build keynote microsoft windows 8.1 steve ballmer

While the release of Windows 8.1 was the biggie at Microsoft's first keynote, there was lots of other smart, useful or fun features, either as part of Windows or from other areas, that are coming developers and users way as part of Microsoft's future plans. 


Microsoft got a lot of things off its chest yesterday in a feature-packed keynote that covered the company's Windows and developer strategies. From new tablets and other hardware to improved developer tools. Microsoft is kicking the doors off the developer bunk room and trying to roust them into action. 

With Windows 8.1 now available to test, both end-users and enterprise IT departments will take a long, hard look at the uprated OS and a lot of upgrading decisions will be made when it officially releases. Will that help Microsoft and its wider tablet, Windows Phone ecosystem? Perhaps, but there's still lots of cool and interesting things going on under the hood of Windows and the many developer tools coming out. 

1. Internet Explorer 11 and 3D Visuals and Gaming

The recent update to Firefox, version 22, enabled 3D features in that browser and now IE11 is up for the game too. Generally speaking, it supports 3D Web technologies including WebGL to get the most of your PC's underlying 3D hardware. New tools will enable developers to build high-performance experiences across all devices. That means neat 3D websites, as long as they don't go too far, and wider gaming opportunities. 

So, we're not far off of playing a game in your browser, picking it up on your tablet and carrying on where you left off, they carrying it on in HD on your Xbox. While that infrastructure might take some time to put together. 3D browser gaming has been with us for some time, with Quake Live leading the way. But now, with wider browser support, other action, strategy and fun games are likely, and as we transition to cloud gaming, the opportunity for playing wherever you are became a lot closer. 

2. 3D Printing About To Hit the Big Time?

With the recent merger between Stratasys and MakerBot, the 3D printing industry is getting itself ready for prime time, and native support within Windows 8.1 will likely encourage the big printer players to get their acts together for the big show. 


Sure, like laser printers in the home, this won't be for everyone, but sooner or later, cheap and affordable 3D printing will leave the hobby and professional market and become something we can all enjoy, helping to make creatives or artisans out of a new generation of computer users. Native support in Windows could be a key driver in this effort

3. Visual Studio 2013

Hot on the heels of last year's update comes Visual Studio 2013, as part of Microsoft's new rapid release strategy, This issue, as has been widely known has been tweaked to help enterprises and developers focus on business agility, quality enablement and development operations.

With further focus on application life cycle workflow changes, Microsoft is nudging developers down the agile route with updated portfolio management, improved version control, coding, testing, release management and team collaboration features

4. 8-Inch Tablets Are Coming

Fitting in neatly between the many standard 10.1-inch and 7-inch models, Microsoft's partners are touting a new raft of tablets that will hopefully sell better once Windows 8.1 is complete. Acer's Iconia W3 was on show as one of the lead-off models, and while I'm not so sure about the over-lapping keyboard look, it presents another option for multi-tasking users moving between notebooks and tablets. 


The optional keyboard links via Bluetooth rather than a dock, and the tablet itself is a hefty 500 grams, packing a 1.8GHz CPU and 2GB of memory, 64GB SSD and boasting eight-hours of battery life. But at around $500 (compare that to the new Samsung Tab range), it provides a more competitive entry point into the Windows tablet/PC world.

5. Bing Maps Helps Keep Track

There were several new bing-powered apps revealed by Microsoft, including a health and fitness studio, a foodie app and most useful for many, a new maps app. This neatly segregates your information options with food and drink, things to see, places to shop and other useful locations. 


There's also better integration with other apps, so you can find social media links relevant to your location, weather apps and so on. As location-awareness increases, this app should follow onto smartphones and help users better navigate their way.

Was there anything you saw or heard during the keynote that got you excited that we haven't mentioned? Let us know in the comments. Catch a replay of the keynote here, and there's a second, more developer focused event today.