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This one is going to be a little long because the keynote was jam-packed so bare with me.

The keynote for the first day of BUILD 2013 was kicked off by Steve Balmer.  He made it very clear that Microsoft’s focus is on accelerating its time to market with products and product updates.  His quote was that “Rapid release” is the new norm.  He continued by showing off several new Lumias that have been buzzing around the internet for a while and announce that Sprint will now be carrying the HTC 8XT and Samsung ATIV.

Balmer is known for repeating words or phrase for affect.  This time it was “Rapid release, rapid release” and “Touch, touch, touch, touch, touch, …”.  This was fun, but even more fun was when he announce that all attendees would receive an Acer Iconia 8” tablet. SCORE!

The next subject Balmer focused on is new apps.  The three new ones were Flipboard, Facebook and NFL Fantasy Football.  I liked the first two because these are ones that people coming from other platforms are missing.  The NFL app is great just because it targets a demographic that can be fanatical.  If these types of apps keep coming than the missing app argument goes away.

While many Negative Nancy’s are describing Windows 8.1 as Windows 180 Steve Balmer chose to call it a “refined blend” as in a coffee that has been improved with a new mix.  This includes more multi-tasking options and leveraging Bing straight throughout the entire ecosystem. He ended this first section by explaining that this will also bring more Bing development opportunities to the community.

Steve Balmer was followed by Julie Larson-Green who spent her time on stage selling us on Windows 8 all over again from my point of view.  Something that I would not have thought was needed until I had listened to some other attendees who had a number of concerns and complaints.  She showed a number of new gestures that will come with Windows 8.1, and while they were cool I was left wondering if they really improved the experience.  I guess only time will tell.

I did like the fact that it the UI implementation to bring up “All Apps” now mirrors that of Windows Phone.  The consistency is a big step forward that I hope to see continue.  The cool factor went up from there as she swiped content from a desktop (mega-tablet) to the XBox One.  This seamless experience I believe is what is really needed for any future platform to be relevant.

I was much more enthused by the presentation of Antoine Leblond who humbled us by letting us know that there are 5k new API.  How that can be or how anyone would ever use all of them is another question.  His announcement was that the Visual Studio 2013 preview would be available today along with the Windows 8.1 bits.  One of the features of VS2013 that he demonstrated is the power consumption profiler.  With battery life being a key factor with consumer consumption devices this is a welcome addition.

He didn’t limit his presentation to VS2013 features though.  He showed how the Store has been redesigned to enable better search and discoverability of apps and how Win 8.1 can perform multiple screen scales depending on the resolution of the device automatically.  The last feature he demoed was the real time video streaming API which he made sure we understood by attaching a Surface to a little robot.  Oh, but there was one more thing.  Antoine and Julie announce that all attendees would also be getting Surface Pros.  BONUS!

How much more could there be?  Gurdeep Singh Pall was about to pile on.  He introduced us to Bing as a platform (BaaP?).  He said if they (Microsoft) could do something with and API that is good 3rd party developers can do something that is dynamite and showed us some of the tools they had produced.  These included natural user interface improvements such as voice commands that looked to put Siri to shame.  Add to that 3D, OCR and translation capabilities and the future looks to be full of opportunities.

Balmer then came out to show us one last thing.  Project Spark is a game design environment that will be available for Windows 8.1, XBox 360 and XBox One.  All I can say is that if my kids get their hands on this they are going to be able to learn some of what dad does in a much more enjoyable way.

At the end of it all I was both exhausted and energized by what I saw.  What could they have possibly left for the day 2 keynote?  I hear it will feature Scott Hanselman.  If that is right we are in for a treat.  See you there.