Approaching Build: What is the “Blue” wave?

This week will be quite a barrage of Microsoft-related information. TechEd Europe kicks off tomorrow in Madrid, and the Build conference will get rolling on Wednesday in San Fransisco. This blog post will put some of the agenda items in temporal perspective.

“Blue” was originally the rumored code name for the next update of Windows 8, later announced as Windows 8.1. But during the winter, the news broke that Blue will encompass a larger platform update spread over a period of time. With TechEd North America now behind us, we already know quite a few pieces of the puzzle, but is that all?

I don’t usually take part in speculation, but this post almost wrote itself as I oriented myself in preparation for all the information that will be released in Build. I hope the information contained herein will help the readers understand the conferences’ offerings in a broader perspective.

The following graphic shows what I hold important.


The “Services updates” is somewhat murky, but refers to alleged updates to services such as Skydrive, and others. It is fuzzy, but serves to remind that this is more than a set of service packs released in tandem.

Let me emphasize that the “Blue” Wave doesn’t have release dates, and the timeline alignments of objects to the right of the dashed red bar (the date as of this writing) are based on best guesses from publicly sourced material.


The three missing components

A trio of gangsters is missing from the party.

The first suspect is Windows Phone, which should logically get an update, and probably will. In fact, a recent leak strongly hints at Phone Blue coming, but nothing has yet been announced.

The second troublemaker is the hardware family: it is Surface. It does seem that a new iteration of Microsoft’s tablet is coming, incorporating Intel’s newest Haswell architecture and 50 % more battery life. The Surface dumping at TechEd NA and other signs point at a new Surface being prepared. And seriously, of course there should be flagship hardware for Windows 8.1.

The third is a real godfather, Microsoft’s cash cow Office. Version 2013 shipped in October 2012 – January 2013, depending on which availability milestone you refer to. There is a good reason to believe that Office will be updated – and the hinted “Gemini” might be just that.

It also makes sense – since Windows 8.1 is geared towards smaller devices (at least 8” tablets), Office must get far more touch-friendly. But again, we know nothing, so it’s not on the chart.

What to expect from the conferences?

A good question. I don’t expect much from TechEd Europe, since that’s rarely rife with announcements.

For Build, there is one obvious theme: “Development on Blue”. It has already been announced that there will be a preview of Windows 8.1 (and probably the server as well) in Build. And of course, this bundle will also come with previews of the new Visual Studio and .NET Framework. It is also clear that the software development model for Xbox One will be on the table.

Other than that, there is a lot of speculation and quite little information. Perhaps the three villains from the previous chapter will make a surprise entry? It will be an interesting week for sure.

Jouni works as a consultant focusing on Microsoft technologies and technology strategy. He is also a Microsoft Regional Director. Prior to his current job, he has an extensive background in development, IT administration and business management. He's been doing this for a living since 1995.

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