Steve Balmer kicked off the Build conference in typically bombastic style.  He talked up the Windows ecosystem, showed off a couple of Nokia phones that were new to the US (but not new in Europe) and previewed a Windows 8.1 inch tablet running Windows 8.1.  He also espoused their vision of a refined blend of the desktop/modern UIs trying to bring the metro and classic styles together somewhat in a faster release cycle.

microsoft build 2013

For the consumer a number of changes to 8.1 were announced including:

  • Boot to the desktop added.
  • Start screen ‘enriched’ and start menu added.
  • Better multi-monitor support.  This should allow one screen to run a classic desktop program and one a metro style
  • Bing is being added to the search system in 8.1
  • Gestures being added to the on screen keyboard
  • More Skype integration to the start screen and generally
  • More personalisation options on the start screen including different wallpapers and color schemes
  • More gestures on the start screen
  • External gestures – making a gesture left to right in front of the the TV using the webcam to recognise the motion
  • More Xbox One integration.  They demonstrated a system like Apples Airplay screen sharing from the windows 8 machine to the TV using the Xbox One.

8.1 will be a free upgrade to all Windows 8.0 users in the next couple of months.

Microsoft also showed off a number of devices of different form factors and sizes from 5″ up to 18″ tablets and systems and gave developers there all Surface Pro.

After this they covered improvements to Bing, Bing Maps and Internet Explorer.  Stand out was a voice control interface for Bing Maps which let the user identify particular features or information.

They finished the keynote with a demonstration of Project Spark on a Windows 8 machine.  Spark is Microsoft’s new openworld sandbox game was shown using the PC to design the map then playing it on and Xbox One.  It also used a Windows tablet whilst in game to fine tune settings and change camera angles.

The full video will be available on Microsoft’s official Build website here in the next few hours.

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