Windows 8, a new operating system on which Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he was "betting the company," has so far not lived up to the brag coming from Microsoft's corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash. In fact, some critics have compared its reception with the crash landing of "New Coke" in 1985. Will a new upgrade code-named "Blue," which moderately flattens the OS' learning curve, be enough to salvage Windows 8 reputation and sales? Analysts hope so.
But there's nearly universal agreement that Microsoft probably won't have the temerity to charge for the upgrade, according to Computerworld. Microsoft characteristically continues to remain mum on its plans.
Rumors about Blue suggest that it will be a big deal — far more than a series of bug fixes and a few new features — that addresses the primary criticisms of Windows 8, including that it works best with touch screens and has positioned the much-beloved Start page one click away.
"I don't think that in the current Windows 8 climate they can charge for the first update, as the perception of many users will be that any changes or features they are adding will make Windows 8 the way it should have been when they first purchased it," said Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft. "I know I'd be upset if Microsoft asked me to pay for this set of changes."
All the analysts contacted by Computerworld believed that Microsoft will not charge for Windows Blue, which Microsoft refers to simply as "the next update for Windows," but which leaked copies of early builds identified as "Windows 8.1."
"They would be walking a tightrope giving away Blue for free, and be setting a precedent, but with a new technology that's controversial, I think they'll give this one away," said Michael Silver, an analyst with Gartner.
Windows Blue is not only the code name for the update, but also an umbrella term for Microsoft's switch to a faster release schedule that is to deliver annual changes to Windows. That's a major transformation for the Redmond, Wash., developer, which has generally produced a new version of Windows every three years.
While optimistic that Microsoft won't charge customers for this update, Cherry was also sure the company would eventually put a price on annual updates, like rival Apple's upgrades to OS X.
"First, and strategically, I think Microsoft would like to charge for such updates in the future," Cherry said. "However, before they could do so, I also think they have to determine several things, including: How much are users willing to pay for an annual update; how much value — in other words, new features — they can put in each update; and finally, can they prove that they can roll out updates with value in a consistent and predictable cadence."
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