Build Day One: Windows 8.1, IE, SkyDrive, and the post Sinofsky era

By now, you’re probably all caught up on the headline news coming out of Build today, and hopefully you’ve downloaded the Windows 8.1 bits (if not, they’re available at  If you were watching the live stream, we hear it may have crapped out on you a bit, especially around the Bing Developer announcements, but we’ll be catching you up on some of the nuances of this week’s developer conference, and perhaps quite a bit later than you, digging into Windows 8.1, which contains a number of improvements, and our old friends SkyDrive and Bing both play prominent roles.

Steve Ballmer was his usual Ballmer-ish self, taking command of the keynote and going over the basics of Windows 8.1, and the Windows ecosystem:

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(as an aside: we’re really moving boldly into this new Windows world – travelling only with a Surface RT and a Windows Phone (a Nokia 920) – all the photos posted here are from that phone.  We’re even exploring the possibilities of moving this web site onto Azure, we’ll have more on that soon).

Along with the 8.1 bits, Ballmer announced new apps coming at some point from Flipboard, Facebook, and the NFL.  If you don’t remember, Flipboard was probably the “killer app” that helped to propel the iPad to great success – it showed that a tablet could do things that neither a PC or a phone could do nearly as well – providing a beautiful and simple interface to a customizable set of content that was more than a magazine or a web page.

Microsoft also introduced IE 11, building on the touch first experiences of IE10, and adding WebGL support for the first time.  We had a chance to attend a media session introducing IE11, where Dean Hachamavitch hinted broadly (wink, wink) that IE 11 will be coming to Windows Phone, Windows 7, and Xbox.  We also learned that Microsoft’s implementation of WebGL fully utilizes DirectX and so is fully hardware accelerated.

After the IE11 media session, we were also able to get a bit of a deep dive into SkyDrive and how it’s implemented in Windows 8.1.  First of all, you’ll no longer need a separate SkyDrive for Desktop application.  SkyDrive, with its configurable sync folder, is built into Windows 8.1.  Dharmesh Mehta demoed some scenarios where SkyDrive, even on a tablet with limited hard drive space, with no folder syncing of files, will still sync up thumbnails of the files available on your web-based SkyDrive, and metadata about other files making them searchable, meaning that you’ll be able to search your local Windows 8.1 device, even without an internet connection, and return filenames for all files in the cloud, or see thumbnails of all your photos, whether they reside on your local computer or not.

Finally, for today, in what may be the most glaring example that we’ve entered a post-Sinofsky era at Microsoft, the media was for the first time in recent memory included in today’s Surface Pro and Acer Iconia W3 giveaway:  giveaway-315x177 News

All in all, while there hasn’t been a ton of suprises, it’s been a pretty good day one.  Tomorrow is all about Azure, Office 365, and “tools, tools, tools”.   That, and lots of talk in the hallways, interaction with product teams, and attending some sessions – which unfortunately gets in the way of blogging, but only in the short term.  Stay tuned!