I thought the previous //BUILD conferences (2012 | 2011) had a lot of content but this year definitely surpassed it. Although I couldn’t do the whole conference justice in a single blog post, here are a few key highlights:

Windows 8.1 Preview

Windows 8.1 Preview is the next step forward for a truly modern computing experience with the widest possible range of devices: from the smallest tablets and convertibles to the sleekest and highest powered notebooks, all delivering the latest advances in screens, battery life, performance, and design.

That said, Windows 8.1 Preview encompasses the following features:

  • Enhanced Search: A single search now brings you results from your PC, your apps, and the web
  • More Apps: You’ll notice that the Windows Store has a new look which makes it easier to discover and download new apps
  • Improved Personalization: Set up a slide show on your lock screen by picking your favorite pictures
  • Built–in Cloud Storage: SkyDrive is now the default location for saving documents. So you always have your files wherever you go, even when you’re offline
  • IE11: Internet Explorer 11 Preview is built for touch, with faster load times, a full-screen experience that includes side-by-side browsing of your sites, and real-time info delivered on your Start screen through live tiles for your favorite sites

Download the Preview here.

Windows Azure Updates

Windows Azure just keeps getting better and better and the following updates show how rapidly new features are being developed and deployed:

  • Web Sites: General Availability Release of Windows Azure Web Sites with SLA
  • Mobile Services: General Availability Release of Windows Azure Mobile Services with SLA
  • Auto-Scale: New automatic scaling support for Web Sites, Cloud Services and Virtual Machines
  • Alerts/Notifications: New email alerting support for all Compute Services (Web Sites, Mobile Services, Cloud Services, and Virtual Machines)
  • MSDN: No more credit card requirement for sign-up

All of these improvements are now available to use immediately (note: some are still in preview). Visit ScottGu’s blog for the dirty details.

Visual Studio 2013 Preview

The Day One keynote focused on Windows 8.1 and the Windows platform opportunity for developers. During this keynote the availability of the Visual Studio 2013 and .NET 4.5.1 Previews were announced.

  • Innovative Features for Greater Developer Productivity: Visual Studio 2013 Preview includes many user interface improvements based on customer feedback and Microsoft’s core design principle of keeping the focus on the content to deliver an improved user experience
  • Support for Windows 8.1 App Development: Visual Studio 2013 Preview provides the ideal toolset for building modern applications that leverage the next wave in Windows platform innovation (Windows 8.1), while supporting devices and services across all Microsoft platforms
  • Web Development Advancements:  One ASP.NET vision unifies your web project experience in Visual Studio 2013 Preview so that you can create ASP.NET web applications using your preference of ASP.NET component frameworks in a single project
  • Debugging and optimization Improvements: The new Performance and Diagnostics hub in Visual Studio 2013 Preview provides a unified experience for various tools available in Visual Studio
  • Expanded ALM Capabilities: Visual Studio 2013 Preview incorporates a wave of new Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) features that will help your teams be more productive and collaborate with improved support for agile development practices that you can adopt incrementally to suit the needs of your organization
  • Go Live with Visual Studio 2013 Preview: Visual Studio 2013 Preview and .NET Framework 4.5.1 Preview meet our high standards for pre-release software, so we support application design, development, test, and deployment in both test and production environments

More information can be found via the Visual Studio home page. Watch Day One and Day Two keynotes on Channel9.