3D printing capabilities to come with Windows 8.1 and new Visual Studio 2013 revealed

26 Jun 2013

LeBlond on stage today at Build 2013

Microsoft revealed today that its new Windows 8.1 operating system will include support for 3D printing. Microsoft’s head of Web Services Antoine Leblond also introduced the new Visual Basic 2013 which will include clever tools to let app developers check in advance the effect their apps will have on battery power on devices.

Leblond said that the arrival of Windows 8.1, available for download beginning today at http://www.preview.windows.com, comes with over 5,000 new APIs.

Not only that but proving that Microsoft is “operating at a faster release cadence” he said that Visual Studio 2013 will also come available today.

Leblond said that the key is to empower developers to deliver the apps of the future and demonstrated how the new Visual Studio includes tools that lets developers check how network efficient their app is on 2G, 3G, 4G, Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks as well as how the app affects batter life on various devices.

“It also makes it much easier to debug Async,” Leblond said.

He added that developers will be able to add push notifications to live tiles on Windows 8.1 desktops and that Windows Store is being upgraded for 8.1 to enable app developers to merchandise and market their apps.

The end of updates

Leblond said that updates will no longer be a fact of life for Windows users following the arrival of Windows 8.1 where apps will automatically update and users won’t have to skip a beat. “You will never see update notifcations ever again, apps will automatically update.

“The new Windows Store will also provide better presentation of apps to allow developers better sell apps and merchandise to potential customers. Navigation on the store is so much easier.”

He said that new display controls on Windows 8.1 will allow each monitor to have a scaling factor in terms of screen resolution.

3D printing support

With its eye on the future, Microsoft believes the cost of 3D printing machines is coming down all the time and said it will soon begin selling devices such as the MakerBot Replicator 2 and the Cube printer from 3D Systems which currently is available at Staples for under US$1,300.

“Windows 8.1 will be the first and only platform to support 3D printing with drivers for app creators built-in,” he told Build in San Francisco.

Leblond also demonstrated how Windows 8.1 tablets can be used to allow kids develop their programming skills for the 21st century by showing how a Mindstorm robot can be controlled using a tablet.

He took the audience through some of the latest machines about to hit the market such as the Samsung ATIV tablet which has the highest resolution screen of any laptop/tablet in the world that can run for 12 hours on a single charge and which includes the fourth generation Haswell processor from Intel.

Other devices Leblond showed include the ThinkPad Helix from Lenovo which comes with a detachable keyboard and can be converted from a tablet into an ultrabook as well as the Acer Aspire P3 which is 0.4-inches thick and which comes with an Intel Core i5 processor and detachable keyboard.

Another device, the Acer Aspire V5 at under US$400, Leblond said, proved that “high quality touch is coming to all price points in the PC/tablet ecosystem.”

By the end of this year, Leblond said there will be more than 3,000 Windows 8-certified devices in the world to choose from.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years