Scheduled for release in the northern hemisphere summer, Microsoft's nest version of Windows (currently called "Windows Blue" although we really hope that name will change) is expected to be provided for free to existing Windows 8 users.
Mary Jo Foley is reporting that the product has already completed the first milestone build. Estimates suggest that it will be released on an accelerated schedule in August this year.
The public preview is expected within a very few months.
It is anticipated that this new package will include the much-anticipated Internet Explorer 11 and improvements to the currently less-liked search charm; with the ability to tightly integrate search with the tools required to deliver the results of the search - for instance searching for a movie will relate the search results to appropriate movie players. For obvious reasons, the Bing team is reported to be actively involved in this work.
In addition, support for 7- and 8-inch tablets will be improved. Also, this project will deliver updates to the Windows Phone offering to continue the process of merging all platform offerings to a single code base.
For those not convinced, we suggest a search in LinkedIn for phrases including Windows Blue and Microsoft Developer might prove fruitful (assuming such employees haven't been instructed to purge their accounts, and searchers have access to a premium account, of course!). Accidental information in job postings also helps.