The next major release of Windows is set to arrive on October 26, roughly three years after Windows 7 saw the light of day, and yet chatter about what's coming next is already starting to emerge. According to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft is already working on an update code-named "Blue," which is due to land sometime next year, perhaps during the summer.

Foley believes this will be an interim update rather than a full fledged Windows 9 release. However, she is unsure if it will simply include a rollup of fixes and updates in the form of a Service Pack, which Microsoft typically releases a year or so after a new OS launch, or a 'feature pack' containing a rollup of fixes plus some new features. Either way apparently Microsoft is making some changes to its release cycle.

The word seems to be, whichever it is, that Microsoft is moving away from the big-bang Windows release schedule to which it typically has adhered, and is now attempting to move toward something more like what Apple does, with point releases.  I'll be curious if Blue eventually gets a version number, like Windows 8.1 or 8.5 or something.

In other words, Microsoft may decide to move away from the 3 year cycle of "big" Windows releases, in favor of smaller, more frequent and cheaper updates containing fixes as well as new features. This has been Apple's approach over the last decade, in which they've rolled out eight major point releases since the launch of OS X 10.0, charging as little as $20 for the latest Mountain Lion release.

Foley also offers a little tidbit for codename buffs, noting that this isn't the first time Microsoft has used the Blue codename, as both the Azure folks and the MSN team have used it before.