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Build 2013 Keynote Day 1 Highlights

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Microsoft's Build developer conference kicked off its 2013 session with a keynote opened by CEO Steve Ballmer. InfoQ is covering this conference live and what follows is a lightly edited report of this presentation. Microsoft has introduced several new technologies and concepts, but the overall theme gives the impression of evolution and refinement of the Windows 8 movement.


Ballmer says that he is happy to start this Build so soon after the last one (held in November 2012). Says that Microsoft is moving to a rapid release cycle, emphasizing "rapid release". Moving to a software company that produces software and services. When speaking of Microsoft's approach and strategy, Ballmer states that “...'Rapid release cadence is fundamental to what we're doing.”


November is when Windows 8 systems began to "come to the fore". Windows 8.1 will have a "heck of a lot of innovation". This should have a tools to allow all of our developers to flourish and do great work.... We have been moving quickly with Windows -and- Windows Phone.


Ballmer then proceeded to show a brief sampling of the new Windows 8.X based devices. This included phones from Nokia, (Lumia 925, 928, 521) and a new partnership with Sprint that will bring Windows 8 Phones to their network.


Moving on from phones, Ballmer claims that Microsoft's vision “is not just about phones, its about innovation... [with an] explosion in the range of innovative new devices with Windows inside."


Ballmer addmitted stores last fall/holiday shopping season didn't have enough systems with touch capability, but this will be changing as more devices are coming with touch support. Customers who have Windows 8 on touch systems are much happier than customers with no touch on Win8. They are also happier than Win7 customers.


  • There will be Windows small tablets, "I wouldn't call them PCs... but there will be tablets coming"
  • A workhorse 2-1 in tablet. Not sure to call it a tablet or a PC. "First class" job at both of those functions.
  • Helix device from Lenovo. Core i7. Built-in pen. 2 pounds. Full-day battery life. "I call it all Windows all the time."


Windows 8.1


Looking ahead to the upcoming Windows 8.1 release, Ballmer describes it as a “Refined Blend: Desktop/Modern”. Return of Start bar/menu brings cheers and applause. As does being able to boot directly to the desktop if user desires.


Bing Inside

Bing wins blind use tastes between Bing & Google. Bing is inside Windows 8.1 . Opening up Bing as an application development platform (further notes on this below.)


Windows 8.1 Responsive Refined: Julie Larson-Green

Microsoft's Larson-Green then came on stage to demonstrate the various improvements to several Microsoft products, starting with what will be coming inWindows 8.1. She notes that Microsoft has produced over 800 updates to Windows since November launch. Some on-screen demos include an 8-inch Windows tablet, Outlook mail, and the enhanced functionality of Bing. To demonstrate the Bing improvements, she made a search for a band through Bing, Bing returns a collection of pages based around the band... songs, videos, pictures-- it looked like a human-produced website but it was all generated by Bing.


Windows 8 will have free music streaming with Xbox Music which will be built-in to Windows 8.1. Other enhancements for 8.1 concern how apps are navigated, with the new ability to manipulate windows to snap-to panes, and have multiple app windows open simultaneously. A new app view allows users to easily see all apps installed on a 8.1 system, which is especially useful for desktop apps.


Larson-Green states that “every app in Windows 8.1 is either new or improved since 8.0”


(The Windows 8.1 Preview is available now. This preview includes a preview of IE 11.)


Antoine Leblond has now taken the stage.


Leblond states that 5,000 new APIs (!?) have been added to Windows 8.1 and that VS2013 will make it easier to develop next generation mobile and connected apps. He proceeded to demonstrate new benchmarking tools in VS2013 that measure not only how fast an app is, but how network efficient it is, and how its operation will affect battery performance.


Async debugging has been improved in VS2013 as the it is now able to preserve the async call-stack. Windows 8.1 will support WebGL and MPEG DASH natively, for both browser and desktop apps.


Windows Store Enhancements: The store supports automatic application updates so that a user will always have the most current version. The Windows Store will also have a page that provides a user with recommendations on what to buy/download based on previous purchases.


Multi-monitor support in Windows 8.1 will receive an important new feature: each monitor can now have its own independent scaling factor in Windows 8.1 which is improves the experience for users with multiple monitors of different physical sizes.


Gurdeep Singh Pall - Bing Team


Pall observed that both Yahoo and Facebook use Bing and that his team wants to grow the use of Bing everywhere: PCs, tablets, phones, and TV. Pall says that he, “...learned a lesson in the 1990s with Windows, if we can do something good with an API, third-party developers can use it for something great.”


Following that statement, he announced the availability of Bing as a platform for developers. This will open up Bing technologies and expertise in search, web index & revelance, entities & knowledge, and NUI=natural user interfaces to all developers.


Pall gave a very interesting demo on a Windows 8.1 maps app that will come with 3D capability. This 3D Imagery control can also be embedded for use by other developers. During the demo, Pall zooms in on a building with the map view, then asks via voice, "who is the architect". Bing is able to search the onscreen image and then determine who the architect is.


Next, Pall held up a business card to a camera on his Window 8.X device. Bing has OCR capability and which then processes the text on the card. As the text is in Spanish, Pall then uses Bing to translate it to English. Once processed Pall vocally asked Bing to add it to his travel app. All of this was done using Bing technology with the added benefit of using voice to control.



Ballmer returns to the sage to close the keynote, with a final demonstration of Project Spark. This demo begins with a developer creating a game map/level on a Windows 8 computer. This is then saved to Azure, where it is loaded on an XBox One system. It can be played on the XBox or further edited with a tablet and then play can continue on the Xbox.


Finally Ballmer iterated his themes of Microsoft's desire for rapid releases, with one innovative experience on every device. Ballmer's phrase is that if you want to"Lean in" for the biggest/best experience, use Windows 8 family of devices.


Stay tuned continuing InfoQ coverage of Build 2013.

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