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Build 2013 keynote: Microsoft unveils Windows 8.1, pledges 'rapid release' schedule

Mark Hachman | June 27, 2013
Microsoft executives formally unveiled Windows 8.1 at its Build 2013 conference, pledging rapid, responsive updates will empower its developer base.

Visual Studio 2013 is also operating at a faster release cadence, Leblond explained. Devs can download the preview version of Visual Studio 2013 today, he said, including new features that measure power, assist in asynchronous debugging of code, and send notifications via Windows Azure.

Ballmer also emphasized that new apps for Windows 8 were on the way. "It's gratifying to me that developers are doing really great work for Windows 8," he said, including Flipboard for Windows 8, NFL Fantasy Football. Most importantly, Facebook will bring an app to the Windows 8 platform, he said, eliminating the need to pin a shortcut to the Start menu.

Leblond also unveiled tiled resources, using a model of Mars made up of actual data from NASA. Normally, the graphics card would load all of the data, and downsample the data, he said. As the user would zoom in, the detail would become fuzzy. If put inside a game context, the result is an incredibly detailed game experience, Leblond said.

Leblond also showed off a Windows tablet working with a unreleased version of LEGO MindStorms, and showed off the capability of Windows 8.1 to manage 3D printing.

Leblond also highlighted a new Samsung ATIV with the highest-resolution 13-inch display on the market, with an 8-hour battery life, and the Acer Aspire P3, about 0.25 inches thick, with a wireless keyboard that doubles as a touch cover. The Acer Aspire v5 offers high-quality touch for under $400, he said. Leblond also highlighted a Dell Windows RT tablet with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip inside, and a whopping 18 hours of battery life, with the keyboard. Finally, there's the Dell XPS ET, an all-in-one that weighs less than five pounds and promises seven hours of battery life.

Bing bringing knowledge of the Web to apps
Ballmer said that the company continually wins blind "taste tests" between its Bing search engine and Google's search engine, with the "shell experience" of search within Windows 8.1 powered by Bing. But search has increasingly become an enabling technology, rather than just a destination.

"Search is not just a list of links, it's things you can do," Larson-Green said.

Gurdeep Singh Pall, a corporate vice president for Bing, said that the search engine's share continues to climb, currently up to 17.4-percent market share. Developers know that Bing is an incredible product, but they want more, Pall said.

"For a long time we've had this vision that we can enable all these new experiences," Pall said.

For developers, the "unbounded knowledge of the Web" is now available, Pall said, connecting the real world and the Web via Bing APIs and controls. Pall showed off technology that allowed users to take a virtual tour of Valencia, Spain, using Bing and the power of Bing Maps. Windows 8.1 Maps will come with 3D capability, Pall said, via a 3D control that can be added inside applications.


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