We probably don't need to tell you that one of the first things we did upon finding out that Windows Blue had leaked was download that sucker. (Sorry Microsoft, we can't help ourselves.) Well, after some finagling we got it up and running in a virtual machine and gave spin. Even at this early stage its pretty obvious that Blue is going to be a relatively minor, but welcome upgrade Windows 8. And, while we encountered plenty of rough edges, we'd say they're more than explained away by the fact that this is an early build and VirtualBox can introduce its own set of problems. But, if you're just looking for a sneak peak at what Microsoft has in store for Windows in 2013, head on after break and check out the gallery of screenshots below.
Windows Blue screenshot tourSee all photos
Honestly, if you slapped Windows Blue on a Surface Pro right now, we bet it would be hours before anyone noticed. Visually it's almost exactly the same as Windows 8. Which should give you an idea of how minor an upgrade this is shaping up to be, since the UI tweaks are probably the most prominent new feature. Most notably there are two new tile sizes for the homescreen. Apps can now be shrunk down to extremely small square icons, just like on Windows Phone. There's also a new super-sized tile, though, the only shortcut we've found so far that is able to expand to that size is the desktop one. There's also a new personalization menu accessible from the Start screen, with much more fine-grained control over your choice of color scheme and shortcuts back to past selections. Another minor, but much welcome change is a new way to access the all apps browser by swiping up from the Start screen.
Instead of relying on a combination of button presses, you can also quickly take a screenshot from the share charm. And the new default 50-50 split screen view makes multitasking much, much easier. The main PC settings menu is also a lot more robust now. The display and lock screen sections have been seriously beefed up, and there's an entire section dedicated to Skydrive. Though, we couldn't get sync up and running with the cloud storage service on the virtual machine.
There are a few new apps on board, including an alarm app with a countdown timer and a stop watch. A pretty basic sound recorder and rough replacement for Movie Maker, called Movie Moments are also included in this early build. The best addition though, is Calculate. The don't-call-it-Metro styled calculator offers basic math functions and a scientific mode, but the conversion section is where it really shines. The sheer number of different options available is staggering: there's a number of scales by which to measure temperature, length, volume, speed and other areas to choose from. The upgraded Internet Explorer 11 doesn't seem to have changed dramatically, though a new menu option hints that tab sync is coming IE -- and we can only hope that means the mobile version as well.
We certainly can't suggest you install the leak of Blue on your daily driver. Under the virtual machine the store remains unavailable and the Xbox games app simply crashes. But, if you're curious there's nothing to lose (except some precious time) from firing it up in VMware or VirtualBox. Of course, we can't link you to the leak, but you're a crafty bunch. We're sure you can track down build 9364 for yourselves.