I've spent the better part of the past 18 hours poking and prodding at a leaked copy of Windows "Blue" build 9364 -- the much-anticipated new version of Windows widely expected to arrive around August. With "Blue," Microsoft has a tremendous opportunity to patch up the scratchy spots in Windows 8, making it more suitable for the enterprise desktop and laptop and less jarring for the billion-plus experienced Windows customers. If the leaked version I saw is any indication of what will appear this fall, you can write this one off, too. I'm struggling to think of a less impressive upgrade to Windows, ever.
If your idea of a compelling upgrade to Windows involves a Metro Start screen where -- OMG! OMG! -- the tiles can be either bigger or smaller, hey, have I got a product for you.
But if you have half a brain or were expecting some sort of desktop support in the next incarnation of Windows 8, I have exceedingly disappointing news. At least in this leaked version, what you want ain't there. Admittedly -- thankfully -- Microsoft still has time to rethink the beast. The version that leaked over the weekend (which was compiled on March 15) may not resemble the final Blue in any way, shape, or form. We can always hope. Then again, a year ago, when the industry complained about Windows 8's shortcomings at a similar stage of development, Microsoft did nothing to address them in the final version.
Here's what you will see in the pirated, early version of "Blue":
- Metro tiles can be adjusted to half the size of the current smaller tile. A few can be made twice the size of the current larger tile. There are more choices for Start screen backgrounds and colors. Individual tiles' colors can be changed if they aren't "live." It's much easier to type in group names. There's the Customize option for the Start screen that you have to click or tap before you're allowed to drag tiles around. You can more quickly see a massive list of all of your apps -- the old All Apps option -- by swiping the Start screen from the bottom.
- Metro Snap can now show two apps on-screen, side by side, with -- and here's what's new -- widths adjustable by simply clicking and dragging. Also new, you can get four tiles in fixed, equal windows -- an approach that isn't nearly as flexible as that in Toolbox for Windows 8. There are new toy apps suitable for tiling.
- Metro's PC Settings screen now has many more options. You can actually add a new user from the Metro interface -- a feat that's impossible in Windows 8. SkyDrive settings have new options for backup to the cloud and automatic photo/video uploads. There's the Save Files to SkyDrive by Default option; it'll be interesting to see if that overrides the default in Office 2013/365.
- The charms have a few new tricks. The Devices charm includes options: Play (presumably media), Print, and Project (on a projector) when invoked from the Start screen. I have no idea how that is supposed to work. The Share charm lets you take a screenshot of the whole screen, rather than rely on the existing keyboard shortcut that is impossible to enter via the onscreen keyboard.
- Finally, there is Internet Explorer 11. If there's any difference between today's IE10 and this version of IE11, I couldn't find it.
I couldn't find one, single, solitary change -- much less an improvement -- to the old-fashioned Windows Desktop.
With major changes to the Microsoft-supplied Metro apps expected very soon, it looks like we're in for a Metro facelift by the end of the year -- but precious little more.
This story, "Windows 'Blue': We waited for this?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.