Microsoft Build 2013: Day One

Microsoft Build is now the conference for developers who focus on building on the Microsoft platform. With Steve Ballmer on stage for the initial keynote, the assumption was that this would be an event for “developer, developers, developers!”  The first Build keynote, however, didn’t dig very deep into the developer space.

For Build 2013, there were a few expectations. Expected were on coverage of Windows 8.1 and Visual Studio 2013. While there was a good chunk of presentation on Windows device, there weren’t a lot of in-depth demos to send the developers in the room clamoring for more information. It was a fair keynote, but not really one for getting the room excited.

Steve Ballmer did provide context on Microsoft’s focus going forward. Microsoft plans to do much more rapid releases of products. The last Build conference was just last fall. Windows 8’s release was in November, and yet Microsoft plans to have Windows 8.1 out this fall. For an operating system release, that’s pretty fast. The expectation should be similar rapid releases going forward.

One the first thing that is clear is that release cycles are getting shorter. It will be interesting to see how this holds up. Of course, with the rapid change in technology, rapid releases have to happen.  When you consider the age of the iPad and realize there have been four releases, it becomes clear that technology is changing very fast!

There were a variety of topics covered in the keynote. Here are some of the highlights:

Windows Devices

Microsoft presented a number of devices that have been released. Expectations are that more devices will be coming faster. Microsoft acknowledged that one area that didn’t go smooth with the initial release was touch-based devices. Microsoft had been pushing touch, yet many initial devices didn’t have touch. This is something that is being resolved as new machines enter the market.

You can also expect a variety of devices including 2-in-2 tablets and more options for smaller tablets.

New phones

New phones are coming as well. This includes cheaper, you powerful devices.  Nokia has a Lumia smartphone that will retail for about $150 without incentives.

The number of Apps Rising

It is interesting that Microsoft has finally caught on that they say there are “millions of apps for Windows 8”.  Rather than focusing just on the app store applications, Microsoft commented on the overall number of apps available for Windows 8. I believe a lot of people overlook the fact that a full Windows 8 Pro system can run all Windows 7 apps. This means you aren’t limited to the roughly 100,000 apps in the App Store. It was interesting to hear Microsoft finally mention this.

Refined blend:  desktop/modern

Microsoft did show off a number of the changes in Windows 8. This includes the new Start page, changes in icons, and more.  One new feature is that updates will automatically be pushed, so you will no longer see the “Update” notification or be required to select it to update all of the applications. While the audience clapped for this, it does raise the question of what happens if you don’t want an application updated.

Also shown were the blending of the desktop and modern interface. Little tweaks like adding background images to the Start page that match the desktop help to make the transition less jarring from one to the other. The ability to get to the “all apps” page with one swipe also was a nice tiny addition. Also added was a change to how snap and fill worked. You can now size the amount screen space used as well as have more apps showing. They showed four apps on the screen at once.

 There were several other little additions demoed as well. Gestures on the onscreen keyboard make typing easier. There were also a few ‘sizzle’ items shown, such as animations on the background of the start screen. Overall, there were a lot of little tweaks to Windows 8 that should make the use of the modern interface features easier. 

And of course, you can boot to the desktop. For those that don’t like the new modern interface, you can now boot to the desktop and have what is really close to a Windows 7 start page.

Bing Inside

One of the few things discussed that seemed befitting of a Build keynote was Bing. Microsoft is opening up Bing APIs so that you can incorporate features such as translate, maps, and search into your applications. There is a lot of power within Bing beyond just basic search. That power will be available to developers. It will be interesting to see how it is used. Expect articles on this in the future.

Visual Studio 2013

Most of the coverage for Visual Studio comes in the next keynote (I hope).  While there was a demo showing some really cool application performance monitoring (such as power usage). There were also examples of a few other tweaks. Darryl Taft has written a little bit about those changes in his article on eWeek, Microsoft Build 2013: Visual Studio 2013, .NET 4.5.1 Previews Ship . You can actually get the Visual Studio 2013 Preview now. You can also get the Windows 8.1 Preview now

On a similar note, Visual Studio 2012 Update 3 has also been released.


There is a lot happening. I don’t believe Microsoft’s keynote for the first day of Build captured the level of change happening. We’ll see how they do in the second keynote where the focus is on Azure and tools.

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