Saturday, June 29, 2013

Updated: Microsoft Build 2013: our top 5 moments

Updated: Microsoft Build 2013: our top 5 moments

Updated: Microsoft Build 2013: our top 5 moments

Our top 5 moments

Like a game of Jenga, Build 2013 was over before we knew it (our Jenga games typically end in a crash of tiles quite early).

The conference was a subdued affair, with developers, some subversively donning Google Glass, quietly shuffling from session to session, learning about Windows 8.1, Kinect, Azure, Visual Studio and all the tricks and tools Redmond could offer.

With no new hardware announced and most of the goods spilled before Build kicked off June 26, there weren't many surprises during the three-day affair. The company instead offered a deep dive into its coding architecture and flushed out its update for Windows 8, encouraging everyone to download the 8.1 Preview A.S.A.P.

Above all, there was a conciliatory air to the event, one that saw company brass admit they haven't done a good job with certain dev messaging, hammering on the common cores between platforms, earnestly trying to explain why creating apps for Windows and Windows Phone isn't a Herculean feat, and gifting the crowd with goodies like the Surface Pro and Acer Iconia W3.

How well received Microsoft's messages were we'll know in due time, but until then here's a rundown of our top 5 moments from this edition of Build.

Windows 8.1

1. One-on-one time with Windows 8.1 Preview

The reveal of Windows 8.1 may have lacked a little luster thanks to the company's decision to talk about it extensively before Build began, but that didn't stop most people from being relieved to see the return of the Start button, among other changes.

With Windows 8.1 we have some interface alterations like new smart search and multiple modern app views as well as improvements like built-in SkyDrive sync. The UI changes may be off putting to some, at least to start, but everyone should enjoy overall improved performa nce.

There's also expanded PC settings, IE11 in preview, an improved Xbox Music and new snap views for Windows Store apps.

It may not be the seismic shift we saw from Windows 7 to Windows 8, but the updates Windows 8.1 brings are sensible and welcome.

2. All together now - 'rapid release cycle'

Despite the ascendance of Google and Apple, Microsoft is still a giant technology firm.

Unlike its counterparts however, Microsoft has suffered from a lack of adaptability. But during Build, CEO Steve Ballmer let everyone in on a secret: the company plans on bumping its release cycles in order to transition from just a software company to a hardware maker th at's still, appropriately enough, "driven by software."

What does this mean for us? Well, for starters Microsoft's historical 3-year OS releases are out the window, a relief to the non-business customers among us.

But Ballmer's thrice-repeated "rapid release cycle" mantra isn't just for software. Microsoft is in the midst of moving beyond software into a device and service company, so look for more tablets, phones, PCs and other products announced more frequently from Build forward.

Steve Ballmer

Specifically on tablets, Ballmer said there will be a proliferation of smaller Windows tablets throughout the year, and we heartened to hear we'll have other small choices to choose from than the Iconia W3.

Many attendees we spoke with said t hey noticed Microsoft taking on a different tone the one it's affected before, and the messaging of faster releases and various product offerings was certainly part of the perceived shift going on at the company.

How well Microsoft can stick to its word we'll see, but we left with the impression that we're in for different Microsoft than we knew a year ago.

3. Apps are a focus

Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 have for eight months suffered a dearth of apps, but Microsoft not only added to its application offerings during Build, it managed to lend a little "we're announcing today" buzz to the proceedings.

< p>Foursquare

Facebook, Flipboard, Songza, OpenTable and Rhapsody apps were all revealed, while Chief Evangelist Steven Guggenheimer showed off a preview version of a Foursquare tablet app, the first of its kind from the check-in company. We may even have an offering from Yelp before long, too.

Microsoft also managed to pack in the cleaner look coming with the Windows 8.1 Store, adding auto-updating in the process.

Yes, there's still nothing from Instagram, but app by app Microsoft is ramping up its offerings and even anticipates topping 100,000 in the Windows Store soon. Popular choices are finally arriving, and Build helped the company show it's taking its application situation seriously.

4. Turning Internet Explorer up to 11

Though we're borrowing from the title of a press session devoted to Internet Explorer, Microsoft went to considerable lengths to demo why it thinks IE11 (available as a preview in Windows 8.1) is "more than just a browser."

We'll need more time to determine if it's done that exactly, but what we saw from IE11 was enough to stay interested. The main takeaways are that the browser has been optimized to the max for touch, and in such a way that there's less strain on a machine's CPU and battery life.


There's added 2D and 3D graphics support thanks to the addition of WebGL, and IE11 also shores up Google's SPDY protocol. This should mean faster website download speed in IE, an addition that's hard to fault.

Will we see Internet Explorer 11 on Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows 7? Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president at IE, wouldn't give a definitive answer, but the "winking" impression he gave was that it's an affirmative for all three.

5. A little clarity on Xbox One development

Just how developers can develop for the Xbox One is still a mystery, though the company teased on Day 2 of Build that Windows 8 is a good place to start.

Though the next-gen console is a curated platform, it still houses a kernel of Windows 8, and Guggenheimer hinted that those looking to get a jump on Xbox One apps can lean on W8.

"Well if you want to know how to sort of get a head start in thinking about developing for Xbox One, the logical thing to do is to go to develop Windows 8 applications," the exec said.

Xbox One

The app development process for Xbox One remains largely a mystery, though Guggenheimer's comments provide an ample clue as to what Microsoft is thinking.

We tried to get some Microsoft developers employed by the company to provide a definitive answer as to whether Windows 8 apps will be able to m ake the jump to the console, but were told that they themselves don't yet know.

While we'd like to have all the answers on the Xbox One tied up in a nice bow, it seems for now that on the development end, all we can say as that the signs point to Windows 8.

Microsoft Build intro, news from the show

Build 2013 kicked off June 26 with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, rattling off some of the "exciting innovations" that the Redmond, Wash.-based company has been working on.

During the first part of his Day 1 keynote speech, Ballmer repeated once again that Microsoft is moving away from offering only software and towards hardware and services, aided by a rapid release schedule for Windows and Windows Phone 8.

Though largely developer focused, Ballmer and a supporting cast of Microsoft executives outlined the changes coming with th e Windows 8.1 update, new apps and features and outlined new functions of the Windows Store during the Day 1 keynote.

We have much more from our conference coverage as Day 2 gets rolling, so keep your gazing moving for all the latest:

Windows 8.1 RT hands on review

Don't worry, RT. We haven't forgotten about you.

While Windows 8.1 got most of the attention here at Build, we were sure to take advantage of its OS sibling, going hands on with the far more useable update here on the conference floor.

The system is still missing much, but as an update, getting Windows 8.1 RT on your RT device is a good way to go. Just remember, once you've downloaded it, you can't go back.

Read our Windows 8.1 RT review

How to prep for Xbox One app development

Developers wondering what they can do in the months ahead of the Xbox One release can heed advice laid out by Microsoft's Steve Guggenheimer during the Day 2 keynote: start developing for Windows 8.

Because of the common core between the Windows 8 found in the next-gen console and W8 itself, developing for the system is, Guggs suggested, fairly similar.

App development processes for Xbox One is still unclear, but this sheds a little light on what developers and gamers can look forward to.

Foursquare checking in

Facebook and Flipbook got the love during Day 1, but June 27 was all about Foursquare. OK, and a few other apps.

Microsoft's Steve Gugge nheimer showed off a native Foursquare tablet app for Windows 8 today while also chatting up a few other additions like ABC News and Walgreens. Mint is heading to Windows and Windows Phone, where Xfinity TV Remote will join it as Rhapsody heads to W8.

There's still no Instagram, but Microsoft is racking up a number of crucial applications.

Number call

What's a keynote without some digit-rattling bragging? Microsoft was no exception as during Day 2 the company laid out a few new numbers for how many people are using its services.

According to the company, Skype now has 299 million connected users. Bing sees 1 billion mobile notifications a month, and SkyDrive has soared past the 200 million mark, now touting 250 million accou nt holders.

Xbox Live's 300,000 servers got a mention, as did a number of other...numbers.

Microsoft looks to make devs lives a walk in the park

OK, it's never easy to develop, but Microsoft unleashed a number of tools to help those who create apps for its Windows and Windows Phone platforms do what they do.

The announcements came during the Day 2 keynote and centered on Windows Azure, the company's cloud offering. Some high points were the opening of the Azure Mobile Services and Azure Web Sites.

All in all, the dev crowd ate it up and just maybe will start making the apps Microsoft needs to be successful.

IE11 updates outlined

IE11 is intrinsically tied to Windows 8.1, and the company announced during a press briefing that the updated web browser is available in preview mode with Windows 8.1 (also in preview).

Optimized for touch, IE11 aims to bring personal web exploration to users, trouncing competitors not only in speed but in battery efficiency and functionality.


Though he didn't say explicitly, Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president, Internet Explorer, said that in a "secret Batman cave," teams from Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows are working together with IE11. We should have more on Windows 7 support soon, too.

Metro could be fashionably late on Office apps

Windows head Julie Larson-Green may have demoed a very early version of a Metro PowerPoint during the Build Day 1 keynote, but don't look for similarly styled Office apps to land anytime soon.

One report pegs Metro refreshes of the currently desktop-version Office apps - Word, Excel, etc. - to land in 2014, while another says 2013 will indeed see a Windows 8 look land on the core productivity apps.

We will know all in a few months regardless, but look for more as Windows 8.1 nears launch.

Come and get it: Windows 8.1 available now

It's been known for what feels like fo rever that Microsoft would release a preview version of Windows 8.1 at the beginning of Build, and sure enough, Ballmer told the gathered and watching crowd that the free update was available for download right now.

The update "blends the desktop and the modern experience," Ballmer said, and includes the return of the start button and a boot-to-desktop option.

FutTv : Lv3Nz00E27o3K

More Windows tablets coming soon

More Windows tablets are coming to a retailer near you soon, particular those of the petite persuasion. Ballmer proclaimed as Build 2013 opened that we'll see a "proliferation of Windows small tablet devices" in the next several months.

Office 2013 software will be included on these Windows 8.1 tablets, and every attendee of Build will be able to walk out with one of these tablets - the Acer Iconia W3 tablet with Office.

Windows devices

Lookin' good, Windows Store

The Windows Store gets a face lift in Windows 8.1, or Windows 8.1 Store, if you will. The stor e was redesigned in an effort to help users find new and popular apps.

What's more, the news Windows Store features a bit of personalization for the user. The new "Picks for You" section will be different for everyone because it's a mix of what's popular in the Store in categories you use.

Windows App Store

Speaking of apps...

It's about time. Facebook and Flipboard apps will be included in Windows 8 via the Windows Store, Microsoft announced, as well as the NFL.

Although we didn't see a Facebook nor a Flipboard representative take to the stage, Ballmer spoke up for the newest Windows 8 app-developing compan ies.

Windows app store

Microsoft says 'Bing it on' to developers

Microsoft announced that it opened up the search engine tools of Bing as a platform.

Now, third-party apps you download will no longer be shut out of using advanced Microsoft technologies like 3D mapping, contextual voice search, and OCR translation.

"Knowledge of the web is now available to your applications," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President Gurdeep Singh Pall at today's conference in Seattle.

The company's also added native 3D printing support, so hold off buying any vases for the time being.

What we expected, 1-7

Here's a look at what we expected to see at Build 2013:

The annual Microsoft Build developer's conference has a bit of Google IO glow surrounding it this year, thanks in no small part to the Windows 8 conundrum.

Is it a failure? Is it the beginning of a software revolution? What about apps? How many Surfaces have been sold? When will we see new devices? And what the heck is going on with Windows RT?

Microso ft has already given us more than a taste of what to expect between June 26 - June 28 in the form of Windows Blue news, but plenty of possible announcements on new devices, services and updates remain distinct possibilities.

We'll be at the conference live starting at 9 a.m. PT/5 p.m. BST starting Wednesday, June 26, so check back here for all the latest coming out of the show.

Until then, we've gathered what we know about Build 2013 into one handy guide for you (right here, of course) plus added some well-informed hypotheses on what you can expect from the conference, taking place in the halls of San Francisco's Moscone Center late next month.

FutTv : Lv3Nz00E27o3K

1. Xbox Music on the web

After all the chatter on Xbox Music's redesign, Microsoft threw a bit of a curve ball June 24 by revealing its plans to launch a web-based version of the streaming service during the week of July 1.

"Yes, a web version for Xbox Music will launch next week," a Microsoft spokesperson told us. "We will have more details to share then."

While details are due after Build, Microsoft may still touch on what it envisions for the service plus offer some clues as to whether we'll see Xbox Music land on iOS and Android.

Stay tuned.

2. Start 'button' functions surface

Microsoft began rolling out a preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 on June 24. While the year may seem 6 months too late, this preview has many features of the same features as the preview of Windows 8.1, due out June 26, giving us a glimpse of what to expect from the Windows 8 update in PC and tablet.

Most exciting of all from the screen grabs floating about are the quasi-Start button functions available in the R2 preview.

Windows 8.1 start button

Credit: CNET

By right clicking the 4-squared icon, users will be able to pull up a list of functions, including the ability to shut down and restart their computer, according to CNET.

Observers will also notice the "Computer" tile has been named "This PC," while an arrow at the bottom of the Start screen brings users directly to their Apps. Different tile sizes - small, medium, wide and large - are offered (though only two for non-Metro apps) and users should be able to run a single command on multiple tiles at the same time.

We'll know much more about the preview of Windows 8.1 in the coming days, so check back for more.

3. A message from Guggenheimer

On June 24, just two days before Day 1 of Build, Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform & Evangelism at Microsoft Steve Guggenheimer took a moment to set the stage for the 3-day dev fest.

To sum it all up, look for "synergy."

"At Build 2013, we will talk about how developers of all types will be able to use Microsoft's broad portfolio of product level capabilities spanning our devices and services, and show how these capabilities can be used together to address the needs of today's developers," he wrote in an Official Microsoft Blog entry.

"As we look even further toward the future, this platform synergy will continue to get better and better to support a thriving ecosystem of developers and even greater opportunity."

What does this mean for in practical, consumer-facing terms? We'll find out soon enough from Microsoft and developers alike, but look for Redmond to push this message in the days that comprise Build.

4. The Oracle of Redmond

Oracle piped up in the week before Build that its president, Mark Hurd, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Azure chief Satya Nadella are hosting a joint press conference June 24.

What did they announce? Well, let's just say the old enemies are turning a page as Microsoft announced it plans to support Oracle software on its cloud-based platforms, as reported by Reuters.

Through the partnership, Microsoft will offer Windows Azure customers Oracle-owned Java, Database and WebLogic Server, oddly enough promoting two software strains (Linux and Java) that compete with Windows.

Now, this is rather enterprise-y, but look for Microsoft to talk about the partnership and possible further collaborations between the two firms. The company is clearly ready to make friends with old enemies in an effort to compete, and it will be interesting to see if it lays out any more strategy during Build.

Steve Ballmer

5. Two roads diverged at a conference...

It helps to have some clear cut routes laid out be fore heading into the bedlam of a developer conference, and it looks as though we have some such paths carved out.

Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet chatted with Microsoft executives in the days before Build, and was told that the conference will focus on two main audiences: the .Net community and the startup community.

"We need a good conversation with that community," Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism Group, told Foley of .Net devs. This group has apparently felt left in the lurch as Microsoft has pushed developers towards HTML/JavaScript.

While he wouldn't divulge on specific products or software, Guggenheimer noted that Microsoft will continue messaging around why shared/common code among its core products is beneficial, showing "how strong the bridges are" between product families like phone, PC and Xb ox.

Don't expect sharp turns, the VP said, but instead look for much talk on cross-platform development.

6. A new tune for Xbox Music and the Windows Store

Build is gearing up to be a time of change for Microsoft, and some screenshots leaked just a week before the conference kicked off detail revamped looks headed to Xbox Music and the Windows Store.

For Music, we're seeing streamline take over, with a two-panel interface and a new "explore" button that allows for search in addition to the navigation bar.

Xbox music app

Microsoft actually pushed out an update to the Xbox Music app for Windows 8/RT the weekend before Build, adding an in-app search button and a free trial for the app's ad-supported, free streaming service. What's more, Smart DJ is now "Radio," though the change seems to be named-based only.

As for the Windows Store, the 2.0 version of the offering incorporates a "shelf" feature to give additional descriptions for apps as users are perusing. Recommendations for similar apps will also be part of the redesigned package.

The whole look, according to Paul Thurrott over at Supersite for Windows, is remarkably more attractive and more usable.

Windows Store

Now whether Build is the time Microsoft is ready to lift the lid off these Windows 8.1 wonders remains to be seen, but try to act surprised if we see a rethought Xbox Music and Windows Store land in late June.

7. Is Windows Phone Blue taking its time?

We also may have gotten our first look at Windows Phone Blue June 9 when shots of a new notifications center surfaced, along with a modified calendar app. However, Build may not be the time when WPB rears its head.

According to Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNet, an update to the mobile OS isn't expected until about six months after Windows 8.1 is released to manufacturing. While the team is working to come up with smaller and incremental Windows Phone 8 updates, the likelihood that we'll hear public pronouncements on Windows Phone Blue during Build is slim, Foley reports.

Of course, there may be plenty of dev session discussions on what updates we can expect, so we'll keep our ear to the ground during the conference.

What we expected, 8-16

8. Windows RT 8.1 revelations

It was actually a Microsoft partner - Qualcomm - that spouted word of Windows RT 8.1 in early June. The chip maker was talking up its support of the future RT update with its Snapdragon 800 processors, no less.

While we won't see the fruits of this partnership blossom until later this year, we're pretty positive Build 2013 holds plenty of promise for both talk on what we can expect from the RT update, how it will help resurrect the operating system and perhaps a glimpse at the devices destined for v. 8.1 and Qualcomm's snappy chips.

9. Go, team RT, go!

Now the timing may not be right, but according to recent reports Microsoft is lowering its Windows RT licensing fees in the hopes of winning new OEMs - and appeasing current ones - to build Windows RT devices.

It may be too seen to see partnerships borne of the supposed price drop, but the possibility for Microsoft and a new Windows RT buddy to talk about, well, a partnership is certainly something to keep an eye out for at Build 2013.

10. Shift from software to hardware?

Wor d on the street is CEO Steve Ballmer has undertaken a major restructuring at Redmond, aiming to move Microsoft away from its bread-and-butter niche of software and place a stronger lean on devices and services.

AllThingsD reported June 23, just days before Build, that Ballmer will likely reveal restructuring plans to a broad group of senior company executives by July 1. The report indicated the planning stages have been very hush-hush, with a limited number at the company in on Ballmers intentions. It does appear related to "solidifying Microsoft into the 'devices and services company'" previously reported on.

Microsoft Build

Might we hear more about a consolidated Microsoft at Build? The chances seem high, if only we receive hints as to what's down the road.

Microsoft will still develop software, we're sure, but we anticipate Ballmer speaking to some shifts at this year's developers conference as it basically directly impacts the gathered crowd. The executive everyone loves to hate addressed changes to the company's direction last year, and we could see the message carrying over into Build 2013.

11. Cheap device time

As with all good developer conferences, Microsoft will place the brunt of attention on the software side, but we wouldn't be surprised if there's some talk - either out in the open or behind closed do ors - about how Windows Phone can win the cheaper phone wars.

When we sat down with Microsoft's Greg Sullivan at CTIA in mid-May, he immediately swung into talk of how a $ 129 Windows Phone 8 device - the Lumia 521 on T-Mobile, specifically - could kick the butts of similarly priced Android handsets.

Line of Lumias

The hardware is there, but if Microsoft truly wants to build out a wide product range, it's going to need to sell why lower and mid-tier handsets are just as important as high-end phones. If it can get devs and the watching public and press on board with that message, feature phones may have a new king.

12. Welcome, Windows 8.1

This is the big, no brainer announcement as Microsoft has already confirmed Windows 8.1 will be released via public preview during Build 2013.

We've heard plenty about this Windows 8 update, known until recently as Windows Blue, and Microsoft even spilled the beans on the update in a late May blog post by Head of Windows Program Management Antoine Leblond.

Antoine Leblond

W8.1 will "add new features and functionality that advance the touch experience and mobile computing's potential," all the while tipping its hat to customer feedback. Look for more backgrounds, a lock screen slideshow, aggregated search and a new Internet Explorer.

Microsoft will officially release the update "later this year," providing "more options to businesses, and give consumers more options to work and play," and Build will be our first chance to see first hand what the Softies have done with the Windows 8 refresh. In fact, regular Joes will be able to play around with it themselves starting June 26, the first day of Build.

This isn't simply an operating system update: We'll see more for apps (more on that below), a likely Windows Phone 8 update, and some new stuff for Windows server.

Blue a.k.a Windows 8.1 a.k.a the free Windows 8 update could spell feast or famine for Microsoft's new take on the OS, so we'll keep a close eye on how well it functions and how well it's received, which may be a given if Microsoft's Start tip brings back a little of the old Start button's magic.

Expect more spills from Microsoft in the weeks leading up to Build 2013 - the folks at Redmond seem rather inclined to chat about Windows 8.1 th ese days. Not that we're complaining.


13. Splitting up and coming together - apps, that is

Microsoft has promised to bring an app overhaul to some of its Windows 8 apps as part of this whole Blue revamp, including ways to run apps side-by-side on devices home to smaller-sized screens. The hope is to do so without a massive internal work over, which if Microsoft can achieve would make for more expedient delivery to awaiting Windows 8 customers.

Microsoft revealed in its late May blog post that its Music app has undergone a complete redesign, while new editing features are heading to the Photo app. The Redmond squad said to expect more on built-in app updates, plus the introduction of all new apps, as time goes on.

A revamp of first-party apps is certainly something Microsoft fans want to s ee, and we imagine Build 2013 is the next mark on the horizon for Microsoft to make some major app announcements. Plus, we'd really like to know what these redesigns actually look like!

Perhaps most exciting of all, from a functional level, are more Snap Views, or the ability to split your screen among different applications.

Users will not only be able to resize their apps to any dimensions they want, they can share the screen between two apps, and have up to three apps on each screen in use (if using multiple, connected displays). Finally, Microsoft has promised to let users have multiple windows of the same application "snapped together - such as two Internet Explorer windows." Now this we gotta see.

Acer Iconia W3

14. Smaller Windows 8 devices

There's a space up until recently Microsoft hadn't extended its Windows 8 reach, but that all changed in early June.

That area is of course smaller devices, namely ones developed by the company's OEM partners and sized in the 7- to 8-inch range.

Acer was the first out of the gate with the Iconia W3, the first official 8-inch Windows 8 tablet announced during Computex. It's arriving starting in June, and we expect a handful more to break cover by the time summer's over.

Microsoft itself has spelled out that larger devices aren't the only size range it's interested in.

"As part of [new device offerings], we are also working closely with OEMs on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows," former Microsoft CFO Peter Klein said during the company's April earnings call.


Asus also seems to be on board with whittled-down Windows 8 products, and that's nothing to say about Microsoft's potential Surface Mini musings.

A May 15 DigiTimes report indicated Microsoft plans to launch an 8-inch Surface in June, followed by a 10.x-inch version as early as the third quarter of the year. Citing "supply chain makers," the sometimes spurious site noted the 8-inch Surface will feature Samsung-built touch panels and Nvidia processors.

At a larger glance, with the advent of Intel's power-saving Haswell chips, the stage is set for a number of new devices - laptops, tablets, desktop - to make a grand debut. Why leave Windows 8/Windows RT out of the mix?

Will we see more OEM-made 7- to 8-inch device burrow out of Build? We certainly think those, along with a smaller Surface, are certainly possible.

Windows Phone Store

15. Windows Phone Store strategy 101

Let's be frank: Windows Phone lacks hard in the app department. At last count, the Windows Phone Store counted 145,000 apps - compare that to the bajillion-plus in the iOS and Android app stores, and Windows Phone is doing a fine job of holding up the rear.

Granted, the Store's app count is growing, and the Microsoft team is "talking to a lot of folks" about various apps, something the company told us in a March interview, all the while staying focused on developing a "vibrant, differentiated third ecosystem."

The big question for Microsoft is how to get that message to developers while simultaneously courting the big name apps that are embarrassingly hard to come by on the platform.

We were told during CTIA 2013 that there will be app platform discussion for Windows Phone 8 during Build by Senior Marketing Manager Greg Sullivan, with a focus on the "here and now" of the platform and not what's down the road.

Leblond also said we'll see an "improved Windows Store" better designed to push up top free apps, new releases and personalized picks with Windows 8.1. The re-grand opening on the Windows Store looks like it could fall between June 26 - June 28.

Yes, Windows Phone 8 is a new platform, and every week the company seems to add at least one high-profile app (recently it was a full-fledged YouTube app) but if Microsoft wants its mobile OS to be around for the long term, it's got to figure out its app situation quick. News that Windows Phone is growing faster than Android (albeit by a veerrryyy miniscule amount), is a nice feather to stick in its cap in front of devs.

Build 2013 seems like the place for Microsoft to lay all its apps on the line.

Xbox One with controller

16. Xbox One ties us all together

On May 21, Microsoft introduced the world to a new generation of games, TV and entertainment through the Xbox One, the long-awaited follow-up to the Xbox 360.

Microsoft has promised a multi-part introduction to the new Xbox, including some going-ons at E3 2013 and yet more at Gamescom 2013. Even though the Xbox One is out of the bag, there's still plenty of mystery shrouding it, including if/how it will work with systems like Windows Phone.

Now, we were informed by Microsoft on June 24 that the reveal event and E3 were the big coming out parties for the Xbox One, with more information due later on. Build won't be the new console's stomping grounds like it has been in recent weeks, but that's not to say it won't be completely absent from this year's conference.

Developers are no doubt clamoring to learn more about the console and how it fits into the larger Microsoft ecosystem.

Word in mid-May surfaced that Microsoft's updated Xbox 360 dashboard ties into the Xbox One, and could help gamers transition to the new console. The new UI is sa id to have markings of Windows 8.1, as well. The public beta of the new dashboard may come in late June or early July - right around the time of Build.

There's an amazing amount of potential in this device that's not just a gaming console, but a completely different way to be entertained and connected. Build should build on the announcements of May 21 and E3, however slightly, no pun intended.


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