Microsoft’s Tami Reller confirmed the release in an interview posted on the official Windows blog, saying: “Windows Blue is a codename for an update that will be available later this year, building on the bold vision set forward with Windows 8 to deliver the next generation of tablets and PCs.”
Reller further said that Blue, which is rumored to release under the name Windows 8.1, will be offered “across an increasingly broad array of form factors of all sizes, display, battery life and performance.” That suggests that new Windows 8 tablet offerings, possibly including the rumored 7-inch Surface slate, should be on their way after Blue launches.
Reller also claimed that the release of Blue gives Microsoft an opportunity “to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT.” In other words, the company realizes that more than a few people aren’t happy with the new Windows, and it’s going to try repairing some of those broken relationships.
Whether or not this means a return of the Start button is unclear, but previous Blue rumors have said that the iterative update will include such tune-ups as a new version of Internet Explorer, smaller tile sizes, greater cosmetic customization options, more multitasking capabilities, new touch gestures and the like. Officially, though, Microsoft is keeping quiet on what features Blue will sport.
The general consensus has been that Windows 8 has fallen short of expectations in a time where tablets and smartphones are increasingly occupying the spaces that PCs used to dominate. Some analysts even claim that Windows 8 has been an explicit cause of PCs’ stunted growth, but Reller remains optimistic about what the OS has done since launch. In the interview, she claims that Microsoft has now sold more than 100 million Windows 8 licenses since it launched last October.
“Windows 8 is a big, ambitious change,” she said. “While we realize that change takes time, we feel good about the progress since launch, including what we’ve been able to accomplish with the ecosystem and customer reaction to the new PCs and tablets that are available now or will soon come to market.”
Update: Microsoft has gotten a little more specific about when Windows Blue will make its way to PCs. As detailed on the official Windows blog, Microsoft Corporate VP of Windows Julie Larson-Green today announced that the company will release a public preview of the software update during its upcoming Build conference at the end of June. Microsoft says that it will be available to current Windows 8 customers.