//build/ 2013

Microsoft's //build/ 2013 and what we expect to find this week in San Francisco

It’s almost that time of the year again for Microsoft to host their annual developer conference, aptly called //build/ (www.buildwindows.com). Windows Phone Central will of course be on location this week, with the show starting on Wednesday and running through Friday.

The event is being held at the Moscone Center in sunny San Francisco versus last year’s well-attended but rainy version on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. It will feature developers from Windows, .NET, Windows Phone, Azure and related “back end” technologies, all learning what's new with Microsoft.

What makes //build/ fun is it’s a chance for Microsoft to tell developers what to expect in the next year, including new tools, new technologies and a few big announcements as well. So what are we expecting?

Windows Phone - No Blue in sight

Windows Phone 8.1 Blue

Unfortunately, we are not expecting any significant Windows Phone news. We know some of you have been anticipating some ‘Blue’ info aka Windows Phone 8.1, but that is still in development phase and not due to the end of the year. Microsoft has reversed itself on “announce now, ship later” and instead has gone the same route as Apple and Google: "announce now, ship now (or soon thereafter)".

That’s not to say we don’t expect any news. As you may remember during our previous //build/ or MIX coverage, more often than not little nuggets of information do slip into the many tech sessions that are hosted over the three-day event. Sometimes a slide slides in that should not be in the presentation, sometimes you just ask the right people the right question and get a surprising response.

But with Windows Phone head Joe Belfiore not being there and the schedule not fully announced yet, any big news will be held later for a future Windows Phone Summit, much like last year when Microsoft had us all fly to San Francisco for a two-hour tour of the then imminent Windows Phone 8 OS. Such an event will probably happen again, but we’re not expecting anything before October.

One thing we will try to do is eke out some information regarding GDR2 and GDR3. Those are both forthcoming “minor” OS updates to Windows Phone, with the former expected in the coming weeks and the latter later this fall. In fact, the Nokia Lumia 925 already ships with GDR2 and we’re hearing a mid-July release for that update to carriers for the rest of us.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 Blue

Let’s be clear: If //build/ this year has one big focus, it will be Windows 8 and the upcoming Windows 8.1 Blue update. It’s a well-known secret that many sessions will focus on this big desktop OS update, including new options for developers and the opening up of the ecosystem for more creativity by devs.

Indeed, we expect that during the big keynote speech, where CEO Steve Ballmer often hosts, Microsoft will announce a public “preview build” of Windows 8.1 and we bet it will even go live at that time. That’s because 8.1 is expected by the end of summer for general release, leaving only 6-8 weeks for finalization.

Windows 8.1 is expected to bring a lot of refinements to the OS, including some new features for users, small Tile sizes, better resolution support (for higher resolution devices and small-screened ones).

You can read more about the 8.1 update and new features here.

Xbox One

Xbox One

In case you just came out from a cave, Microsoft has not once but twice now revealed their next generation gaming (and home entertainment) console called Xbox One. The first was the true reveal at a special Microsoft event, the second was more about the games at the recent E3.

So what will happen at //build/? That’s a great question because one area there is still some mystery about is independent developers and publishing. Currently, the system as understood won’t allow indie developers to self-publish (unlike the Sony PlayStation 4) but Microsoft did say they will have “an independent creator program”. That’s one area we expect some clarification on as many consider that yet another mistake by Microsoft in regards to policy.

Another area for the conference is the continuing development of the Kinect sensor (One and Two), including adapting it for various other technologies (Windows 8, Windows 8.1) and what developers can look forward to in the coming months as that SDK gets updated for the new hardware and software.

That 3 screens, cloud thing

Three Screens and the Cloud

Last we checked, Microsoft still has a vision for computing which falls under their “Three screens and the cloud” concept. That idea has your computer, Xbox and Windows Phone (plus we can tablets too) all running similar services, allowing a seamless experience.

While we’re not quite there yet in mid-2013, you do have to admit we are better off than a few years ago. But how will Microsoft continue to merge these somewhat disparate ecosystems together? What does that actually even mean in terms of actual development? And where will SkyDrive/Azure services go next?

We expect to have some answers to some of those questions by the end of //build/

So make sure you tune in to Windows Phone Central this week as myself (Daniel Rubino) and Sam Sabri tackle the juggernaut that is Microsoft and its massive developer community.

Follow us on Twitter: @wpcentral, @daniel_rubino and @samsabri; or Instagram: @wpcentral, @Daniel_rubino, @Samsabri

For all of our Microsoft //build/ 2013 coverage, book mark this page: www.wpcentral.com/build-2013


Reader comments

Microsoft's //build/ 2013 and what we expect to find this week in San Francisco


Yeah seriously! Build itself is expensive yes but the transatlantic flights plus hotel make it substantially more expensive for us in the UK :)

Yeah. Really excited.  Windows 8 was in so many ways a step backwards -- but I think 8.1 will really be the beginning of W8 as it should have been.  Kind of like how Windows Phone was basically unusable until Mango brought multitasking, and then all of a sudden it just "worked."
I'm hoping for that kind of bump.  Nothing major, but a whole bunch of minor things that just bring it all together.

It was a step forwards, just a bit faltering. But I agree, quite excited about 8.1, it should make it live up to it's potential. MS are moving faster than ever, but at the same time it isn't happening fast enough.

I would say, one step forward, two steps back.  Overall, Windows 7 is the superior product, alhough there are things about Windows 8 that are better than its predecessor.  W8 is good enough that I am running it on all my machines and only encouter Windows 7 on office computers.  However, I am always amazed at how much better the start menu is than the start screen, and how much better Aero looked than whatever W8's desktop is called.
Search (seach-ms:)is completely borked on W8, which is a major bummer.  But I love the new task manager, I like having the start screen (just not instead of the start menu), I love booting up like twice as fast, and bitlocker works really, really well now.  So certainly, it is not all downside.
All 8.1 has to do is actually make the metro environment useful (right now there is literally no reason I can think of to ever use a metro app) and it'll be a really nice product.

I'm on a W7 machine now. Click Start, move mouse to All Programs. Wait for that to load (can take a second if not populated recently). Move mouse to scrollbar on the grid view. Find the folder with the app I want in it. Click to launch app.
I don't really see how that is more efficent than the Start Screen. They are both much the same if searching for an app. Click WinKey+start typing name of program.
I like the simplicity of Metro, but then I was fine with Aero as well. It's just nice to have a change. No doubt in 2 years I'll want Aero again. Design goes in cycles.
Search, sure it isn't perfect but it looks like they've done a good job with it in 8.1. It brings up everything and includes web (well Bing) search; that will make it really useful and what I've wanted since Win XP days.
But it's just the launching mechanism and tbh how much time do you spend there? It is all much faster (boot times, etc as you say) so on the whole using a W8 machine is faster.
As for going into Metro, Live Tiles can be handy, more so with the new sizes in 8.1. Quick glance at new Weather app for example looks good. Once there's more tiles like that it'll be great.

You and I have two very different definitions of unusable. Hint: mine is more in line with the dictionary.

The dictionary defines usable as "available or convenient for use" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unusable). Unusable would be not available or convenient for use. Certainly, it was available, but I would argue that it was in no way convenient. Indeed, it remains quite a burden in many, many ways.

So, I think I mean the dictionary definition.

What you're looking at there is the definition of usable. Here are a few definitions of the word unusable and they seem to agree more with my point of view. Even the word itself leads one to believe that unusable would mean not able to be used, while I loved and used my pre-mango HD7 from the start. I'm not saying that mango wasn't a much needed and major update by any means, but to call it unusable is, IMO, an exaggeration.
"That cannot be used"
"Not capable of being used"
"not capable of being put to use or account"
"That cannot be used"
"Not usable"
"describes something that cannot be used, especially because it is broken or not safe"

From your very links:
Free dictionary: "not fit for use"
Websters: "Being unemployable, unworkable, impracticable, impractical or unfeasible"
Yahoo: "Not fit for use"
This is the definition of unusable I mean.  And it is no exaggeration.  Without multitasking and fast app resume, in the same way that hammer without a handle could theoretically still drive in a nail but would be considered unusable, WP prior to mango was unusable.  No exaggeration.
Indeed, I find WP8 unusable for quite many things I think it should be usable for even today.  I love the interface -- the aesthetic, the fluidity, the simplicity, and the elegance -- but WP is so horribly crippled by bad design decisions and omitions that its usability relative to alternatives on the market (principally Android) makes it quite frustrating much of the time.  Prior to mango, I simply couldn't imagine myself sticking with the platform -- that is, using it.  After mango, I thought I could "see the light."  If 8.1 comes soon, and is a major improvement, then I will gladly stick with the platform.
Windows 8 is the same way.  At the moment, there is simply no significant reason to prefer it to Windows 7.  But I hope with 8.1 I will be able to see the light.

I would say a hammer without a handle is not unusable because, as you said, it still drives the nail in. Like I said before, we have our opinions, but calling something unusable without at least saying IMO is definitely an exaggeration. Thousands of people (not many in the mobile world, I know) used premango WP7 devices when they came out and loved them. Again, I admit it was definitely missing features, but they were quickly introduced. Multitasking was introduced less than a year into existance (IOS had gotten it a bit before WP7 came out). If it was not fit for use, no one would use it. And obviously people wouldn't stick to any OS if it wasn't constantly improved and updated, did you really expect nothing to change? I've heard people say android is unusable due to the lack of fluidity in the most basic OS functions in an overwhelming majority of phones. I'm not a fan of android, but I would never call it unusable. To call WP8 unusable is absolutely rediculous without at least an IMO qualifier, millions of people use it daily; again it may not have all the features you want, but thats why we have a choice in our mobile OS. I agree that WP8 is also missing features, but unusable is indeed an exaggeration. And if you weren't part of the development, you can't call a missing feature an ommision. That implies that plans to do something were scrapped, unless you can prove that. Many features are still yet to come.
And lets not start the windows 8 conversation please, 100s of millions of people are using it daily, it is keeping pace with sales compared to 7 when it released. There are always improvements to come and I think 8.1 is doing a lot right, along with a little wrong IMO, but the OS is FAR from unusable. While you may see no benefits in upgrading to 8, many many people do.

It will be such a shame if they don't say anything about the upcoming windows phone, it featured quite prominently ont he BUILD page so I don't expect them to reharsh the same old windows phone line. I'm expecting a new Surface.. probably a tablet from Nokia?

Whether or not MS publically discusses anything, will they at least run WP8 sessions to give devs lead time to react to new features or policies?

Can you fix your effing comment system!!! So many times when I go to post more than one thing on an article it says "comment not available" or something like that and looses my post...
To repeat, but shorter. WP is featured on the Build announcement, so i hope they do have some surprises for us. After all Windows 8.1 has leaked all over the place, it's not like that will be a surprise. So they need something at Build to excite people. Surprise us all with "there will be no GDR3, Windows Phone 8.1 is coming this Fall instead" (I can dream).
(copying my post into the clipboard in case the comment system f's up again)

Trust me, I wish I were wrong, but think of it like this...MS now likes to have big, separate "launch" events for their products e.g. the Xbox One.

If they did 8.1 at //build/, it'd get lost in the shuffle plus they couldn't devote 2 hours to it.

Would love that.. And finnish subtitles to all XBOX Video movies please? Netflix has it.. I'd love to switch from NF to XVideo, but I wan't to have subtitles..

Yeah, I chuckled when I read "sunny San Francisco." Maybe he's right and will get one of the 10 annual sunny San Francisco days...

Daniel, will you be hosting another outrageous after-hours party in your hotel room this year?

What if Joe makes a surprise showing at the event? Without a schedule we can't say for sure what's going to be shown or not.

Daniel any info on data sense availability would be appreciated especially the carrier only restricted problem i cant understand why such basic function wasn't with wp from beginning -_-

Seriously I can't wait for BUILD this go-round. Lots of goodies on W8 and Azure, my two primary interests, followed by XBox One development info. There is an "apps" side of the equation for the XBox One, which I hope I'll get a chance to target apps to.

They will hopefully update the xbox video side so we can sync our purchased videos with our WP8 devices, kind of defeats the whole "3 screens" thing when your 3rd screen doesnt really work.

Very much agreed. This would actually be a decent announcement and it wouldn't require the ceremony of Joe Belfiore announcing it since it's just fixing a bone headed mistake left over from launch instead of moving the platform forward.

Getting really fed up with no updates with W8 phones which still miss so many basic/standard features of iOS (esp 7), and Android phones: Notification, Mute media option, Movie/Magazne hub, Folders to place lots of apps in one place, Voice Assistance rather then remembering phases from apps, Proper voice to maps navigation as Nokia wrongly advertises, More reviews and places on Bing maps - which are virtually empty and reviewless comapred to Googles, Touch slide bar to control volume/video - MS take a look at iOS7 and Jellybean to see how W8 phone is so far behind in features and functionality.

How frequently do you expect MSFT to release major OS updates? Every six months, or six weeks, or six days?

It's not about banging out rapid updates.  It's about the number of things addressed in the updates.  GDR1 didn't really do a lot in terms of catching up with regard to its competition in terms of features.
They're fixing under the hood things, which are great, but overall most of the complaints on windowsphone.uservoice.com are related to missing user interface pieces.

  1. Notification hub / center
  2. Seperate per application or application type volume contexts (media, ring, notification, system, etc.)
  3. Custom sounds for notification / ring tone per contact (ringer, sms and email) Currently need a 3rd party app to even create a custom ring tone.  From there you can assign a custom ring tone per contact, but that's it.  It should be easier and allow custom sounds for each potential sound for virtually any sound throughout the system.
  4. More ringer options from quick tap option in top right (Ring + Vibrate, Vibrate (FIRST) + Ring, Vibrate and SILENT)
  5. Allow the ringer vibration intensity to be adjusted.
  6. Operating hours for ring / notification tones. Auto set it to vibrate or silent outside of operating hours.
  7. Flashing notification light.  On automatically when silent.  Flashing the Windows logo only would look awesome, although this might be a hardware limitation to flash a single LED.
  8. Provide a way to manage files.
  9. Global orientation lock.
  10. Allow apps and attachments to be installed / stored to external memory.
  11. Better manage memory utilization issues - orphaned temp files etc.
  12. Provide a way to force close an app.  Currently apps stay suspected unless you back out of of them, but what do you do when an app doesn't respond to "backing out"?  Reboot your phone?
  13. Tons of Browser features.  Text reflow, Auto-hide address bar, better password management, show control buttons on a separte row, and allow for additional - more than one control button (i.e. Back and Forward buttons + other options).
  14. Show battery level percentage on status bar.
  15. Option to always show status bar on top and not auto-hide.
  16. VPN support.
  17. Contact or phone number blacklist.
  18. Support for more Bluetooth profiles - keyboards, accessories and low energy to name a few.
  19. Allow hepatic feedback virbration intensity on soft buttons to be adjusted.
  20. Allow static IPs to be assigned to wifi / network connections.
  21. Find as you type in the dialer - list perspective contact matches based on partial number match.
  22. the list goes on...

Unfortunately no.
Doing the things I've listed would go a long way to bringing WP to parity with Android/IOS.  Although, it will still lack apps.  At least though, MS would have done it's part in filling out features in the OS.

Totaly agree with you. To continue your list:

  • Better encyription for proper VPN support
  • Posibility to save video from attachment
  • Font smoothing across whole UI
  • Wi-Fi sync
  • Windows Media Player Library stream (like iOS devices have an integration with iTunes)
  • IE bookmark sync
  • Skype video messages
  • PowerPoint document creation

List goes on, I can't remember all the things.

What's really funny is that about a third of those features are considered standard on *dumbphones*, particularly the volume control options, custom tones and phone number blocking.
During Hurricane Sandy last year in NY, I purchased a $50 pre paid flip phone from Best Buy, to have as a second back up phone.  That little flip has custom alarms with manageable tones, independent volumes for ringer, alarms and even mp3 files.   Microsoft should hang its head in shame.

You mean you need WindowsRT with WP UI and with Notification Center? I would love to see that thing happening.

I think most of us would be very happy to even have a preview build of 8.1. 6 Month seems like a lot to ask from Microsoft at this point. It's beginning to look like a once a year thing even for a .1 increment. Remember it has already been 7 months.

I don't expect that news to come out during this event, but I suppose it's possible. Seems like a "gen 2" Surface may get its own event? 

I wonder if the XB1 apps will be based on same framework as the RT and Win8 marketplace ones are. It would make sense since one of the OSes on XB1 is Windows 8 but "stream-lined" version.

I am attending. I still don't know what to expect considering the schedule has not been announced. They are being super secretive this year.. WTF? 

The sessions had been already announced by this time (relative to the beggining of the conference) for //BUILD 2012 iirc. I remember planning the sessions I would attend with my coworkers, or maybe I am thinking of a difference conference I attended.  I do explicitly remember last year that the keynote was the very first thing to happen and I left as soon as it ended to crash the first session, which I had been looking forward to for a while. 

Also, I look forward to a true HTML5/JS development stack for WP, like the one that exists for W8. I asked about that last year, during a session, and the guys didn't exactly denied it. 

Not surprised about the delay in WP9 (or 8.1 or whatever you want to call it). In fact, I was reading an article yesterday that the update was late and should only be arriving in 2014. So...
However, GDR's should be bigger in improvements. WP8 is still a very rustic OS and needs lots of improvement on basic stuff that was present on Symbian and is present on every single OS except Windows Phone.

Now I do expect some news on W8.1.
And it couldn't hurt Microsoft to also announce that they're doing partnerships with other companies to build more touch screen monitors (like the Acer one) for normal PC's. Windows 8 on a PC only makes sense with touch screen monitors. Otherwise its a nightmare to navigate in. That's what's preventing me from going from W7 to W8 (well, that and the lack of such basic Apps like Facebook...)

And Microsoft could also take the chance to make a "big announcement" regarding the Xbox One and their - late but rational - 180º turn on the DRM policies. Given the fact that Sony completely humiliated them at E3, it wouldn't hurt them to make a bigger announcement of their change of plans based on consumer feedback. 

You're either joking or have no idea how W8 works. Yeah, facebook is a site. However in Windows 8 you have App from the store (much like WP) that you can install and provide a UI and live tile for the W8 mainscreen which is NOT the normal desktop. Now, you can pin the facebook page on the tile screen...but that defeats the entire purpose of that new live tile screen.

So either allow people to start W8 on desktop and work only in desktop mode, or make sure that you provide the basic Apps, such as Facebook, for the new Tiles interface.

Mouse and keyboard work just fine for me. Sometimes I even find myself right clicking to open my tabs when I'm on the desktop browser, I'm so used to the metro version.

I dought anything to exciting comes to light for Windows Phone. I dought this very much, in fact I seriously dought this. Seriously, I'm dead serious. I'm not joking around, seriously. Probably almost nothing I bet.

Are there any keynotes we should be aware about? Anything they are gonna livestream?
I really hope they show some stuff from the Xbox One (sdk/devkit). Sony now seems to have an advantage on what indiedevelopers can do on the platform and there are quite a lot of gamers (more then i thought) that would like to see more indie/arcade games get on the Xbox bandwagon. Windows 8 seems like a big deal on Build this year but i don't really see how this would be very informative. What i would like to see is more stuff in the WP SDK and like i said, some more Xbox One stuff.

I'm going. Looking for news on desktop dev and visual studio 2013, esp. C++11 and 14 news. Herb Sutter rarely disappoints.

How cool would it be if they had Jon belifore on Skype and he announced a Microsoft buy out of Nokia at Microsoft's keynote at build?

My point exactly, *fingers crossed* because I own the surface, and I would love to eventually own a Microsoft built phone, and desktop, and I really like the Nokia ergonomic style of phone.

Bluetooth 4.0 support would be great.  A lot of us already have the hardware built into our phones and it's just an OS limitation.

Its not really about the overall number for me, its do they have the key apps and are they in line with release dates for android/ios right now unfortunately the answer to those questions is no and no. If I am not seeing substantial improvements by the time my contract comes up mid-late 2014 I hate to say it but I may have to consider a new platform especially when you see that apple may bring a device with a bigger screen (do not think I would ever use android due to the fragmentation, shitty optimizations and privacy issues with google.)

WP is also coming up with devices with bigger 1080p screens which should be available with GDR3 this fall/winter.
As for apps, I am not exactly sure what we are missing out on. 90+% of what I do on my phone is via the stock OS. While I have a ton of apps on my device, there are very few that I actually use. I check the weather a ton. I use a flashlight app on a fairly regular basis. I play the occasional game (check out Doom and Destiny for some good nerdy fun). I use PC Remote enough where I am going to purchase it. But far more often I am using my phone for taking pictures and video, text and email, notes in OneNote, GPS navigation, searches and browsing while on the go, and all of that stuff is baked into the stock OS and apps, or is available on a website rather than an app.
Maybe I just don't know what I am missing... but what 'killer apps' are really so useful that they are worth switching between any platform? Seems to me that the features that the OS provides are of far more importance, and while WP needs a bit of maturity and is still playing catchup on some features, they seem to have the right idea and I see a lot more of Android and iOS copying WP than the other way around these days.

Here is what else we can expect. We can expect for Microsoft to clearly state that they are not anouncing the entire list of features of Windows phone. They will clearly state that they will only cover the tech that can be used by apps and that all other features will be announced later. After the presentation and like clockwork, you will get a flurry of idiots bitching how dissapointing the new feature list of the upcoming Windows Phone release is and profess how they will now jump ship to Apple or Android. Mark my words... this will happen.

i just hope that microsoft let everyone develop for the xbox one and i meen games
not on the windows 8 side of the 3 way os , but the windows 7 side where all these AAA games where running
good luck

Very curious to see what will be revealed this time around.  Last year's build was all about re-branding MS and their various products, and getting them to move to a more unified UI.  Many people did not like it, but it was a foundational branding that had to be done eventually if MS wants to start unifying their brands, products, and services.  I think that this year's focus will mostly be in fixing what people do not like about various platforms, and starting to roll out a framework to unify the platforms on a bit more than the superficial level that they have done so far.
Microsoft (and Google and Apple for that matter), we do not want our platforms to merely look the same.  We want integration.  I want to be able to be able to stop work (or browsing, or media) on one device, and pick up where I left off on another device, and preferably with options to use an in-home cloud (network storage) service.  I want to be able to manage files on my windows phone via the wifi network like it was any other windows device with my log-in credentials and a file browser.  I want to be able to print from my phone!  I want tap+send options between my portable and desktop devices.  I want touchless gesture options for my desktop (kinnect/leapmotion).  I want something similar to the WP voice command options available on the desktop.  And I would really love to see something like what Ubuntu is doing with their new dockable phone/tablet/desktop demo they showed off last year.  So much to hope for... but so little of it will really happen any time soon.