Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet reports that the next version of Windows will not be called Windows 9. The news is based on unnamed sources who also claim that an OS update will actually arrive next year, currently codenamed "Blue." So far there's speculation that the update is a Service Pack, or a Feature Pack offering both fixes and new features.
According to a leaked rodmap, Microsoft is expected to release a developer preview for Windows 8 PU -- likely a product update -- during BUILD 2012 in October. The beta is slated to arrive in January 2013 during CES, and enter into Release Candidate mode in April 2013 (formerly during MIX 2013). The RTM version of Windows 8 PU is slated to be released during E3 2013 which coincidentally is the same time Xbox Infinity (aka Loop) is expected to make its public debut. We're betting the two releases will be tied together offering connectivity not possible with Windows 8 and the current Xbox 360.
Even more, Microsoft's roadmap shows a developer preview of Windows 9 scheduled for BUILD 2013. Of course, that doesn't mean the OS will officially be called Windows 9 -- the Redmond company could name it as Windows Infinity for all we know, and is currently using Windows 9 as a codename. This build will reportedly go into beta during CES 2014, Release Candidate in April 2014, and RTM -- along with Internet Explorer 12 -- during Build 2014. There's also a mention of Windows 9M, the launch of Kinect HP2 and an Xbox Infinity product update (PU) in the same late 2014 timeframe.
As the roadmap indicates, Microsoft is moving away with "big bang" Windows releases, and taking the point release approach it's using with Windows Phone, taking notes from Apple. Microsoft may end up renaming "Blue" to Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.5 -- it certainly won't be the first time Microsoft has used a decimal in the Windows label (aka Windows 3.1 etc).
Foley also points out that the "Blue" codename deviates from the city-name pattern that has been used by many Microsoft divisions over the years. However the company recently refrained from using the city-sounding "Metro" label used to describe the Windows 8 UI, possibly due to pressure by one of its partners. That said, the company may simply want to deviate from city-based labels because of the Metro scenario. Than again, Microsoft has used the "Blue" codename before via the Azure and MSN teams.