re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
I like your final point, the one regarding built-in apps and guidance for developers. So far, Windows 8 (let's call it) Metro appears to be all about the look, with little thought reserved for functionality. The built-in apps are terrible for the most part (sideways scrolling? Really?), and the lack of functionality is extremely frustrating to say the least. One would assume that these apps are core to the success of the platform, as they represent the model on which third party apps are presumably built; so if these apps are lacklustre, third party apps won't be compelling either.
This particular failure seems to be compounded by Microsoft's marketing failures with Windows 8. The built-in Windows 8 apps seem to value style over substance (while placement and organisation of options and settings is apparently obtuse, to say the least), and the marketing campaign seems to be in the same vein, that is to say it's all about style, and it's somewhat obtuse.
While I am not an expert in marketing, I can say that I often find Apple's advertising superior to most other companies. A recent iPhone commercial illustrates my point nicely: the viewer is shown the bottom of an iPhone with a finger pointing to the microphone. The voiceover states that "this microphone records your voice," while "this microphone . . ." (the finger now points to a second mic next to the camera) ". . . filters out background noise." Was the iPhone the first phone to have this feature? No, but to the uninitiated, it looks groundbreaking and brilliant. Furthermore, it points (pardon the pun) directly to a feature that makes you believe that this phone will offer a better experience than your current phone, assuming of course that your current phone doesn't already do this.
Compare the above to your average Windows 8 commercial. Wow, the little girl can paint on the screen while talking to daddy in the snapped Skype app. Certainly it might make me consider the benefits of a touch screen to my 5 year old, but what new or innovative functionality does it highlight? Running applications side by side in full operating systems is not particularly new or innovative (better than iOS, I suppose), but why would it make me want to upgrade my Windows 7 install (or XP, for that matter)?
Windows 8 has a lot of great ideas and great features, but no one knows about them. Everyone's too busy being turned off by the more publicised shortcomings of the new OS, being frustrated by the lack of a tutorial, or annoyed by the built-in apps when they try them out in the store. Hopefully the release of Windows Blue will address not only some of the shortcomings of the OS and apps, but will also feature a new, benefits focussed marketing campaign.