Microsoft Build 2013: our top 5 moments

Windows 8.1, smaller Windows 8 devices and some Xbox One news

Build 2013 kicked off June 26 with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, rattling off some of the "exciting innovations" that the Redmond, Wash.-based company has been working on.

During the first part of his Day 1 keynote speech, Ballmer repeated once again that Microsoft is moving away from offering only software and towards hardware and services, aided by a rapid release schedule for Windows and Windows Phone 8.

Though largely developer focused, Ballmer and a supporting cast of Microsoft executives outlined the changes coming with the Windows 8.1 update, new apps and features and outlined new functions of the Windows Store during the Day 1 keynote.

We have much more from our conference coverage as Day 2 gets rolling, so keep your gazing moving for all the latest:

Windows 8.1 RT hands on review

Don't worry, RT. We haven't forgotten about you.

While Windows 8.1 got most of the attention here at Build, we were sure to take advantage of its OS sibling, going hands on with the far more useable update here on the conference floor.

The system is still missing much, but as an update, getting Windows 8.1 RT on your RT device is a good way to go. Just remember, once you've downloaded it, you can't go back.

Read our Windows 8.1 RT review

How to prep for Xbox One app development

Developers wondering what they can do in the months ahead of the Xbox One release can heed advice laid out by Microsoft's Steve Guggenheimer during the Day 2 keynote: start developing for Windows 8.

Because of the common core between the Windows 8 found in the next-gen console and W8 itself, developing for the system is, Guggs suggested, fairly similar.

App development processes for Xbox One is still unclear, but this sheds a little light on what developers and gamers can look forward to.

Foursquare checking in

Facebook and Flipbook got the love during Day 1, but June 27 was all about Foursquare. OK, and a few other apps.

Microsoft's Steve Guggenheimer showed off a native Foursquare tablet app for Windows 8 today while also chatting up a few other additions like ABC News and Walgreens. Mint is heading to Windows and Windows Phone, where Xfinity TV Remote will join it as Rhapsody heads to W8.

There's still no Instagram, but Microsoft is racking up a number of crucial applications.

Number call

What's a keynote without some digit-rattling bragging? Microsoft was no exception as during Day 2 the company laid out a few new numbers for how many people are using its services.

According to the company, Skype now has 299 million connected users. Bing sees 1 billion mobile notifications a month, and SkyDrive has soared past the 200 million mark, now touting 250 million account holders.

Xbox Live's 300,000 servers got a mention, as did a number of other...numbers.

Microsoft looks to make devs lives a walk in the park

OK, it's never easy to develop, but Microsoft unleashed a number of tools to help those who create apps for its Windows and Windows Phone platforms do what they do.

The announcements came during the Day 2 keynote and centered on Windows Azure, the company's cloud offering. Some high points were the opening of the Azure Mobile Services and Azure Web Sites.

All in all, the dev crowd ate it up and just maybe will start making the apps Microsoft needs to be successful.

IE11 updates outlined

IE11 is intrinsically tied to Windows 8.1, and the company announced during a press briefing that the updated web browser is available in preview mode with Windows 8.1 (also in preview).

Optimized for touch, IE11 aims to bring personal web exploration to users, trouncing competitors not only in speed but in battery efficiency and functionality.

IE11
Added tab support comes with IE11

Though he didn't say explicitly, Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president, Internet Explorer, said that in a "secret Batman cave," teams from Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows are working together with IE11. We should have more on Windows 7 support soon, too.

Metro could be fashionably late on Office apps

Windows head Julie Larson-Green may have demoed a very early version of a Metro PowerPoint during the Build Day 1 keynote, but don't look for similarly styled Office apps to land anytime soon.

One report pegs Metro refreshes of the currently desktop-version Office apps - Word, Excel, etc. - to land in 2014, while another says 2013 will indeed see a Windows 8 look land on the core productivity apps.

We will know all in a few months regardless, but look for more as Windows 8.1 nears launch.

Come and get it: Windows 8.1 available now

It's been known for what feels like forever that Microsoft would release a preview version of Windows 8.1 at the beginning of Build, and sure enough, Ballmer told the gathered and watching crowd that the free update was available for download right now.

The update "blends the desktop and the modern experience," Ballmer said, and includes the return of the start button and a boot-to-desktop option.

More Windows tablets coming soon

More Windows tablets are coming to a retailer near you soon, particular those of the petite persuasion. Ballmer proclaimed as Build 2013 opened that we'll see a "proliferation of Windows small tablet devices" in the next several months.

Office 2013 software will be included on these Windows 8.1 tablets, and every attendee of Build will be able to walk out with one of these tablets - the Acer Iconia W3 tablet with Office.

Windows devices
Tablets galore

Lookin' good, Windows Store

The Windows Store gets a face lift in Windows 8.1, or Windows 8.1 Store, if you will. The store was redesigned in an effort to help users find new and popular apps.

What's more, the news Windows Store features a bit of personalization for the user. The new "Picks for You" section will be different for everyone because it's a mix of what's popular in the Store in categories you use.

Windows App Store
Bigger and better

Speaking of apps...

It's about time. Facebook and Flipboard apps will be included in Windows 8 via the Windows Store, Microsoft announced, as well as the NFL.

Although we didn't see a Facebook nor a Flipboard representative take to the stage, Ballmer spoke up for the newest Windows 8 app-developing companies.

Windows app store
Store lists are front and center for you

Microsoft says 'Bing it on' to developers

Microsoft announced that it opened up the search engine tools of Bing as a platform.

Now, third-party apps you download will no longer be shut out of using advanced Microsoft technologies like 3D mapping, contextual voice search, and OCR translation.

"Knowledge of the web is now available to your applications," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President Gurdeep Singh Pall at today's conference in Seattle.

The company's also added native 3D printing support, so hold off buying any vases for the time being.