From “feeling blue” to the “blue screen of death,” the color blue has a number of negative associations. So it might seem an odd moniker for Microsoft to choose as the code name for its new operating system. But that’s exactly what the world’s top operating system maker has done.
Last month, an embattled Microsoft indirectly confirmed that Windows and Windows Phone Blue editions do, indeed, exist. Reportedly, there’s also a Server 2012 Blue update in store. Much is unknown about Blue, whose secrets Microsoft is closely holding. But from what is known, it’s safe to say that developers shouldn’t feel blue about Blue; rather, they should be excited.
With Blue, Microsoft will offer a single set of cross-platform APIs, which share much of the same user interface code. Microsoft had already started to do this with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but Windows Blue is expected to take this capability much further.
This means you can essentially get “free” Windows Phone Blue support if you make apps for Windows Blue. Businesses may want to give Windows Phone Blue a close look, despite the platform’s low market share, for this reason.
Microsoft is also upping its cross-platform management and security efforts. Although frequently a whipping boy for jokes about malware, Windows has evolved into a very progressive platform, security-wise. With Windows 8, patches are delivered quickly and unobtrusively. That experience is expected to only improve further with Windows Blue. By contrast, as much as employees love their iPhones, IT administrators should be a bit concerned about how Apple often takes anywhere from weeks to months to patch critical security flaws. (See: What Enterprises Will Like About Windows Phone 8.)
Aside from development, security, and management advantages, there’s also a lot to be said for ease of use and mobility with Microsoft’s new approach. Using Windows Phone Blue smartphones and Windows Blue tablets, employees will be able to experience fully fledged touch versions of Office (the “MX” variants, confirmed to be currently in the works). You cannot get that same productivity experience on an Android or Apple phone or tablet. Third-party solutions are nice, but there’s a reason Microsoft Office is still king of the productivity software market. (See: Google Threatens Microsoft's Office Dominance.)
And with employees experienced with using the tablet/laptop touch-enabled Windows Blue version, there will be little learning curve associated with moving to a Windows Phone Blue smartphone (or vice versa). This ease of use will help reduce your company’s support hours.
The Blue family is expected to drop around the end of this summer. We’ll surely learn more in months to come. But businesses should today start giving serious consideration to making an upgrade to Blue. It is my opinion that if Windows 8 was a bit like Windows Vista -- overreaching, overambitious, and clunky -- Windows Blue will be akin to Windows 7, the realization of that initial promise.
It’s hard to predict how businesses will react to Windows Blue and Windows Enterprise Server Blue, given that there’s been so much ill-will towards Windows 8, coupled with growing interest in alternative products from Google and Apple. (See: Approach Windows 8 With Caution and Enterprises Should Pay Attention to Google's $249 Chromebook.)
Another complicating factor is Microsoft’s decision to switch to a shorter, more Apple-like cycle of operating system releases on the phone, PC, and server front. Both factors could make some businesses inclined to automatically veto Windows Blue.
But for those considering a late summer upgrade, don’t write off Blue, even if you were less than thrilled by Windows 8. Windows Blue promises to reduce your developer and support costs and provide a lot of bang for your buck. And that’s something we can all appreciate, whatever it's called.
— Jason Mick is senior news editor at the independent tech news site DailyTech.