Today Microsoft kicked off it’s annual developer conference BUILD with a keynote from CEO Steve Ballmer. Together with other Microsofties like Julie Larsen-Green (head of Windows), they covered much of what you’d expect, much of what we already knew about Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 and all things blue.
One thing that was interesting was to hear the developer reactions as some of the items were discussed. There was loud applause when the return of the start button was mentioned, along with the ability for users to configure machines to boot directly to the desktop. personally I think these are not big issues and are certainly not news here at build, but clearly were big ticket items for developers in the room.
On the list of new things we got this morning, it seems the Bing team are expanding much further than just search. Bing as a platform is now part of almost every one of Microsoft’s businesses. PC/Tablet, Phone, TV (via Xbox), Office, Cloud and some new ones.. Web Index & Relevance, Entities & Knowledge, Natural User Interface and ‘Real World’. Microsoft also took the opportunity to announce that they now account for more than 17% of search traffic in the United States.
Ballmer repeatedly enforced a new policy across the company and that is the increased cadence on releases. Only 8 months since the original release of Windows 8, here they are discussing an update. To be fair some areas of the business are better at this than others. The Visual Studio team for example released in 2008, 2010, 2012 and now 2013.
Overall the biggest disappointment for me as a developer is that we aren’t getting a new destination to publish to.. the Xbox One. We waited but no announcement came. This was Microsoft’s trump card, the point of difference that could squash the competition, if they could unleash the app developers on the TV (via the Xbox One) it had the potential to spawn a whole new industry, but nothing.
Now they risk competitors like Apple getting iOS apps from the phone and tablet to the TV (via AppleTV) before they do. Xbox One was actually on stage near the end of the keynote, but just for a demo and certainly not playable here.
Ballmer believes touch will now be everywhere and actually admitted the hardware that was available at the launch of Windows 8 wasn’t really there. Almost none of it was touch-enabled, but fast forward the best part of a year and he now believes they’re in a different position. I tend to agree, the addition of touch hasn’t added dramatically to the cost and is something you miss when your on a machine that doesn’t have it.
Oh yeah one more thing.. Windows 8.1 will be the first Operating System to natively support 3D printing. While it’s hard to argue 3D printing isn’t growing, it’s hardly like there was a massive demand for this. Expecting someone to install software with 3D printer isn’t excessive, still good for headlines.
Probably one of the most intriguing parts of the keynote was when Larsen-Green showed off a new radial menu in the photos app. This style of control was first introduced in OneNote MX, but hadn’t seen any further usage. It seems this will be a new control style available for developers in 8.1.
Those of us who use multiple monitors will be excited about much better support for additional displays. Something no other OS is doing right now is dynamic DPI scaling. The demo of this involved an app running on a Surface Pro being dragged to a larger less dense external monitor. The app auto resized appropriately to maximize readability and provide optimal space on the 2nd display. This is just smart and works to solve the issue of the new retina displays.
Speaking of displays, it was confirmed that users with multi-monitors will be able to run up to 8, yep, 8 metro apps at a time. This will have minimum resolution requirements and in post-keynote testing I can confirm that developers have work to do to support this.
Overall the keynote felt like it went fast, despite filling 2 hours. You can find plenty of my photos from the 4th row, over BUILD 2013 set on Flickr.