Windows 8.1 Preview Released…what’s inside and other news from Build

Microsoft’s developer’s conference, Build, began with the keynote from Steve Ballmer. Ballmer began by talking about hardware, new phones and tablets (there will be an 8 inch form factor, beginning with Acer) but quickly got into Windows 8.1, which was released today in a preview build.

Among the changes, a more functional Start button that includes the ability to shut down the computer-something that was a complete surprise. Also in the build, the boot to desktop-another feature we didn’t think would make it into this build. 

There were tons of goodies either shown or talked about. They include a Windows 8 style Office release for 2014, Outlook for Windows RT that looks really, really nice. A new version of OneNote is also in the works.  XBOX Music is not only gaining a cloud version, but has been completely re written and includes RADIO, a free streaming service.  It, too, looks good. 

win81searchPerhaps the biggest surprise was from Bing. Bing is now the in-built Windows search engine. Not only that, but Microsoft has released a set of tools for developers that gives them very tight integration with Bing.  This, to me, is probably the biggest news yet, from Microsoft.

Another surprise was an announcement from Dell that they will be selling a Windows RT tablet, giving credence to the notion that Microsoft has not abandoned the struggling operating system.

Sprint is, finally, going to be carrying two Windows Phone 8 devices, one from HTC and the other from Samsung.

Two other announcements of note: Windows 8.1 includes built in support for 3D printers and high resolution, retina like, displays. 

If you want to read more in depth reviews, the Verge has a really nice write up and MIcrosoft’s preview site has a video the explains many of the changes. You can also download the preview here. (If you are already running Windows 8, the download is an update to the Store, which is where you actually download the preview.)

I’ll have more on the preview once it is installed on my tablet.