Microsoft Build 2013 Rumor Roundup: What new Windows we’ll see

Microsoft Build 2013

Apple has shown its hand, and so has Google. Now it’s Microsoft’s turn. Microsoft’s Build is when Microsoft hopes to show the world precisely what it’s up to this summer, and is a chance for Microsoft engineers to work directly with the developers that create the apps and software its platforms need to survive. Microsoft has two keynote addresses planned for Build 2013, which takes place from June 26-28. Below are what we think Microsoft could announce. 

Windows 8.1 (Blue)

We’ve heard a lot about what the next big update to Windows will entail. We have a good idea what to expect from Windows Blue, or Windows 8.1. We’ve also seen confirmation from Microsoft that it will be available later this year, and there will be a public preview edition of Blue for developers at Build. The Windows 8.1 release is not likely to be a major overhaul. We’re expecting lots of little improvements and there has been talk of Windows Phone 8 influences bringing the platforms closer together in terms of user experience.

You can expect an improved Start screen, more customization options, and support for smaller, 7 to 9-inch tablets. We may see the return of the Start button as Microsoft looks to address complaints about the user interface. A new feature will also allow you to adjust the size of splitscreen apps however you’d like. There’s also Internet Explorer 11, automatic photo uploads to SkyDrive, tab syncing, and other moves to consolidate your experience across devices under your user account.

We may also see some big updates to Xbox Music, Microsoft’s music subscription service formerly known as Zune, and a renovated Windows Store.

Windows Phone 8.1 (Blue)

To go along with the new version of Windows there might just be a new version of Windows Phone. According to Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows, a batch of leaked screenshots purporting to show Microsoft’s next Windows Phone release popped up on Flickr, but have since been removed. What did they show? Well, among other things, they showed the following:

  • A new notification center which would bring WP up to date with Android and iOS
  • Improved multitasking with the option to shut down apps
  • Filters to sort your All Apps list
  • More Calendar view options
  • A new Battery Sense app for more efficient power management

It’s not clear if the leaked screenshots are real, or if Microsoft intends to address Windows Phone at Build, but we’ll be there to bring you all the news if it does.

Microsoft Surface 2 (mini)

The market for smaller tablets has been firmly established. From the Kindle Fire range to the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini, people are keen on small tablets. Rumors suggest Microsoft is planning second generation Surface tablets and a ‘Surface Mini’ could make an appearance at Build. A DigiTimes report suggests there will be multiple new Surface devices in the small tablet category. We may see other manufacturers join in on the small Windows tablet game, as well. Acer has already shown its own small Windows device.

Surface Smartphone

If it isn’t working on a small Surface tablet, could a Microsoft branded Windows Phone 8 device be in the cards? Microsoft has already shown a willingness to compete with its hardware partners licensing Windows 8 by releasing the Surface tablets; it could do the same with Windows Phone 8. Nokia has identified the risk and it has been a persistent rumor, but one that Microsoft execs have flatly denied on more than one occasion. Looking at Microsoft’s investment in Nokia, it seems unlikely it would release a competing device (though it may buy Nokia if it wants to get into smartphone hardware).

Smartwatch

We know Microsoft has been working on something small. What if it isn’t a tablet or a smartphone? Could it be a smartwatch? Everyone and his dog is planning to releasing a smartwatch and beating the competition to the punch could provide a much-needed boost for Microsoft. There have been solid rumors about a Microsoft smartwatch. It’s also an area that Microsoft dabbled in before when it developed SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) a few years ago. Some manufacturers picked it up, but ultimately it didn’t work out very well and SPOT smartwatches were discontinued in 2008.

Xbox One news

The Xbox One has been unveiled, but we know that it’s on the agenda for the Build conference, which will probably focus on details of the developer platform. How will the next Xbox tie-in with your Windows 8 PC, phone, or tablet? Could we see something more exciting to enable your Windows Phone to be a useful second screen device, perhaps building on the Xbox SmartGlass app? There are a few possibilities.

Set-top Box

What if you like the idea of an entertainment hub from Microsoft, but you don’t play games? The Wall Street Journal reported on Microsoft’s experiments with a set-top box and the possibility that it might be compatible with Kinect motion-control technology. Not everyone wants a game console in their living room, so a set-top box that’s cheaper and offers access to Microsoft’s streaming entertainment library could appeal to some people. It could pull files from your other Windows devices and your Surface tablet or your Windows Phone could work as a remote control.

Something like this at Build would be a curveball, but you never know. It could be a smart move for Microsoft.

That’s all of our Microsoft Build rumors for now, but we’d like to encourage you to weigh in with your own expectations and hopes in the comments. What would you like to see at Build 2013?

Updated 6-25-2013 by Jeffrey Van Camp: We’ve added Windows Phone rumors and a few other small tidbits. We’re looking forward to the show, which starts tomorrow!

Article originally published 6-16-2013.

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