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Big Windows updates may ship this summer – and every summer

Microsoft's 'Blue' could do away with major releases

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Rumors that a major feature update for Windows 8 will arrive this summer have been flying around for months. But if the latest buzz is to be believed, what Microsoft is actually cooking up could be something much bigger than your typical Service Pack.

According to an anonymous source who has been whispering in Redmond-watcher Mary Jo Foley's ear, the forthcoming Windows updates will be just the first of a whole slew of product refreshes that will also affect Windows Phone, Windows RT, online services such as SkyDrive and Hotmail, and more.

Collectively, Foley's source claims, the updates are known within Microsoft by the codename "Blue" – a term that had previously been thought to refer to the upcoming Windows 8 feature pack alone.

Foley says Blue represents a dramatic change in the way Microsoft builds, markets, and deploys its platforms. Instead of developing major new versions of Windows and releasing them every two or three years, Microsoft is working toward a model in which each of its platforms will get a significant new refresh every year.

We've seen hints of this strategy already with the Office 2013 rollout, and particularly the debut of Office 365 Home Premium. The Office 2013 applications don't display the year internally – their startup splash screens just say "Office," "Word," "Excel," and so on – and Microsoft says it plans to ship Office updates that will add new features several times a year, exclusively for Office 365 customers.

If Microsoft can switch Windows to a similar release model, the whole concept of a Windows 8, followed by a Windows 9 and an eventual Windows 10, could disappear. Instead, the product would simply be Windows, with Blue being just the first of many major upgrades.

Not every Blue update will arrive at once, Foley says, although most will arrive at more or less the same time. She says Microsoft plans to ship them as a "wave" of releases, possibly via the Windows Store, though it is not clear whether they will be free updates, like past Service Packs, or paid upgrades.

And, of course, just what will be in any of these update packs is still anybody's guess – though Foley's source did say that new versions of Internet Explorer and many of the bundled apps for Windows 8 were likely candidates.

And how likely is any of this to actually be true? Foley says she's heard this particular scuttlebutt from just one source so far, but that this particular source is generally so reliable that's she's willing to bet her rep on the rumor. Take it as you will. ®

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