If you’re a fan of the blocky Metro user interface and absent Start button in Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 8 operating system, you’re going to love the next version of the OS, which appears to feature more of the same. While the developers in Redmond, Wash., are busy preparing the Win8 successor — dubbed either Windows 9 or Windows Blue, depending on which leaked screenshot you subscribe to — the marketing folks are rolling out more retail locations for consumers to buy their Microsoft wares directly.
On the OS front, alpha users in the Far East who claim to have worked with next-generation Windows code say users should expect more of the same from the popular OS when it revs sometime mid-next year. One poster on Taiwanese site PC Beta said they’ve had access to Window 9 Dev Alpha Build 9622 and, while the interface has gotten flatter and remains desktop-centric, “the current Microsoft  Windows UI will continue to appear in Windows 9,” according to a machine translation of the forum post.
Users that were hoping Microsoft might move away from the tile-based Metro interface for something more like the Aero UI in XP and Win7 in upcoming versions “will be disappointed,” wrote the poster who goes by the online handle Maxy. The next version of Windows will add some basic UI functionality, including the ability to resize tiles on the PC version similar to the way Metro now works on Windows Phone 8.
Maxy claimed to be an alpha tester under NDA with Microsoft and as such could only describe Windows 9 in brief narrative terms. “I cannot release the picture,” Maxy wrote.
Whether it ends up being called Windows 9 or Windows Blue or something else entirely, the leaking information shows an accelerated development cycle and a move toward more incremental updates. This is a significant departure from the multi-year major releases Microsoft has embraced with its flagship product, and it brings Windows more in line with the way Apple Inc. treats iOS products.
For those who haven’t experienced Windows 8 or touched a Microsoft Surface tablet yet — and judging by lackluster holiday sales, that’s a lot of you — the vendor announced it will add several retail stores to the 51 it opened this past year.
The new locations for early 2013 include the following:
- The Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas
- Dadeland Mall, Miami, Fla.
- Beachwood Place, Beachwood, Ohio
- Westfield San Francisco Centre, San Francisco
- City Creek Center, Salt Lake City
- St. Louis Galleria, St. Louis
“We know our customers’ shopping needs differ greatly, whether it’s a teen who wants the hottest video game or a parent who wants to ensure their family is safe online,” said Microsoft
Communications and Strategy GM Jonathan Adashek, in a blog post announcing the new retail spots. “Our store associates work hard to personalize every customer’s experience in making recommendations, and helping with PC setups and other services, allowing customers to walk out the door with a product that’s ready to run.”
Adashek also says most of the temporary “specialty stores” Microsoft opened for the holidays will be turned into permanent full-time locations in the coming months.
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