Microsoft has denied for months that Windows Blue even exists, but we finally have proof. A forum post from a Polish tech blog contained links for Windows 8 build 9364, and R27 installed the patch to verify its legitimacy . The consensus seems to be that Build 9364 is an “alpha” version of Blue, and while it might not be entirely feature complete, it certainly gives us a pretty good idea of what Microsoft has in store. We would recommend against installing this build for both legal and stability reasons, however that doesn’t mean you're totally shut out. We’ve compiled a full gallery of screenshots showing off the changes, and so far we have to say things are looking up for the modern UI.
Perhaps the most significant change is how Microsoft is dealing with multitasking of modern UI applications. The shipping version of Windows 8 (build 9200) allows only two modern UI applications to be open at once. To make matters worse one is limited to lousy 320 pixels of horizontal real estate on the left or right hand side of the screen, significantly limiting the usefulness of the app. Build 9364 allows for a 50/50 split screen views, and even allows you to have up to 4 modern UI applications open on the screen at any given time. This type of flexibility will be critical if Microsoft hopes to ever fully replace the desktop, however developers will still need to update their applications to support the new aspect ratios.
In Windows 8 live tiles can be either small, or large. Small has always felt a bit big for something that I only want to use as a shortcut, and large always felt too small to display enough useful information without launching the app. Build 9364 allows you to further shrink small tiles into miniature icons, and create new jumbo tiles for content rich applications. This type of flexibility will make the home screen more useful for desktop and tablet users alike, and brings much needed customization to the home screen.
Windows 8 allows you to personalize the start screen, but offers a fairly limited range of colors to pick from. The new revamped personalization menu lets you blend the perfect color for your background, and even allows you to make start screen groups without using semantic zoom.
PC settings under the modern UI allows you to change most of the settings found in the desktop control panel, but not everything. Windows Blue will continue this trend by allowing you to change Display Settings, Accounts, SkyDrive, Privacy, Network, Time and Language, and many more. The control panel is still around, but the evidence continues to mount that this legacy means of control your PC is quickly dying off.
Internet Explorer gets updated to version 11, however its somewhat difficult at this point to determine what if anything is changing. Cosmetically it looks the same as it’s predecessor, but as we mentioned before this alpha build is probably not feature complete.
We will continue to update this article as new features are discovered, but so far the changes look promising. We just hope this ends up being a free update, and Microsoft doesn’t fragment the Windows market the way Apple and Google have in mobile.
What do you think of the changes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.