The //build/ 2014 Microsoft conference started yesterday and on Day 1's keynote, Microsoft announced a number of exciting improvements coming to their products. While most of their announcements are related to Windows Phone, there were also certain changes announced for Windows. Previously, we wrote about the changes in Windows 8.1 Update 1 designed to make it more usable and friendlier for mouse and keyboard users. In addition to those, Microsoft announced the following new additions coming soon to improve the Windows experience.
Return of the Start Menu
The Start menu (referred to as the Start List in the screenshot shown by Microsoft) is returning to Windows 8.1 in a future update. It will include the ability to show live tiles on the right side and what appeared to be frequently used apps on the left. It should give you the layout that looks similar to the Windows 7 Start Menu but looking at the screenshots, it appears that the functionality may be different compared to the Windows 7 Start Menu.
It will be possible to run Windows Store apps in a windowed mode (what Stardock's ModernMix already does). Currently, Update 1 already brings a title bar for Modern apps but they still run maximized, and the title bar+taskbar disappear as soon as you move the mouse pointer away from them.
Microsoft is bringing "Universal apps" to Windows Store. Those same apps will also run on Windows Phone and Xbox. This means the APIs and the code between them can be shared. Of course, this is a major undertaking so this will be a gradual change.
Sideloaded apps get access to Desktop APIs
Sideloading apps will now be possible for Volume License editions of Windows. Microsoft is going to allow sideloaded Modern apps to access the full Win32 and .NET Framework desktop APIs.
Internet Explorer 11 updated
Internet Explorer 11 is going to be updated on Windows 7 too to add Enterprise Mode and updated F12 Developer Tools.
Touch-first Office in the Windows Store
Of course this was coming sooner or later. Office for iPad was already announced last week, so Office for Windows isn't far behind. Touch-first Office apps for Windows Store are also in development and in fact, appear to be quite full-featured compared to their iPad equivalents!
Windows will be free for devices under 9-inches
Microsoft is not going to charge any price for OEMs building Windows devices under 9-inches.
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