Ballmer Talks Windows 8.1, IE11 at Build 2013 Show

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft officially unveiled its first major update to Windows 8, Windows 8.1, at the recent Build 2013 developer conference in San Francisco, California.

Leading the presentation was company chief executive officer Steve Ballmer, who also discussed Internet Explorer 11 and new Windows 8.1-based hardware.

Although there was much for Ballmer to talk about, the focus was clearly Windows 8.1, otherwise known as 'Windows Blue.'

The first big update to the Windows 8 platform will bring back the Start button and also offers users the option of booting directly to the desktop.

Microsoft Sets Out to "Refine the Blend"

According to Ballmer, Windows 8.1 is Microsoft's attempt to "refine the blend" between the new (and rather controversial) user interface and the traditional desktop familiar to Windows 7, Vista, and Windows XP users. (Source:

Ballmer says features like boot to desktop and shared backgrounds are part of his company's goal of bringing the best parts of new and old operating systems together.

Overall, Microsoft says that Windows 8.1 will introduce more than 800 updates to the version of Windows 8 that launched late last year.

Other notable additions include new Windows 8 applications, including a fresh Mail app, a Food & Drink app, and the new Xbox Music.

According to Windows division leader Julie Larson-Green, many of the apps found in Windows 8.1 are all new or have received significant updates since the original release of Windows 8.

Next IE Also Coming to Windows 7

Microsoft also spent some time at Build 2013 discussing its other products, including Internet Explorer (IE). The firm says it has plans to release the next major update of IE, IE11, for both Windows 8 and Windows 7. (Source:

Finally, Ballmer discussed new Windows 8.1 hardware. Clearly, the focus of many hardware manufacturers is portability and small form factor, both of which Ballmer called "very important."

Looking down the road, Ballmer says consumers can expect to see an "outpouring" of devices that use Windows 8.1's new features and come equipped with touch-enabled screens.

Interestingly, Ballmer stated his belief that customers who use touch-based systems tend to be happier than those without access to such hardware capabilities. (Source:

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