Microsoft Build kicks off with Windows 8.1, new apps, Bing for devs, & more

Image Credit: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

MOSCONE CENTER, San Francisco — Microsoft’s big Build developers conference started today, and while big news was absent, it showed Microsoft plowing ahead with more features for Windows, Bing, and other services.

The biggest announcement was the launch of Windows 8.1 Preview, which is available to any Windows 8 user who wants it. It includes a Start button on the desktop and more ways to window and display “modern” apps, make the Start screen more customizable, and make search better.

We were on hand to see what Microsoft and its executive team had in store. We live-blogged the event, but it’s over now. Check out our recap of the day one keynote in the posts below.

More Build news:

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:09 am

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:09 am

CEO Ballmer’s onstage, teasing new devices and services. He says there’s lots to show, aside from Office 365 and Xbox. As shown in the photo below, he kicked off by getting the crowd on their feet with a rousing chorus of “Heeeey, Macarena!”*


Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:11 am

Steve Ballmer helping kick things off by talking about the latest Windows Phone models.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:12 am

Ballmer stressing the availability of the latest Nokia Windows Phones — the Lumia 928, Lumia 925, and Lumia 521.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:13 am

The Lumia 521 is aimed at emerging markets at $150 unsubsidized.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:13 am


Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:13 am

Sprint will offer the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Samsung ATIV S Neo.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:14 am

“The Windows device of today doesn’t look like …the PC of five years ago.”

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:15 am

The new HTC 8XT and Samsung Ativ S Neo, coming to Sprint this summer.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:15 am

Oprah moment: Ballmer says attendees are getting an Acer 8.1 small tablet.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:15 am

Ballmer stresses that a lot of time will be spent talking about smaller Windows 8 tablets. (These will compete with the iPad mini.)

Devindra Hardawar June 26, 20139:16 am

Free Acer Iconia Windows 8.1 tablets for devs. Woo?

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:16 am

Ballmer: “I wouldn’t call them PCs, but they are Windows small tablets. We’ll see the proliferation of these tablets over the next few months.”

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:17 am

Another shot of the Nokia phone…

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:18 am

Ballmer says that PCs are rapidly getting touch screens. He says customers are expecting it and are happier when their PCs have touch.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:19 am

One more look at one of Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 devices.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:20 am

“It really reaches out and touches a need that all of us feel.” — Ballmer on 2-fer tablets with charging keyboards and long battery life, both for work and play.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:22 am

Windows 8.1 is finally getting a Facebook app. W00t goes the crowd.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:22 am

Powerful machines, held by a powerful man… or something.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:23 am

This month, Windows Store will pass the 100,000 apps mark.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:25 am

Facebook, Flipboard, and NFL apps all being made to support Windows 8. (The Facebook app is a huge deal for the platform.)

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:26 am

Ballmer: Windows 8.1 re-adds the Start button and lets you boot directly to the desktop.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:27 am

The crowd here is really enthusiastic about the old-school desktop. Not a fan of Live Tiles?

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:28 am

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:29 am

Ballmer: Bing is very important to the next version of Windows as well. It’s become a better service and powers other things inside Windows, such as the app store and some searches inside Windows.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:30 am

Julie Larson-Green, who leads the Windows division, says the 8-month turnaround between Windows 8 and 8.1 is evidence of the company’s commitment to more responsive, rapid release cycles.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:33 am

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:33 am

Larson-Green now demoing some of the behavior of Windows 8.1 on smaller tablets.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:33 am

She’s talking talking about some keyboard gestures — swiping up for numbers, holding and swiping for punctuation. A lot of these virtual keyboard features are standard issue on Android devices and have been for years. Just sayin’.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:33 am

Windows head Julie-Larson Green.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:34 am

Here’s a screenshot of one of those smaller tablets.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:36 am

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:37 am

Demoing new Outlook and desktop-based search, a.k.a. “Bing Inside.” Predictably, the terms she’s searching for yield beautiful, useful results. Would be cool to see Bing Inside in the wild.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:38 am

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:39 am

Larson-Green now talking about new Xbox Music features. The app has a new design and can pull info from a web page to automatically create playlists.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:40 am

Demo of Windows 8.1 lock screen featuring your personal photo collection. Like Facebook Home, this stuff looks best when your children and friends are all really good looking and your cameras are all super high-end.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:41 am

Larson-Green demoing the automatic playlist feature for Xbox Music.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:43 am

Larson-Green showing off the latest customization features of the Start screen. One of the best things is that the “All Apps” screen is just a single swipe downward from the Start screen. (Much easier to see all the apps on your PC.)

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:43 am

Photo editing is built into Windows 8.1, including effects/filters. You know, to make all your pics pretty enough for that live lock screen.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:44 am

Sorting and searching for apps in Windows 8 is now easier, Larson-Green says.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:45 am

Cooks, take note: The Windows 8.1 / Bing food app has a hands-free mode with gesture recognition. Good for the double-battered fried chicken, good for the moisture-sensitive, glass-screened tablet.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:45 am

Here’s an example of the Windows 8.1 Start screen. (It looks a lot like the Windows 8 Start screen.)

Devindra Hardawar June 26, 20139:49 am

The more flexible window snapping functionality in Windows 8.1 could be huge. Basically, it’s a refined way to manage Windows programs like we always have, it’s just evolved for touchscreens.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:51 am

Here’s an example of that flexible window snapping Devindra just mentioned. The projection screen is showing eight windows across two monitors.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:51 am

Larson-Green shows a new “modern” Office app: It’s PowerPoint. Very alpha at this point. Expect it to be released for real in 2014.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:52 am

Visual Studio 2013 is especially geared toward mobile apps. The developer preview is available today.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:52 am

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:54 am

VS2013 can build reports on performance issues like an app’s power consumption.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 20139:57 am

Antoine Leblond, VP of the Windows Web Services team, is the one giving us the lowdown on Visual Studio 2013. It’s getting geeky in here.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:57 am

VS2013 now has a 10-step wizard for setting up live tiles and push notifications.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:57 am

Here’s some screenshots of the VS2013 features Jolie just mentioned.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 20139:59 am

A screenshot of VS2013’s 10-step Wizard.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 20139:59 am

We’re now talking about MSFT’s support for open web standards like MPEG Dash and Web GL in Internet Explorer.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:01 am

Leblond: “The Windows Store (app store) continues to offer the best economics out there period.”

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:01 am

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:02 am

Antoine Leblonde is giving us some good news for the Windows Store: automatic app updates, for starters.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:03 am

Auto-updating apps is a big change. You might recall that Apple also announced auto-updating apps for iOS 7.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:03 am

Also new in the Windows Store: Larger preview screenshots, ratings/reviews, related apps, and other apps by you, “to make it easier to sell your apps and make more money.”

Devindra Hardawar June 26, 201310:05 am

Looks like you can download the Windows 8.1 preview right now here. (Only works on Windows 8 machines at the moment.)

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:05 am

Also new in the Windows Store: Larger preview screenshots, ratings/reviews, related apps, and other apps by the same developer, “to make it easier to sell your apps and make more money.”

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:06 am

Here’s some shots of the updated Store.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:09 am

Leblond now talking about 3D printing. Says Windows 8.1 is the first platform to natively support 3D printing.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:10 am

Dude, Leblonde just threw a vase at the audience.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:11 am

3D printing from Windows 8.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:12 am

MSFT worked with the Lego Mindstorm team to make a Windows 8 tablet robot. There’s a Windows app to control it, and it’s controlled by another tablet via Wi-Fi. It uses the new realtime streaming APIs to do streaming video.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:13 am

Here’s the Lego Mindstorm Windows 8 tablet robot.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:14 am

As you can see here, you can now recreate that episode of Big Bang Theory when Sheldon tries to live his life as a remote robot.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:16 am

Leblond showing unique form factors for Windows 8 devices, including this Acer tablet.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:17 am

Here’s a shot of a new Acer tablet/laptop.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:18 am

Now showing off the Surface Pro. We’re having another Oprah Moment… Each attendee is getting one, thanks to Intel.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:19 am

Leblond and Larson-Green asking the audience if they want a free Surface Pro. Well duh…

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:19 am

VP Gurdeep Singh Pall is now onstage to talk about Bing s’more.

And those pics of Leblond — that’s the face of a man who will not think twice about throwing a vase at you, then giving you new toys just to seal in the Stockholm syndrome.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:23 am

Pall still talking Bing, which is heavily integrated in the Windows and Xbox experiences.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:24 am

Bing for developers. It’s a platform, ladies & gentlemen!

With features like web index, entities and knowledge, and APIs, Pall says devs should be excited to build on it.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:25 am

Bing for developers:

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:27 am

In the demo app (a travel application), Pall shows speech features, Expedia integration, image integration, etc. Using the newer controls, he shows off a virtual tour with voice guides, street-side views, and recommendations of things to do.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:28 am

The Windows 8.1 maps app will come with 3D imagery, Pall says.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:30 am

An example of Maps in 8.1 with 3D imagery:

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:30 am

The Windows 8.1 maps app will come with 3D imagery and search features, Pall says. For example, you can search for and learn about a building’s architect without leaving the map.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:32 am

The 3D imagery is impressively detailed. But I wonder how many cities and countries it supports.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:34 am

The Bing platform and developer portal are available today, Pall says — and he’s out! Mic drop!

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:35 am

Ballmer’s back with more to show.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:36 am

There’s a big white sofa and a huge TV onstage. And a scattering of Xbox controllers. GEE I WONDER WHAT’S NEXT.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:37 am

Ballmer hopes the new Microsoft apps and updates fly. (Womp womp)

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:38 am

Tomorrow’s keynote will cover Azure, cloud for business, Office 365, SaaS integration, and “tools, tools, tools.”

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:39 am

Ballmer: One more demonstration!

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:39 am

Now demoing Project Spark, an app and dev environment that uses devices, Azure, graphics capabilities, etc.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:40 am

Rusty McLellan and Dave McCarthy onstage now to talk game development and Project Spark. Rusty’s building a game on a touchscreen PC.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:41 am

McLellan and McCarthy demoing Spark:

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:42 am

Hold up, now! Rusty’s headed into the living room! Watch out!

Added drama brought to you by VentureBeat editorial staff.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:43 am

Now Rusty’s using the Xbox and a keyboard to change the game’s villian behavior and camera angle to make a touchscreen game out of a console game.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:43 am

Some shots of Project Spark in action.

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:43 am

Spark looks fun to play and develop with:

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:46 am

And just like that, Rusty’s turned an Xbox RPG into a Whack-a-Mole tablet game, showing how Spark is intended for all platforms.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:47 am

Here’s a library of effects you can choose from within Project Spark.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:47 am

The Spark team is gone with 15 minutes left in the keynote. Are we in for “one more thing?” PLEASE LET IT BE A SMART HAT.

Think about it: the fascinator base could hold the CPU, and the birdcage veil could double as a display.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:47 am

Now, Ballmer is back for a last hurrah.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:48 am

Again, we’re talking about the one-platform-for-everything theme.

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:49 am

“We will sell literally hundreds of millions of Windows devices this year. … Windows, Windows, Windows.” — Ballmer

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:49 am

A few more examples of games developed with Project Spark:

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:50 am

And that wraps up today’s keynote. Be sure to check out VB for more coverage from Build and Microsoft.

Ballmer: “The future of Windows is very, very bright.”

Jolie O'Dell June 26, 201310:51 am

And just like that, Ballmer is gone. Guess we’re not getting a smart hat this year, folks!

Sean Ludwig June 26, 201310:51 am

Thanks for joining us folks.

Tom Cheredar June 26, 201310:51 am

Ballmer here making a “Windows? mmhmmm.” sassy pose. That’s it folks!

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