The build up to Microsoft's Build 2013

Microsoft's Build 2013 developer conference is just a week away. What's likely to be on the agenda?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

In just over a week, Microsoft will be convening its Build 2013 developer conference.


Company execs have said to expect information of interest to developers across most every major product family: Windows, Windows Azure, Office 365, Windows Phone, Xbox and Visual Studio during the conference. But, with the launch of Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 public previews on day one, June 26, this year's Build will focus primarily around the next version of Windows, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Windows Azure, my sources have indicated.

Microsoft officials still aren't sharing information about who will keynote Build on Days 1 and 2, what kind of content will be featured in sessions, or how many attendees are expected for the three-day confab. (This year, Build will be in San Francisco, the first time Microsoft has held a major developer conference there since 1997.)

But company officials were willing to set the stage for Build via a phone conversation late last week.

Microsoft is reaching out to two main audiences this year at Build, said Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism Group: The existing Win32, line-of-business/commercial developer community and the startup community. "We need a good conversation with that community," said Guggenheimer about the existing .Net developer base, many of whom have felt disenfranchised by Microsoft's recent developer push toward HTML/JavaScript.

"We haven't done a good job telling the .Net developers we haven't forgotten them," Guggenheimer acknowledged. "We need to tell them that."

Guggenheimer, unsurprisingly, wouldn't talk specifics about what new products and technologies Microsoft plans to announce at the show. When I asked whether Microsoft would be providing attendees with code or at least information about some kind of Xbox One and/or Windows Phone Blue software development kits (SDKs), Guggenheimer declined to comment. He did say Microsoft's message will be a furthering of what officials started detailing last year regarding the benefits of an increased amount of shared/common code across the guts of its key products.

"We will not be making a sharp turn. We will show how strong the bridges are" between Microsoft's various product families, Guggenheimer said. "We want to show people what's possible, going cross-platform."

Reading the Build tea leaves

That's all Microsoft officials are saying right now about Build 2013. But there are a few additional hints and tips worth passing on.

We do know that a first public preview of Visual Studio Blue, a.k.a. Visual Studio 2013, should be available in conjunction with Build. One would assume the next VS release would have more features to simplify and improve the development of Windows Store/Metro-Style apps, since that's what Microsoft wants and needs developers to build.

I'm curious whether the Bing AppEx team — the group that built some of the nicer apps for Windows 8, including Weather, Travel, Sports and new cooking/recipe and fitness apps — will field an SDK, too. According to a recent Microsoft job description, the AppEx team is building a framework for the development of Windows Phone apps.

On the Windows 8.1 front, there seems to be little left to announce about the OS update itself, given all the leaked builds over the past few months, coupled with Microsoft's own disclosures about many of the coming features. Over the weekend, the Windows team turned on the new Windows Store experience, so those with existing leaked builds can see the new look and feel of the Store plus some of the updated Microsoft apps that are part of 8.1.

The Windows Phone team, which is dependent on the Windows core, is still working on delivering smaller, incremental updates to the Windows Phone 8 operating system. A "GDR3" build is expected to arrive this fall around the time that Windows 8.1 is made available. Windows Phone Blue is expected about six months after Windows 8.1 is released to manufacturing, making disclosures (at least public ones) about the SDK for that release largely unlikely at the Build show.

Microsoft is known to be working to deliver even more common code across its phone, PC/tablet and entertainment console product lines. But that doesn't mean developers should expect a "write once, run on any version of Windows" experience to arrive in full in 2013. Unifying the app stores across these product lines also doesn't appear to be a 2013 thing, either, from what I'm hearing.

On the Xbox One front, Microsoft officials have said the company's new console operating system is actually three OSes in one. The "gaming" OS (residing in the "exclusive partition") is going to be where Microsoft-sanctioned third-party games will live. But Microsoft is expected to continue to gate which games will integrate with Xbox Live via a certification process, which means a "public" SDK for Xbox One doesn't seem like a 2013 deliverable. If Microsoft creates an app store for indepedent developers for Xbox One, that store won't be open for business in 2013, from what I've heard.

I'd think third-party SDKs, like MonoGame, Xamarin and PhoneGap, could get some play at Build, given Microsoft's planned cross-platform messaging. Windows Azure Web Sites, the hosting framework for Web applications and sites created using various languages and stacks (including a number of open-source, non-Microsoft-developed ones), may come out of preview soon as well and be a hot topic at the show.

Developers: What else are you expecting and hoping Microsoft talks up and delivers at Build next week?


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