windows 8.1, blue, msdn, build, ballmer.jpg

The MSDN developer site looks like it can't handle the demand to watch Steve Ballmer and co show off the latest Windows wares and developer news. However, the Windows 8.1 Blue preview version is now available to download.

Headed for A Brighter Future?

If you've tried to watch the Build keynote, but are having trouble (seems rather oversubscribed) then don't keep tapping refresh, go play with the good stuff that's available right now. Yes, Windows 8.1 Preview is live and available for us to try, boasting some 800 updates.

It packs an immense number of new features such as improved Skype support, bing integration and more, along with much-requested fixes to the interface, hello Start button. If you're keen then don't delay, head to the MSDN blog to read all the instructions and get going with the patch, the download, a possible graphics driver update and probably some post-patching too.  With Apple having a trouble reception to iOS 7 from developers, Microsoft must be hoping this gets a better welcome. 

From the news feeds at the event, Microsoft is showing off new 8-inch tablets with the interface better designed to handle use in portrait mode and , Nokia's line-up of Windows 8 phones and will be focusing on Visual Studio later in the keynote. We'll break out individual stories on the new products and features. 

w81pro.pngPushing the Changes

Calling Windows 8.1 a refined blend of the classic and new Windows interfaces is one way to get around all the fuss about that little Start button. However, the new features are what should attract more attention. It looks like bing is being refocused with smarter, structured results to provide clearer information. 

A Facebook app for Windows 8 has been promised, but not dated and 3D printing is just one of the cutting edge features added into the OS, which makes you wonder how long it will be until HP picks off one of the Kickstarted companies or rolls out its own range of devices that are driving this new market. 

Elsewhere, as with smartphones, the lock screen can now show off live information or a slideshow, to keep you informed when the PC isn't being used and you can answer Skype calls without having to go into the system. 

We've got the preview version installing on a machine and will bring you a more thorough run through of the features on offer soon. Keep checking back to MSDN, they should have a replay that will be more accessible shortly after the keynote.