Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer began the Build 2013 conference earlier this morning in San Francisco. Right away Microsoft announced that the Windows 8.1 Preview is available to everyone online then followed up with what Microsoft has planned for the future of the OS.
Ballmer called 8.1 a “refined blend” of the standard desktop experience and Microsoft’s now instantly recognizable Start Screen. Microsoft has been getting some pushback from the community ever since it released Windows 8, eight-months ago. Julie Larson-Green was also onhand for the event, Julie talked about Microsoft’s bold new designs and reassured developers that Microsoft is listening to its customers and supporters, something that is evident in the new 8.1 build.
A new new Mail app was shown for Windows 8.1, which will debut later this year, and there was a strong focus on Bing and bringing the search engine to more users by allowing developers to make more apps with Bing in the future. As expected the redesigned Xbox Music app made an appearance, and there was talk of how consumers will soon easily stream their videos from a PC with Windows 8.1 to the Xbox One.
It was announced that Facebook and Flipboard are coming to Windows, “Facebook has always believed in connecting everyone, everywhere, on every device. Given our strong and longstanding partnership with Microsoft, this is an exciting way to advance that vision.” said Mike Shaver, Director of Engineering at Facebook. Mike McCue, Flipboard CEO said, “Flipboard fits naturally into Window 8. Working together we aspire to craft the world’s most beautiful Windows app.”
The Windows Store has been also been redesigned in Windows 8.1. There will be a new layout with “improved navigation, more related content with better discoverability based on an individual’s preferences” according to Microsoft. There will also be a new search control from Bing in the UI. The Windows Store will also feature gift cards just like iTunes and Google Play offer now.
A preview of Windows 8.1 Changes and Updates:
- Redesigned Windows Store. The Windows Store has been completely redesigned in Windows 8.1 to reach engaged customers and connect them more effectively and quickly to the apps they want. This includes increased merchandising opportunities for apps and better discoverability based on an individual’s preferences, as well as new search controls from Bing in the user interface. App listings have a new layout with refined navigation and more related content.
- More monetization opportunities. Windows 8.1 delivers new opportunities for developers to build and monetize apps and engage users. Leblond introduced Windows Store gift cards, an easy way for consumers to purchase apps, books, games and content. Customers will be able to load their Microsoft Account with stored value in their local currency and make purchases online from the Windows Store. For developers in China, the Windows Store will support Alipay, meaning local developers will have new options to generate additional revenue.
- Leading experiences. Windows 8.1 offers developers a canvas to present and develop compelling app designs. Windows 8.1 apps can work together to share data, share the screen and deliver richer customer experiences across a range of devices, including new 8-inch-and-below form factors.
- Bing as a platform. The new Bing platform builds upon the large investments Microsoft has made in the core technologies behind Bing.com to be embedded as intelligent services into Microsoft devices, Microsoft services and third-party apps that people use every day. In addition to providing the Search experience in Windows 8.1, Windows Phone, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Office, Bing Developer Services are now available that enable third-party developers to leverage Bing technology to create amazing experiences in their own services and Windows and Windows Phone applications. More information is available here.
- Releases of Visual Studio 2013 Preview and .NET 4.5.1 Preview. Timed to the next wave of Windows, Visual Studio 2013 offers the ideal toolset for building rich modern applications that run on Windows 8.1. With a range of new features, Visual Studio 2013 makes it easier and faster for developers to create applications and services using modern lifecycle practices that span mobile devices and the cloud. Microsoft also announced a preview of .NET 4.5.1, enabling developers to build next-generation applications for devices and services while innovating their existing core business applications. Visual Studio 2013 and .NET 4.5.1 previews are now available for download here. More on Visual Studio can be foundhere.
- Windows Phone developer opportunity. Microsoft today announced that shipments of Windows Phone grew six times faster than the rest of the smartphone market over the past year. Sprint also announced plans to add Windows Phone 8 to its 4G LTE network this summer with the HTC® 8XT and the Samsung ATIV S Neo™. With the release of Windows Phone 8, customers are now downloading more than 200 million apps per month and generating more than twice the daily app revenue. To help give developers the best return on their investments, the next release of Windows Phone will be designed to run the same apps that developers are building today and support the same familiar tools and skills. For a limited time, developers can register with Windows Phone Dev Center for only $19.
Windows 8.1 will also natively supports 3D printing. Shanen Boettcher, General Manager of the Startup Business Group at Microsoft, stated that “Making a 3D object on your PC will be as easy as writing a document in Word and sending it to print. Just as desktop publishing transformed how we write, we think desktop manufacturing will transform how we create”.
Developers will get 80% of the revenue “for the lifetime of their app once it crosses the $25,000 USD revenue threshold” which is 10% higher than the standard price at the moment.