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Microsoft prepping Windows 8 follow-ups

The sticker gunk is barely off all those fresh new copies of Windows 8 being shipped and downloaded all over the world but Microsoft is reportedly already deep in the development cycle for its new operating system's successor.

That's not totally surprising—after all, the software giant didn't get to where it is by sitting around twiddling its thumbs. More intriguing is the word trickling out of Redmond that Microsoft is implementing a whole new approach to rolling out new Windows updates on a much more frequent basis, possibly even with free versions available.

Building on an August ZDNet report pointing towards a new edition of Windows with a revised pricing structure being readied for mid-2013, The Verge on Wednesday cited unnamed Microsoft sources as saying that a standardised Windows product development approach code named Blue was being implemented "across Windows and Windows Phone in an effort to provide more regular updates to consumers."

The first Windows Blue release will be priced at "a low cost or even free to ensure users upgrade," according to the tech site, which said the upgrade will "include UI changes" from Windows 8, as well as other "alterations to the entire platform. "Microsoft wants to "make Windows Blue the next OS that everyone installs," hence the super-low or even free pricing, but is also building in defences against piracy. The price may be minimal to upgrade to Windows 8's successor, but users "will need a genuine copy of Windows to upgrade to Windows Blue" and "[b]uilt-in apps and the Windows Store will cease functioning if a copy is upgraded that is pirated," according to The Verge.

All of this would supposedly happen on an extremely accelerated schedule by Microsoft's platform development standards, all in an effort to better compete with rivals Apple and Google. When Windows Blue comes out next year, "the Windows SDK will be updated to support the new release and Microsoft will stop accepting apps that are built specifically for Windows 8, pushing developers to create apps for Blue," the site quoted its sources as saying.

One potential bit of confusion for consumers thrown into all of this - it wouldn't be Microsoft if there wasn't some of that - is that the company will supposedly retain the Windows 8 name for its flagship operating system even as it rolls out more frequent and comprehensive updates on the new Windows Blue schedule.