Microsoft to highlight its 'One Windows' progress at Build 2014

Microsoft to highlight its 'One Windows' progress at Build 2014

Summary: What's on tap for Microsoft's Build conference this week? Here's what we know and what we think we know.


While Microsoft execs have made substantial progress in the past couple of years toward breaking down silos inside the company, there's still a long road ahead.


This year's Microsoft Build conference, which kicks off in San Francisco on April 2, will highlight how far the company has come -- and also shed more light on how far it has yet to go -- toward delivering "One Windows."

(Microsoft published the list of sessions for the conference on the Build site on March 31.)

At the developer confab this week, officials are expected to disclose fully the feature sets of the Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8 Update 1 operating systems. They also, according to sources, will share a bit about the next major version of Windows -- Windows 9, codenamed "Threshold," aka Windows 9, which is supposedly due to arrive in the spring of 2015.

Few expect Microsoft to unveil the full feature list or even the target arrival date for Windows 9 at Build 2014. Instead, Microsoft officials are likely to discuss at a high level the company's goal to create a new Windows 9 SKU that would run on Windows Phones, ARM-based Windows tablets/PCs, phablets and other kinds of devices. According to previous tips, this "modern" SKU might not include a Desktop for running legacy Win32 apps. It would be updated frequently and regularly by Microsoft through the Windows Store.

On the Windows 8.1 Update 1 front, Microsoft officials are expected to elaborate on the changes that the company is making to Windows 8.1 to make it more palatable to mouse and keyboard users. Many, if not all, of these changes have been well-documented over recent months as a result of the Update 1 bits leaking to the Web. Microsoft will be providing Windows 8.1 users who interact primarily with a mouse and keyboard a task bar and other visual cues to make navigating Windows 8.1 easier, according to sources and those who downloaded the leaked bits.

Microsoft is expected to make Windows 8.1 Update 1 available to MSDN subscribers on April 2, the first day of Build 2014. Those without MSDN will get the update via Windows Update on April 8, tipsters have said.

Information about the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system also has been leaking, especially during the last month following Microsoft's distribution of a preview build to select developers in February. The coming OS update, codenamed "Blue," is believed to have just been released to manufacturing over the past few days.

Windows Phone 8.1's biggest consumer-focused feature is the inclusion of a personal digital assistant, codenamed "Cortana." The OS is expected to include a lot of other new features, including VPN support; a new notification center; an updated user interface allowing more tiles to be displayed; updated camera layout; Google calendar compatibility; IE11 functionality and more.

Nokia may show off one or more of its next-generation Lumia phones running the 8.1 OS during a press conference on April 2, some have speculated. Others have speculated that the Lumia press event may focus more on software/services or possibly even a wearable device.

Steps toward a more unified dev world

On the developer front, Microsoft also is making a lot of tweaks to the Windows Phone 8.1 platform, sources have said. Among the new and changed features, according to WPCentral, are the replacement of XAP by APPX; availability of SemanticZoom, DatePicker and TimePicker to developers; support for background tasks and more.

With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Microsoft took steps toward bringing these two different app platforms closer together. Developers can write Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 apps that share a lot of code. But they also can end up writing apps that can't be ported at all across the two platforms.

At Build this week, Microsoft execs are expected to share progress toward bringing the phone and Windows client platforms closer together in terms of language support, layout/rendering engines, libraries, dev tools and distribution platforms. But Microsoft still has a way to go before achieving something even close to that perfect world. 

Another hot button at Build is likely to be the touch-first versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Windows 8/8.1 -- the app suite I've been calling "Gemini." Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft execs will talk about this suite, the Windows complement to the just-announced Microsoft Office for iPad suite, during Build 2014. Microsoft execs showed a brief glimpse of the Gemini PowerPoint app at last year's Build conference, calling it an alpha. Officials also said last year that Windows 8 users should expect the touch-first Office suite to debut some time in calendar 2014.

I haven't heard whether Microsoft plans to allow the public to test the Gemini suite or if the company will just deliver it as a finished downloadable suite without a public beta/preview. But Microsoft needs this suite of apps in order to do away with the Desktop in Windows -- as is rumored to be happening in the spring of 2015 with the aforementioned"modern" version of Windows 9 for tablets and Windows Phones.

Microsoft's Office team also will be talking up the application programming interfaces (APIs) in Office apps like OneNote, focusing on how developers can include support for them in their own apps.


Topics: Mobility, Cloud, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Software Development, Windows, Web development, Windows 8, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • It's finally all coming to fruition

    This gif comes to mind:
    • One Windows

      I hope this so called One Windows is the One Windows that will satisfy everyone and not alienate people. After 1 or so years of using Windows 8, I still feel alienated by the UI changes. Windows 8 is has much more improved performance and great improvements over 7, but the UI isn't exactly smooth between going from the desktop to Metro. Whatever Windows 9 will be, Microsoft needs to get it right, it is make or break with it now. The bigger issue also is the amount of people using Windows XP still, Microsoft needs to do something real soon to get those people onto something modern. People using the 13 year old XP would be like people using Windows 2.1 in 2001.
      Pollo Pazzo
  • first thing that nadela has to fix is this uncertainty feeling about their

    products, you just don't know which platform they are going to drop in near future..win32? winRT? winphone?.NET? surface line? etc right now choosing any of their products over competitions is a risky move!
    • how?

      Whatever you said just now is nothing but FUD.
      Ram U
      • "How?" well by sending clear and unambiguous messages and stop fking around

        For instance if they say one platform they should completely define what exactly does it mean for future of platforms like Desktop (win32,.net), winphone and winrt?! or for another example if they are serious about surface what does these moves tell you?

        uncertainty is written all over their platforms and to say that they support them for years (with some stupid patched) will not help this situation!
        • I think you are just one ------

          comparing a hardware accessory with platform(s) is ridiculous. comparing Kin and Surface Wireless adapter to successful platforms shows what sort of m***** you are.
          Ram U
          • surface being a platform or not does not change anything about

            my argument that their products do not have future certainty! BTW what do you mean by me being a m***** ?! at least if you don't have anything useful to say have guts and and finish your insults properly!
      • Not FUD : They dropped both Silverlight and XNA

        A lot of. NET developers are pretty p####d off with Microsoft, so it is long way from FUD.
        Silverlight still superior to HTML5 for Enterprise LOB apps, and there is still no decent C# game platform replacement for Indie Game development. So all us XNA developers moved over to Monogame which allows to use or XNA skills for iOS and Android platforms.
        • Add also windows phone 7 and windows mobile

          with these talking of "one windows" there will probably be more droppings, they just don't tell you what they are and make the situation worse! I don't need to spread any FUD against MS, Ballmer has done that just fine ;)
          • Add also windows phone 7 and windows mobile?

            Sure - old technology replaced by newer version of that technology.

            How is that different for any company?

            that's like saying that Apple dropped both Newton, the Cube, even PowerPC CPU, so don't trust them to keep the iPad or Mac line of computers...
          • Add also windows phone 7 and windows mobile? YES!

            3 month to 1 year old tech isn't "old technology replaced by newer version of that technology."

            That was a poor poor move on MS to dump WP7 users, especially those whom just 3 months earlier renewed their contracts and purchased brand new just released phones. That is exactly what happened with the Lumia 900. If they were going to go the route they did with WP8, they should have delayed and done more of an upgrade to WP7.5 than just a new skin. Then wait another 8 months to a year before introing WP8; without new phones in the mix or at least with have the stipulation on OEMs to produce new phone WP8 compatible. On top of that the WP7.8 update took WAY TOO LONG to come out and even WP8 got an update before they released the WP7.8 to all the old WP7.5 users. I was one of a number of people that took a break from WP because of this and the frustration over MS dealings. They even had the nerve to reply to an email from me with a response that just repeat exactly what I said in my own email then act like they were giving me some new insights.

            Hopefully with new leadership at the helm we won't have future issues with this because I intend to get a Lumia 930 once available.
      • It's all about Trust

        Tell that to those who invested their time into VB6 or Silverlight or XNA.
        Microsoft will do what is best for them, not what is best for their users.
    • Nope...

      MS supports their products longer than any other software vendor I can think of. That's why almost 1/3 of Windows users have been able to run XP for over a decade now.
      widow maker
      • How long did they support the Kin?

        4 weeks?
        • Dropping a product that sold 1000 units is easy

          Dropping Win32 or .NET - uh, that's different.
        • Kin=hardware

          Win32,WinRT,.NET are platforms. Both .NET and Win32 are here for than a decade and WinRT already is 2 years old. If you compare Kin with .NET, Win32, or WinRT, I think you need a checkup. Microsoft has clear roadmap defined and they, most of the time, give advance notice before they pull down something to that effect or retire something unlike your god's platform Google.
          Ram U
          • They're not

            Microsoft will never, ever, ever get rid of Win32, and why should they? There are thousands upon thousands of programs that are Win32 and simply getting rid of it would be mistake of epic proportions. WinRT apps can only be sandboxed and are limited in many aspects compared to Win32. If WinRT programs replace Win32, all the games and everything have to go through the Windows store, which is the concern many people have made.
            Pollo Pazzo
          • Win32 will someday go away...

            They have it on their roadmap... a world without desktops.. It is a huge mistake, but watch them do it before your very eyes.. They call Metro the "Modern" what does that make the desktop other than... "Legacy". Legacy = something they want to get rid of... not sure why they want to, since the desktop is a far more efficient business interface... but they do.
          • WinRT

            If WinRT programs could be installed outside the Microsoft store and could run just like regular Win32 programs, then I have no concerns and problems with WinRT. The way Microsoft has WinRT set up is pretty restrictive compared to regular old Windows programs.
            Pollo Pazzo
    • Substantiate Your Claim

      "competitions" - is that something at the local 4-H? Do you mean iOS, MacOS, Android, Chrome, etc.? Apple doesn't support their products near as long, so it's not risky at all to choose MS compared to Apple. Choosing Surface over some unknown Android tablet from Walgreens? Any day. Samsung has been experimenting with Tizen, so I wouldn't consider Samsung + Android a safer bet than MS by definition. So, explain what you mean, and then prove your point.