Build 2014 recap: Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 8.1 Update, and the Start menu returns

Build 2014 recap: Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 8.1 Update, and the Start menu returns

This week it has been all -- or mostly -- about Build. At the developer conference in San Francisco, Microsoft had all sort of treats in store for us, and there was a lot to digest. The oft-maligned Windows 8.1 is in line for the release of a huge update in just a few days and the official unveiling took place at Build. As well as reducing the system requirements for the operating system, there are also key changes to the way modern apps work and much more. Zac took a look in his review, and you can get your hands on the update on April 8th.

Even though the focus is currently on Windows 8.1 Update, eyes are already looking to the future. Microsoft announced that Windows will be made available for free for devices with screens under 9 inches, but also gave a tantalizing glimpse of the return of the Start menu. At this stage there is very little information about quite when the "mini-Start" will find its way into Windows, but if the WinBeta poll is anything to go by it is something that is going to go down well with users of Windows.

On the mobile front, Windows Phone 8.1 was officially announced, and one of the most exciting aspects is Cortana. We had already heard quite a lot about it, and also saw a sudden appearance in Bing settings, but it was great to see in action. There is a lot more to the latest version of Microsoft's mobile operating system as well. The much-requested action center also makes an appearance, providing a handy, central place to view app notifications as well as accessing key system settings.

Handset owners also have a chance to try out Internet Explorer 11, complete with InPrivate browsing and data syncing. Developers have the great news that universal apps will be easier to create, so the task of building software that works on multiple Windows platforms will be far less daunting and time-consuming. But what everyone wants to know is when we can all get our hands on the Windows Phone update! We know that the update will be made available to all handsets running Windows Phone 8 this year and it's looking like final code will be ready on April 8th before getting released to manufacturers on April 14th.

Build 2014 really was packed with news and announcements, and if you'd like to watch day one's keynotes for yourself, and view all of the headlines in one place, head over to the catchup page.

Of course, this is just scratching the surface of all of the news from the last week -- take a browse back through the site and see if there's anything else you missed.