One of this summer's "Blue" milestones for Windows 8.1 will be a public milestone preview.
Previous reports have indicated that Windows "Blue" is supposed to enter the release-to-manufacturing phase (RTM) by June 7, and go retail in August. Like the recent Windows 8 upgrade promotion, this update is expected to cost around $40, offering enhancements and fixes to the current Windows 8 platform.
Microsoft's Windows Blue scheme reportedly aims to eliminate the platform jumps as seen with prior Windows versions by releasing yearly updates. Not only is this cheaper for the consumer, but makes new features more readily available and reduces the time from RTM to public release. The Office 360 subscription model does something similar by offering a continuously evolving product for a monthly or yearly fee.
ZDNet, basing information from multiple unnamed sources and Win8China, claims that Microsoft will offer a public "milestone preview" build before the Windows 8.1 update reaches its second RTM milestone. This preview will likely provide a few tweaks and enhancements to several apps to convince consumers into purchasing the full update later on.
According to reports, Windows 8.1, which seemingly moves the OS back into the incremental numbering system used in Windows 3.x, will include tweaks to the user experience, new dev-platform related nuggets, and new versions of Internet Explorer, Mail, Calendar, Bing and other integrated Modern UI apps. There may also be kernel and driver-level updates to help with mobile battery life and overall performance.
Win8China claims that Windows 8.1 will provide scalability improvements for apps listed in the Windows Store so that they're displayed correctly on screens of different sizes. The site also claims that the "Blue" OS refresh will actually be free for those who already own Windows 8, meaning it may cost $40 to Windows 7 and prior users as an upgrade for a limited time. That said, the update may only be free for Windows 8 users for a limited time as well.
ZDNet reports that in addition to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, other Microsoft products scheduled to get this summer's "Blue" treatment include Windows Server, Outlook.com and SkyDrive. Skype will also likely get the "Blue" treatment this April as Microsoft begins to shut down Messenger and shove users over onto the newer, hipper VoIP client.
The report points out an interesting detail that seemingly backs up a recent rumor provided by Jefferies analyst Peter Misek. Unnamed sources claim that the Windows Phone "Blue" release is running later than the desktop version, meaning it may not be released until fall/winter 2013 or possibly 2014. Misek previously said that Microsoft's Surface phone, which features the "Blue" build, has been delayed.
"Our checks indicate that Amazon’s phone seems to have been delayed," he said. "Also the launch of the Surface phone from Microsoft has been pushed out."