may entail). Win8China also claims Windows Blue will be a free upgrade to Windows 8.
Tom Warren at The Verge adds, “one of the biggest changes [in Blue] is an improvement to the search charm functionality.” I can think of a million ways Windows 8 needs to be improved, but somehow search charm functionality doesn’t appear near the top of my list.
You can take those rumors with a very large bag of salt if you like, but credible rumors about the imminent arrival of a new version of Windows (or Office, for that matter) are generally met with a rapid decrease in sales of the current version. Microsoft typically counters with a free upgrade offer, and the world waits for the next latest and greatest while manufacturers and retailers try to clear out their stock in anticipation.
This time, it’s a little different.
Every indication I’ve seen is that stores, particularly in the United States, are swollen with Windows 8 machines. There are outages of specific models — the Surface Pro remains a bit hard to find, although Amazon currently has the 128GB Surface Pro available for immediate delivery — but by and large, Windows 8 machines seem stocked to the rafters.
Take a look at Lenovo’s current best-selling laptops. The three best-sellers run Windows 8, and they’re discounted by 40 percent, 35 percent, and 30 percent, respectively. Numbers 4 and 5 are Windows 7 machines. (Lenovo’s list gets updated hourly; take a look and see how they’re selling now.)
On Amazon, the best-selling laptop runs Chrome OS. Among the top 10, only one — a Lenovo ThinkPad Twist — has a touchscreen. The best-selling Windows tablet, a Dell Inspiron, runs Windows 7. All of the Windows 8 tablets, except for the ThinkPad Twist, cost less than $430.
Over the weekend, Best Buy announced that for the next two weeks it was going to offer a $100 discount on touchscreen laptops and desktops running Win8. (Tablets, including the Surface tablets, are specifically excluded.) According to the Wall Street Journal, Best Buy “decided to launch the promotion after recent surveys the company conducted showed the consumers who bought touchscreen Windows 8 devices were significantly happier than those who bought PCs with a typical [non-touch-sensitive] … 74 percent of people who had bought a touchscreen device said they liked Windows 8 ‘somewhat’ or ‘very much.’ About 53 percent of respondents who bought a conventional Windows 8 PC said they liked the operating system.”
The fire sale, already well under way with touch-less Windows 8 laptops, has officially spread to touch-enabled laptops and desktops. For at least the next two weeks, the race to the bottom is being driven by the machines on the top.
Instead of rolling out much-needed improvements to the core Metro apps or bringing back the Start menu or giving us a Windows 7.8 or implementing any of a dozen or more small, high-impact changes in little increments, it looks like we’re going to get a new giant version of Windows this summer — less than a year after the disaster known as Windows 8. Imagine more of the same, only with performance improvements, a smaller kernel, longer battery life, and a better search charm. Golly.
Now that the mainstream press has wind of a “new version” coming down the pike, look for adoption of Windows 8 to shrink even further, while we all wait to see what’s coming next.
We can watch as Microsoft dismantles its own Windows monopoly, one harebrained step at a time.