Before Windows 8 even launched, Windows Blue was rumored to be an update to Microsoft's new operating system. More recently, however, it was rumored Windows Blue wouldn't just be an update to Windows 8, but an update that would impact many of Microsoft's products and services. Now ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley has discovered job listings that both confirm Windows Blue's existence and validate those rumors.
In a new Windows Division job listing specifically mentions the update in its first paragraph. According to the job listing, Windows Blue will improve the user interface of Windows 8 and Windows RT, which corroborates previous rumors about the update. The first paragraph of the listing – which is the only part that refers to Windows Blue – is as follows:
We’re looking for an excellent, experienced SDET to join the Core Experience team in Windows Sustained Engineering (WinSE). The Core Experience features are the centerpiece of the new Windows UI, representing most of what customers touch and see in the OS, including: the start screen; application lifecycle; windowing; and personalization. Windows Blue promises to build and improve upon these aspects of the OS, enhancing ease of use and the overall user experience on devices and PCs worldwide.
A separate job listing, for Microsoft's Office Division, notes that the company is developing a new Excel app for Windows Phone Blue. No new information is given about Windows Phone Blue in the job listing, however, beyond the brief mention:
As a development lead you will hire and manage a team of top-notch developers, be personally involved in designing and coding features, and work closely with PM and Test counterparts across multiple orgs to help realize the vision of building high quality excel app for Windows Phone Blue. In partnership with the Excel MX, Data Visualization and Excel Web Services team your team will be responsible to develop a common code enabling us to build a mobile app which will (1) allow users to have a consistent experience with spreadsheets across Web, Slate and Phone end while leveraging the power of the cloud (Excel Web Services, Office Client Services, SkyDrive and O365).
As Foley noted in her article, Excel MX is likely a version of Excel specifically designed for touch interfaces, similar to the Metro-style OneNote app currently available in the Windows Store. That app was previously known as OneNote MX.
Previous rumors indicated Windows Blue would be released sometime this year and that it would be optimized for 7- and 8-inch tablets, a form factor Windows 8 and Windows RT has not yet been seen in. Originally it was thought the update would be akin to a service pack, although more recently it's been speculated Microsoft plans on updating its operating systems more frequently. While it wouldn't be Windows 9, it would include many new features and interface changes, unlike most service packs.
Neowin's sources have indicated one aspect of the update will be more UI flexibility and customization. Start screen tiles, for instance, will have more sizes to choose from, similar to Windows Phone 8's interface. Additionally, more colors and backgrounds are said to be available for the Start screen.