The Pre Show: Build 2013

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In 24 hours Microsoft will hold its annual Build conference. This year it will be held in San Francisco (aka Enemy territory) at the Moscone Center. On the agenda are Windows 8.1, Microsoft’s first update to its new OS, along with updates to Windows Server, Visual Studio, and Azure.

There are many known facts about Build, but also some things we don’t know. Unlike last year, I will break my Build overview down into what I think will happen and what I’d wish would happen.

This year’s Build will mark the first test in Microsoft’s shift into a services and devices company. It will also be the first public run of it’s change to a faster software cadence or roll out with Windows 8.1. Speaking of 8.1, the first update to Windows 8 will have its work cut out for it. Windows 8’s launch was both controversial and depending where you sat, a failure. 8.1 is being seen as a mea culpa to desktop computer users because of features like boot to desktop and new granular controls to hide the new Start screen. At the same time Windows 8.1 must still compete in the tablet space and in that 8.1 brings new features and refinements to the Modern parts of Windows 8.

What Will Happen

So I talked a bit about 8.1, but also expect to see a lot of talk around Windows Server R2 and Azure. Also expect an update to Visual Studio which has already adopted the faster roll out model. Microsoft will highlight how well both integrate with Windows 8, especially Azure.

One thing to look for at least from the Day One keynote will be the focus on the traditional Microsoft developer base, .NET, C++, and XAML. In the first two Builds, Microsoft confused and alienated some of its core developers by focusing on web technologies like HTML and JAVA. It seems that with 8.1, Microsoft will try to shore up its devs in much as 8.1 does traditional PC users.

We know the Windows 8.1 run through Wednesday will focus on the desktop, but expect the Windows team to also spend time focusing on mobile. At Computex a few weeks ago, Microsoft highlighted Windows 8 on small screen tablets, expect a full run through with emphasis on portrait support. Also expect them to focus on using Windows devices as pure tablets. And while I’ve haven’t singled out Windows RT, do not tune in expecting them to scrap it. And of course we will see new features added to the Windows Run Time.

What I Wish

If there are two X factors for Build it is the Xbox and the Surface. The Xbox One was recently announced and while we know it runs Windows 8, we don’t know what its connection to the rest of Microsoft’s stack will be. I am hoping that the Xbox team will open up the Xbox to Windows developers and more importantly game developers. With the move to centralize game development around DirectX (Microsoft’s game engine) and C++ the next move is to create something that lets developers create and publish games directly to Microsoft’s stores.

And as for the Surface, I do not expect to see any talk of a refresh or new devices. I think at Build they will mention it but focus on partner devices. Now given that next month is WPC, Microsoft’s partner conference, I would love it if Microsoft took Wednesday to premier not just a refresh for the Surface RT and Pro but also expand the brand. Given it’s PC partners increasingly aggressive push with Android and Chrome devices, Microsoft could really push the idea of it as a Devices company.

Now I haven’t mention Windows Phone and that’s because from reports its update will not come out until next year. It would be cool to see the Windows Phone team at least show off Windows Phone Blue and maybe release a Beta. But I doubt the team is ready to announce anything.

And that is my preshow predictions and wishes for Build. I think it is significant that Microsoft has chosen San Francisco for Build 2013; the city is at the heart of Silicon Valley and more importantly the place where most of the key app makers reside. Making an impression and a dent is important if the Software giant wants to get competitive in mobile.

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