Microsoft Build 2013: our top 5 moments

Here's a look at what we expected to see at Build 2013:

The annual Microsoft Build developer's conference has a bit of Google IO glow surrounding it this year, thanks in no small part to the Windows 8 conundrum.

Is it a failure? Is it the beginning of a software revolution? What about apps? How many Surfaces have been sold? When will we see new devices? And what the heck is going on with Windows RT?

Microsoft has already given us more than a taste of what to expect between June 26 - June 28 in the form of Windows Blue news, but plenty of possible announcements on new devices, services and updates remain distinct possibilities.

We'll be at the conference live starting at 9 a.m. PT/5 p.m. BST starting Wednesday, June 26, so check back here for all the latest coming out of the show.

Until then, we've gathered what we know about Build 2013 into one handy guide for you (right here, of course) plus added some well-informed hypotheses on what you can expect from the conference, taking place in the halls of San Francisco's Moscone Center late next month.

1. Xbox Music on the web

After all the chatter on Xbox Music's redesign, Microsoft threw a bit of a curve ball June 24 by revealing its plans to launch a web-based version of the streaming service during the week of July 1.

"Yes, a web version for Xbox Music will launch next week," a Microsoft spokesperson told us. "We will have more details to share then."

While details are due after Build, Microsoft may still touch on what it envisions for the service plus offer some clues as to whether we'll see Xbox Music land on iOS and Android.

Stay tuned.

2. Start 'button' functions surface

Microsoft began rolling out a preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 on June 24. While the year may seem 6 months too late, this preview has many features of the same features as the preview of Windows 8.1, due out June 26, giving us a glimpse of what to expect from the Windows 8 update in PC and tablet.

Most exciting of all from the screen grabs floating about are the quasi-Start button functions available in the R2 preview.

Windows 8.1 start button

Credit: CNET

By right clicking the 4-squared icon, users will be able to pull up a list of functions, including the ability to shut down and restart their computer, according to CNET.

Observers will also notice the "Computer" tile has been named "This PC," while an arrow at the bottom of the Start screen brings users directly to their Apps. Different tile sizes - small, medium, wide and large - are offered (though only two for non-Metro apps) and users should be able to run a single command on multiple tiles at the same time.

We'll know much more about the preview of Windows 8.1 in the coming days, so check back for more.

3. A message from Guggenheimer

On June 24, just two days before Day 1 of Build, Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform & Evangelism at Microsoft Steve Guggenheimer took a moment to set the stage for the 3-day dev fest.

To sum it all up, look for "synergy."

"At Build 2013, we will talk about how developers of all types will be able to use Microsoft's broad portfolio of product level capabilities spanning our devices and services, and show how these capabilities can be used together to address the needs of today's developers," he wrote in an Official Microsoft Blog entry.

"As we look even further toward the future, this platform synergy will continue to get better and better to support a thriving ecosystem of developers and even greater opportunity."

What does this mean for in practical, consumer-facing terms? We'll find out soon enough from Microsoft and developers alike, but look for Redmond to push this message in the days that comprise Build.

4. The Oracle of Redmond

Oracle piped up in the week before Build that its president, Mark Hurd, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Azure chief Satya Nadella are hosting a joint press conference June 24.

What did they announce? Well, let's just say the old enemies are turning a page as Microsoft announced it plans to support Oracle software on its cloud-based platforms, as reported by Reuters.

Through the partnership, Microsoft will offer Windows Azure customers Oracle-owned Java, Database and WebLogic Server, oddly enough promoting two software strains (Linux and Java) that compete with Windows.

Now, this is rather enterprise-y, but look for Microsoft to talk about the partnership and possible further collaborations between the two firms. The company is clearly ready to make friends with old enemies in an effort to compete, and it will be interesting to see if it lays out any more strategy during Build.

Steve Ballmer

What's cooking, Steve?

5. Two roads diverged at a conference...

It helps to have some clear cut routes laid out before heading into the bedlam of a developer conference, and it looks as though we have some such paths carved out.

Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet chatted with Microsoft executives in the days before Build, and was told that the conference will focus on two main audiences: the .Net community and the startup community.

"We need a good conversation with that community," Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism Group, told Foley of .Net devs. This group has apparently felt left in the lurch as Microsoft has pushed developers towards HTML/JavaScript.

While he wouldn't divulge on specific products or software, Guggenheimer noted that Microsoft will continue messaging around why shared/common code among its core products is beneficial, showing "how strong the bridges are" between product families like phone, PC and Xbox.

Don't expect sharp turns, the VP said, but instead look for much talk on cross-platform development.

6. A new tune for Xbox Music and the Windows Store

Build is gearing up to be a time of change for Microsoft, and some screenshots leaked just a week before the conference kicked off detail revamped looks headed to Xbox Music and the Windows Store.

For Music, we're seeing streamline take over, with a two-panel interface and a new "explore" button that allows for search in addition to the navigation bar.

Xbox music app

Ga ga for radio

Microsoft actually pushed out an update to the Xbox Music app for Windows 8/RT the weekend before Build, adding an in-app search button and a free trial for the app's ad-supported, free streaming service. What's more, Smart DJ is now "Radio," though the change seems to be named-based only.

As for the Windows Store, the 2.0 version of the offering incorporates a "shelf" feature to give additional descriptions for apps as users are perusing. Recommendations for similar apps will also be part of the redesigned package.

The whole look, according to Paul Thurrott over at Supersite for Windows, is remarkably more attractive and more usable.

Windows Store

Windows Store 2.0. Look better? (Credit: Supersite for Windows)

Now whether Build is the time Microsoft is ready to lift the lid off these Windows 8.1 wonders remains to be seen, but try to act surprised if we see a rethought Xbox Music and Windows Store land in late June.

7. Is Windows Phone Blue taking its time?

We also may have gotten our first look at Windows Phone Blue June 9 when shots of a new notifications center surfaced, along with a modified calendar app. However, Build may not be the time when WPB rears its head.

According to Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNet, an update to the mobile OS isn't expected until about six months after Windows 8.1 is released to manufacturing. While the team is working to come up with smaller and incremental Windows Phone 8 updates, the likelihood that we'll hear public pronouncements on Windows Phone Blue during Build is slim, Foley reports.

Of course, there may be plenty of dev session discussions on what updates we can expect, so we'll keep our ear to the ground during the conference.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.