Tired of speculative blog posts about Windows “Blue,” the upcoming interim update that will allegedly fix all the problems in Windows 8 and put Microsoft back on course? Speculate no more: Blue has leaked, and now we have a much better idea of what this release really contains.
Spoiler alert: It’s exactly what you should have expected, a spit polish update to what’s already available in Windows 8, not a mulligan re-do.
According to the Polish tech blog WinForum, a leak of an “alpha” version of Blue—not what Microsoft would call it, but whatever—or build 9364 has appeared online. By comparison, Windows 8 is build 9200.
So. What can we see in the leaked build you ask? Here’s what I see in the leaked screenshots. (I have not yet downloaded nor personally evaluated the build.)
More customizable tiles
Like Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 “Blue” sports more tile sizes now, but Blue ups the ante by adding both new smaller and larger tile sizes. The smaller size is obvious, it’s just a tiny square, a la Windows Phone, but the bigger one is surprising: It’s a double-tall (square) version of the currently-largest tile.
As important—and this is something I expect to see added to Windows Phone “Blue” as well—you can now customize the colors of individual tiles. It’s about time. Update: This appears not to be the case in the leaked build, sorry. --Paul
Simpler Start screen personalization
You can now personalize the desktop directly from the desktop, instead of figuring out how to get into PC settings. Smart. And you can now choose between a basically infinite range of background and accent colors, instead of being stuck with a select few of each. Also, it's possible to name Start screen groups without going into semantic zoom mode.
New Snap view
The current Snap mode, which is hard-coded to a particular pixel width, is almost useless, so you’ll be happy to hear that Blue adds a new Snap view, in which two apps can be snapped side-by-side with each taking up 50 percent of the screen. (This is one Blue feature I had heard about, so I can at least confirm the veracity of this bit.)
More PC Settings
And here is the second Blue feature I had heard about previously: More, but not all, of the settings in Control Panel have been ported to the Metro-based PC settings, yet another indication that the desktop environment is on the way out. I was told that the Display settings are available in PC settings now, for example. But there’s a lot more in the screenshots: New Home and Lock Screen settings groups (that may replace Personalize), Screen (as I had heard about), Accounts (replacing Users), SkyDrive, Privacy, Network, Apps (which includes sub-groups, new to Blue, for Notifications, App sizes, Search, Share, Defaults, and Switching), Time & Language, Update & Recovery (previously part of General), and so on.
The grid of icons in the lower-right of the Settings pane has gotten a small visual update.
The Devices pane has been updated with new icon treatments.
You can now share screenshots directly from the Share pane.
Internet Explorer 11
Yes, there’s a new version of IE coming, and it will be part of Blue.
I could be wrong but it looks like there are now Metro-style Alarms (as during the Windows 8 Beta and in Windows Phone) and Sound Recorder apps. They could be third-party apps, however.
What hasn’t changed
Setup appears to be largely unchanged from Windows 8, though the theme color picker is styled a bit differently. The desktop looks the same, complete with ominous pre-release warnings.