Microsoft's Build 2013 keynote, Windows 8.1 showcased and more

By on June 26, 2013, 10:15 AM

Microsoft kicked off its annual Build conference with several developer-focused announcements which we are detailing below. The company is also releasing Windows 8.1 Preview today, meant to address many of the gripes users had with the initial release of the operating system -- including improvements to search, the app store, the return of the Start button, a boot to desktop option, high DPI enhancements, among others.

Download: Windows 8.1 Preview (available via Store, ISOs coming soon)

With the webcast now over, here are the keynote highlights for those of you who missed it...

Event Highlights

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage at today’s developer-focused event to welcome 6,000 or so Build attendees and discuss a few of the things they’ve been working on.

First and foremost, the executive made a point to mention how it’s only been eight months since Windows 8 was released and already there’s a major update to the operating system, with 800 minor updates in between. This, he says, is part of their transformation as a company and their move to a rapid release cycle. Ballmer called it “the new norm” for everything they do and that means we’ll see frequent updates not only to Windows -- a preview build of 8.1 is available for download now -- but also to Microsoft devices, Office 365, and more.

Windows Phone

Before going into more detail about Windows 8.1 Steve Ballmer took a moment to highlight the latest Windows Phone hardware. Specifically, the new Nokia Lumia 928 and 925, which he says have absolutely the finest camera technology in the market available today. The lower end Lumia 521 will be sold in countries where subsidies aren’t the norm, for a $150, while the new HTC 8XT and Samsung ATIV S Neo are coming to Sprint.

Windows 8 tablets

While there were no new Surface devices announced during the keynote, Ballmer said they’re really proud of the work that hardware partners are doing not just with phones, but with other Windows devices that blur the line between notebooks, tablets and even all-in-ones. The common denominator here is a focus on touch.

As a little treat to developers Microsoft will be giving away an Acer Iconia 8.1-inch Windows 8 machine to each of them as well as a Surface Pro. The latter your’e already familiar with and the former represents the first 8.1-inch Windows 8 tablet, made possible by a slew of adjustments made to support the smaller form factor. Both are full Windows 8 device powered by Intel chips and support keyboard attachments.

Other hybrid devices making an appearance at the show floor included the Lenovo Helix, Acer Aspire P3, the sub-$400 Acer Aspire V5 with dual-core AMD processor, Dell XPS 10 with Windows RT, and Dell XPS 18.

Windows 8.1

Ballmer acknowledged Windows 8 was a bold move and said they’ve listened to all the feedback around desktop applications. With Windows 8.1 the goal is to refine that blend between the desktop and modern experience. To that end the Start button has made a comeback, along with an option to boot directly to desktop -- both of which received huge cheers form the crowd.

Moving on to the Windos 8 UI, multitasking and multi-monitor support received a slew of enhancements, along with refined search, deep SkyDrive and Bing integration, free music streaming with Xbox Music, a new Mail app, Skype support from the lock screen, improvements to how apps are listed in the start screen and more.

Another much welcome enhancement that got big cheers from developers is allowing each monitor to have its own scaling factor. That means you can have a high DPI monitor next yo a lower DPI screen (when hooking up a large display to your laptop, for example) and move apps between them without making them look awful.

Windows Store

Microsoft says they’re approaching 100,000 Windows Store apps, with Flipboard and Facebook among the holdouts that finally decided to embrace the platform with a native app. The store itself is getting a redesign to make it easier to find apps with more real state and a new recommendation engine. Ratings are more visible too, and there’s a related apps section on download pages to help developers get more exposure.

Last but definitely not least, Microsoft says they’re done with manual updates, so starting with Windows 8.1 all your Windows Store applications are getting automatic updates -- beating Apple to the punch on this one.

Developers, developers, developers…

A preview of Visual Studio and .NET 4.5.1 will be available today for those interested in coding applications for Microsoft’s platform. The updated development tools focus on improving debugging and general diagnostics, with things such as asynchronous debugging, as well as diagnostic utilities to see an app's power consumption and network efficiency -- it even tells you how long an app will run on a certain device.

For game developers, the company also highlighted a new feature for DirectX 11.2 and Windows 8.1 called “tiled resources” that enables a graphics card to display a huge amount of detail without overwhelming it with memory-intensive textures. The technology works by dynamically swapping the corresponding area that the graphics card needs to render with a more detailed one whenever a gamer is looking closely at it.

"You cannot dream of doing this on IOS or Android,” Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of the Windows Web Services team said. "This is only possible on a Windows 8.1 machine or a next-gen console like Xbox One."

Bing for Developers

Gurdeep Singh Pall, responsible for Bing’s vision, product strategy and R&D also had a few minutes on stage to let developers know they’ll be able to access to core Bing APIs and integrate its functionality on third party applications. Among the new APIs being opened up are Bing’s entities and knowledge, natural user interfaces, optical character recognition and new mapping and visualization capabilities.

As an example, the company demonstrated a trip planner app that obtained 3D imagery of a city through Bing Maps, and ask questions relevant to what you are seeing like “who is the architect?” to get an information card with all the details. An app could also snap a picture containing text -- a business card or a restaurant menu, for example -- and have it scanned and translated while identifying keywords.

Singh Pall noted that Microsoft has been using all of these capabilities privately already, but he thinks developers can come up with some interesting ways of leveraging Bing’s power.




User Comments: 32

Got something to say? Post a comment
1 person liked this | Guest said:

For god's sake. I don't have a computer with a touch screen! I have a MOUSE! Give me a start menu that's adequate for my MOUSE!

Why is that so freakin hard to understand!!! I'm not moving from Windows 7, Microsoft...

3 people like this |
Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Developers, developers, developers....

RH00D RH00D said:

Ballmer is one of my favourite CEOs of all time. He's actually super smart and not too uptight to have some fun.

treeski treeski said:

For god's sake. I don't have a computer with a touch screen! I have a MOUSE! Give me a start menu that's adequate for my MOUSE!

Why is that so freakin hard to understand!!! I'm not moving from Windows 7, Microsoft...

Less QQ; more pew pew.

MilwaukeeMike said:

For god's sake. I don't have a computer with a touch screen! I have a MOUSE! Give me a start menu that's adequate for my MOUSE!

Why is that so freakin hard to understand!!! I'm not moving from Windows 7, Microsoft...

Less QQ; more pew pew.

Yeah, L2P ffs.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

So hitting the windows key and typing is hard now? Have you used windows 8 for more than a minute???

The start menu is not bad, it's quite easy to navigate especially since everything is about enhanced speed so you find what your looking for at a very fast rate. I personally like it, I your not being forced to buy it or use it, but I don't think making the whole "start menu being optimized for touch screen" debate saying it does not work well with a mouse an keyboard when I can see everything I need and find anything in literally seconds.

TheBigFatClown said:

I watched the first 20 minutes or so. I got to the point where I really didn't wanna keep watching when blowhard kept repeating the lie of how 'important touch is on a desktop computer'. Really...since when? Having touch-capabilities on a desktop computer are ******* irrelevant as far as I am concerned. I couldn't give a frogs-fat-ass LESS if I ever had touch-capabilities on a desktop. I would miss having touch-capabilities on a desktop like missing a silver bullet being removed from my skull. There is zero-percent want from me for touch-capabilities on a desktop computer. Zero-Percent!

Where are these people that must have touch-capabilities on a desktop...where are they...and who they are....?

If you are so comfortable using a touch-interface on a desktop then you probably don't actually need a desktop computer. It's logic 101.

My predictions for an increased uptake of Windows 8.1 on the desktop? FAIL.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

After reading the many negative blogs and posts I was prepared to hate Windows 8 until I actually used it for a while. I now find it easier and faster than 7. They added a lot of keyboard shortcuts, it's not just optimized for tablets. The Start screen is really more like the old Quick Launch toolbar, a customizable subset of the Start Menu. Navigating through a small multi-level menu can be tedious compared to tapping the Windows key and typing a couple of letters.

MS isn't abandoning the 'power users' for the tablet crowd. My system has two monitors and a large number of programs, the Start screen doesn't get in the way at all. Put a shortcut to an Explorer window in Startup if you want to be at the desktop after login. Do any of the whiners know of the many ways to get back to the desktop with just one click or keypress? And live tiles can be quity handy, we used to download free/shareware addons to get some of that functionality.

I still remember the complaining when Win 95 was released. "Where are my program groups?" "What, I have to click Start to quit Windows??"

1 person liked this | TheBigFatClown said:

After reading the many negative blogs and posts I was prepared to hate Windows 8 until I actually used it for a while. I now find it easier and faster than 7. They added a lot of keyboard shortcuts, it's not just optimized for tablets. The Start screen is really more like the old Quick Launch toolbar, a customizable subset of the Start Menu. Navigating through a small multi-level menu can be tedious compared to tapping the Windows key and typing a couple of letters.

I love it when the argument to upgrade to Windows 8 starts by saying that you can do everything you did in Windows 7. Okay, now that I know that, what's the "reason" for me to upgrade. You should be telling people what they can do in Windows 8 that they CAN'T do in Windows 7. And then letting them decide whether it really matters or not. The fact that Windows 8 boots a little faster than Windows 7 is not a compelling reason for me to upgrade. It is a compelling reason for tablet users, however, where booting up multiple times daily is more likely than on a desktop.

And on to your other point....Oh God yes. I dread having to launch applications on my Windows 7 system. Sometimes I just lay in my bed each morning and I wake up thinking, "Oh God, do I really have to navigate a multi-level menu again today to launch my favorite application? God, please tell me it isn't so. God please!!!! But then I suddenly remember that Windows 7 has shortcuts and a search menu and realize all my worry was for nothing.

MS isn't abandoning the 'power users' for the tablet crowd. My system has two monitors and a large number of programs, the Start screen doesn't get in the way at all. Put a shortcut to an Explorer window in Startup if you want to be at the desktop after login. Do any of the whiners know of the many ways to get back to the desktop with just one click or keypress? And live tiles can be quity handy, we used to download free/shareware addons to get some of that functionality.

I still remember the complaining when Win 95 was released. "Where are my program groups?" "What, I have to click Start to quit Windows??"

You keep rehashing a ******** theory that most of the whiners hating on Windows 8 haven't used it. It's not really true. All live tiles do for me is exacerbate my attention deficit disorder. Microsoft says they want users to be more focused, therefore, they limit the new interface to two open windows but they want me to keep track of a plethora of live tiles. They can't even make up their minds what the hell they are trying to get people to do. Focus or keep up to date with 40 different apps each time an app farts. Yeah, that will increase productivity.

Windows 8 was and still is a tablet operating system first, a desktop operating system last. That probably isn't going to change at this point. Until the balance of power shifts back to the desktop being the primary focus of the Windows family of operating systems, in deeds(and not just rhetoric) I will not be moving from where I am.

If I ever do decide to buy my own tablet(for road trips, college classes) Im gonna go with an Android tablet just to ***** Ballmer and Microsoft over for having done this to me.

So, it is really a lose-lose situation for Microsoft from my point of view.

They have betrayed their loyal customer base of the past 20 years. They obviously do not comprehend the definition of the word loyalty.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I love it when the argument to upgrade to Windows 8 starts by saying that you can do everything you did in Windows 7. Okay, now that I know that, what's the "reason" for me to upgrade.

I think that's the first misnomer right there. 'Upgrade'. They should never have called this Windows 8, they should have called it Windows Metro (yeah, I know 'Metro' was already trademarked) but they should have made it clear it wasn't a successor to Windows 7. Sure, the searching is better, the task manager is better, there are other misc improvements, but the experience is so different that it's more of a horizontal shift than a vertical one.

The big question is then, what do new PCs ship with? Win 7 or Windows Metro (8)? Do we give people an option? Will they support Win7 longer then? There's a benefit to having a single latest OS version. But I think they drifted too far away from Win 7 for 8 to be an 'upgrade' The tiles and new interface should have an option you can turn on and off. It has started this whole market segment of touch screen ultrabooks... and I've used them, they're slick and cool, but it feels weird reaching out and touching your laptop screen. The Surface gets touch right, but it doesn't seem to translate well to your average laptop.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

what's the "reason" for me to upgrade

There may be no good reason for most Win 7 users. Read my post again, I was not an argument to uprgade.

I upgraded because it was $40, a deal MS pered of last year. I wanted to test some of our company's programs on the new platform. At today's high price I probably would not upgrade, although there is a feature that I use a lot that was only available in Win 7 Ultimate - dual monitor support for remote desktop. There is also improved task scheduling with multicore processors, which of course is unrelated to the interface changes.

You keep rehashing a ******** theory that most of the whiners hating on Windows 8 haven't used it.

Keep rehashing? In one post? I, like you, don't know what "most" people in the world are saying, just the ones that I personally know who have dismissed Win 8 without using it for more than a few minutes.

Oh God yes. I dread having to launch applications on my Windows 7 system

Windows 7 is quite easy to use. I just find 8 somewhat easier. Especially with multi monitors, which is not typical for most users.

MAD JOE MAD JOE said:

AGAIN - Where is the START Button ? I need Start/RUN/cmd Not this BS this guys is showing us. IT IS all Cosmetic. oh the pretty colors we can now do. BIG DEAL. YES and GAMERS need a Keyboard and MOUSE - Try playing Call of Duty an World of TANKS, Warcraft but touching your screen. Especially in combat, EPIC FAIL

1 person liked this | GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

AGAIN - Where is the START Button ? I need Start/RUN/cmd Not this BS this guys is showing us. IT IS all Cosmetic. oh the pretty colors we can now do. BIG DEAL. YES and GAMERS need a Keyboard and MOUSE - Try playing Call of Duty an World of TANKS, Warcraft but touching your screen. Especially in combat, EPIC FAIL

...............

Ok besides the typical highlighting the mouse at the bottom left corner of the screen, ill show you an easy way to do that.

Windows key, type cmd, hit enter. Command prompt open

Or

Ctrl+r, then type cmd, hit enter, voila

Dont tell me that there's no command prompt, I just opened it in a second on my desktop and surface pro to double check.

Nobina Nobina said:

Can I use the same Windows 8 drivers for Windows 8.1? It's just a patch, right?

1 person liked this |
Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Can I use the same Windows 8 drivers for Windows 8.1? It's just a patch, right?

Yes, same drivers. On the very core of the OS not much has changed.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

Can I use the same Windows 8 drivers for Windows 8.1? It's just a patch, right?

Yes, same drivers. On the very core of the OS not much has changed.

The Windows Kernel was modified to a new version as if it was a new OS though. It is the same though.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

AGAIN - Where is the START Button ? I need Start/RUN/cmd Not this BS this guys is showing us. IT IS all Cosmetic. oh the pretty colors we can now do. BIG DEAL. YES and GAMERS need a Keyboard and MOUSE - Try playing Call of Duty an World of TANKS, Warcraft but touching your screen. Especially in combat, EPIC FAIL

...............

Ok besides the typical highlighting the mouse at the bottom left corner of the screen, ill show you an easy way to do that.

Windows key, type cmd, hit enter. Command prompt open

Or

Ctrl+r, then type cmd, hit enter, voila

Dont tell me that there's no command prompt, I just opened it in a second on my desktop and surface pro to double check.

You do know that most people are bandwagoners and haven't actually touched a windows 8 device yet?

2 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

You do know that most people are bandwagoners and haven't actually touched a windows 8 device yet?
This bandwagoner doesn't plan on touching a Windows 8 device either. The images of Windows 8 across my Windows 7 monitor is more than I want to bare.

TheBigFatClown said:

You do know that most people are bandwagoners and haven't actually touched a windows 8 device yet?

And this does what to change the fact that Windows 8 is top-heavy touch-oriented UI that was forced upon people who were extremely happy with what already exists on their desktops? Okay, so convince us holdouts that the Windows 8 UI, I.e., Metro...I mean "MODERN"(yeah, that sounds so much cooler) UI is worth using on a DESKTOP...Your message is so generic when you use the word Windows 8 "device" we have no idea what device you are championing. Hell, it may be the most wonderful thing since sliced bread on a tablet or a cellphone. But that's not where the most contention lies. So, your comment carries almost no weight to convince anybody of anything. You might as well have said nothing and it would have had the same impact. You do have a reason for taking the time to post on these forums I assume and that is to sway people one way or another? I know what it is...you just wanted a little love....*BigFatClown gives LinkedKube a big fat bear hug*

The question that needs to be answered is, "Is Windows 8 worth upgrading to from Windows 7 Ultimate on a ....(drum roll please)...DESKTOP?". The answer is a deafening HELL NAH. Ain't gonna happen here.

Now go back to your tablet and finish your tweeting or whatever is that you do with your index finger. Just keep it to yourself. I don't need to know.

JC713 JC713 said:

This bandwagoner doesn't plan on touching a Windows 8 device either. The images of Windows 8 across my Windows 7 monitor is more than I want to bare.

You should try Linux because in 2020, Win 7 loses support and you will be stuck with a Win8 like experience.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

And this does what to change the fact that Windows 8 is top-heavy touch-oriented UI that was forced upon people who were extremely happy with what already exists on their desktops? Okay, so convince us holdouts that the Windows 8 UI, I.e., Metro...I mean "MODERN"(yeah, that sounds so much cooler) UI is worth using on a DESKTOP...Your message is so generic when you use the word Windows 8 "device" we have no idea what device you are championing. Hell, it may be the most wonderful thing since sliced bread on a tablet or a cellphone. But that's not where the most contention lies. So, your comment carries almost no weight to convince anybody of anything. You might as well have said nothing and it would have had the same impact. You do have a reason for taking the time to post on these forums I assume and that is to sway people one way or another? I know what it is...you just wanted a little love....*BigFatClown gives LinkedKube a big fat bear hug*

The question that needs to be answered is, "Is Windows 8 worth upgrading to from Windows 7 Ultimate on a ....(drum roll please)...DESKTOP?". The answer is a deafening HELL NAH. Ain't gonna happen here.

Now go back to your tablet and finish your tweeting or whatever is that you do with your index finger. Just keep it to yourself. I don't need to know.

Nerd rage much? Go back and try to find a single post about me "championing" about windows 8

I never called it modern. I never defended or attempted to defend windows 8. My hardware runs win 7 but that doesn't mean I didn't have to learn win 8.

You went on a half page rant about a single sentence I posted, in which wasn't even directed towards you. I'm interested in cliffords response. In fact, who the F* are you, and when did you get on this forum. I'll stop here and let go the idea of entertaining you any further. And you helped do nothing other than prove my point, which was directed towards another member and you had just jump on the bandwagon, even though no one could give too much of a damn how upset you are about windows 8.

You don't have to like windows 8, I will say that you seem really angry though. My advise is to join the dev team over at M$ or sthu and enjoy your windows 7, and/or go back over to Anandtech or w/e you weirdo's come from.

Oh btw you can add me on twitter. You'd be my first follower.

TheBigFatClown said:

Nerd rage much? Go back and try to find a single post about me "championing" about windows 8

I never called it modern. I never defended or attempted to defend windows 8. My hardware runs win 7 but that doesn't mean I didn't have to learn win 8.

You went on a half page rant about a single sentence I posted, in which wasn't even directed towards you. I'm interested in cliffords response. In fact, who the F* are you, and when did you get on this forum. I'll stop here and let go the idea of entertaining you any further. And you helped do nothing other than prove my point, which was directed towards another member and you had just jump on the bandwagon, even though no one could give too much of a damn how upset you are about windows 8.

You don't have to like windows 8, I will say that you seem really angry though. My advise is to join the dev team over at M$ or sthu and enjoy your windows 7, and/or go back over to Anandtech or w/e you weirdo's come from.

Oh btw you can add me on twitter. You'd be my first follower.

A half page rant huh? Oh, you must be reading this on a tablet. That comment would make sense then.

You made this statement in a public forum:

"You do know that most people are bandwagoners and haven't actually touched a windows 8 device yet?"

If you didn't realize you were participating in a forum discussion maybe you should re-visit the definition of a public forum.

I really don't give a frogs fat ass who it was directed at. It's a red herring fallacy that people use to try and trick people into installing Windows 8, thinking that if they do they will eventually just fall in love with it.

Jumped on the bandwagon again huh? So your sticking with that one? Okay then...

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

A half page rant huh? Oh, you must be reading this on a tablet. That comment would make sense then.

You made this statement in a public forum:

"You do know that most people are bandwagoners and haven't actually touched a windows 8 device yet?"

If you didn't realize you were participating in a forum discussion maybe you should re-visit the definition of a public forum.

I really don't give a frogs fat *** who it was directed at. It's a red herring fallacy that people use to try and trick people into installing Windows 8, thinking that if they do they will eventually just fall in love with it.

Jumped on the bandwagon again huh? So your sticking with that one? Okay then...

"A half page rant huh? Oh, you must be reading this on a tablet. That comment would make sense then."

I'll let this one slide since its clear you have no idea how tablets work. I'll give you a hint. Nothing like etch a sketch.

Yes we can put it in a rant category. You managed to tag along a bunch of reason's why people should hate windows 8 to a one liner that I posted, and you also managed to take a simple question out of context. If you're going to attempt to try to answer a question that was for clifford in the first place at least don't respond to it in a way that that makes me think you got caught on the wrong end of the learning curve.

Oh and yes this is a public forum, I bet that makes you happy. How long did you last at your last forum before they ran you off.

I'm just a little baffled at your original post. How did you get all that, out of one sentence.

Oh I get it. I scream ROY G BIV and you pull out your box of 64 color crayolas swearing that its my fault you can't find the green that you need.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Railman said:

Microsoft can forget any notions of winning the Nobel Peace prize!

Marc Petersen Marc Petersen said:

Why do you have to be a little child about a new design and a new face to which Microsoft is building?

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Why do you have to be a little child about a new design and a new face to which Microsoft is building?
For the life of me, I can't tell who you are questioning.

Edit:

How the hell do you guys quote everyone in the thread?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

For the life of me, I can't tell who you are questioning.

Edit:

How the hell do you guys quote everyone in the thread?

You keep opening the thread in a new tab, then copy and paste.

Unless there's some other software secret that I don't know about.

In this case it's an M$ fanbois, that never learned to mas******* properly.

I reported it, how about you?

MilwaukeeMike said:

For the life of me, I can't tell who you are questioning.

Edit:

How the hell do you guys quote everyone in the thread?

Why do you have to be a little child about a new design and a new face to which Microsoft is building?

I'll accept responsibility for the most childish response in the thread. I said 'L2P ffs' after Treeski said 'Less QQ More Pew Pew'. The L2P (Learn to play) is a common childish gamer response to someone who's having trouble with a game. As is 'Less QQ (Less crying)' I thought it was kinda funny to attribute it to Win 8, but I don't know if anyone got the joke, and that's probably a good thing. Probably shows this is more mature site.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

@cliffordcooley

How the hell do you guys quote everyone in the thread?

@cliffordcooley Easy, you just start at the beginning of the thread and hit "reply", on every entry.

I'll accept responsibility for the most childish response in the thread. I said 'L2P ffs' after Treeski said 'Less QQ More Pew Pew'. The L2P (Learn to play) is a common childish gamer response to someone who's having trouble with a game. As is 'Less QQ (Less crying)' I thought it was kinda funny to attribute it to Win 8, but I don't know if anyone got the joke, and that's probably a good thing. Probably shows this is more mature site.
No, the most "immature" response to the thread was someone who started at the beginning of the thread, and hit "reply" to every entry.

As for those among us who are not gamers like myself, your "QQ" nonsense flew right over my head, as I feel no obligation to learn the talk, since I have no interest in walking the walk.

And yeah, sometimes I am out of place here. Or perhaps, as the children say, "my bad"....:oops:

Railman said:

It is easy to include quotes if using a PC browser however the smartphone version does not give that option.

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