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If it didn't already feel like it, now it does. Spring is here… and so is Build, Microsoft’s Developer Conference.

The 3-day conference took place in San Francisco this week, we’ve combined all the main announcements relevant to you and have mashed together in an IT Pro round up article.
If you want to re-cap on the conference session, they've been recorded and will be available on the Build website soon.

Windows 8.1 Update
On Day 1 we announced the availability of Windows 8.1 Update. This is a cumulative update for Windows 8.1 that includes a variety of enhancements for enterprises, including improved IE 11 compatibility for enterprise applications, usability improvements, extended mobile device management and improved hardware support.

For further information and advice: 
- About the Windows 8.1 Update
- Deploying Windows 8.1 Update
- Computers currently running Windows 8.1
- Existing Windows 8.1 images
- New Windows 8.1 Images
- Updating from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1
- Updating from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1

Check out the Windows 8.1 Update: IT Pro Perspective article where you'll find extra enhancement info and a guide on how you can deploy the update. If you want an overview of the Windows 8.1 Update enhancements please see the Windows for your Business blog announcement.

It’s important to note that because the Windows 8.1 Update is not a new Windows release, no additional actions need to be taken in regards to infrastructure readiness or product activation. Management tools like System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune will fully support updated Windows 8.1 computers. Your existing KMS infrastructure can support updated Windows 8.1 computers, and existing MAK and sideloading keys will continue to work. Speaking of sideloading, we’ll be making improvements in this as well, as mentioned in the Windows for your Business blog. Look out for more details on the Springboard Series blog coming soon.

Stay up to date with the enterprise mode for Internet Explorer 11

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One of the important enhancements in Windows 8.1 Update is the introduction of Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11, announced on the Exploring IE blog and the IE blog. This provides better compatibility with older versions of Internet Explorer and tools to manage which web apps use it. Businesses can benefit from the modern web standards, better performance, and increased security of our latest browser, while extending existing investments in legacy web apps. And by decreasing dependencies on older versions, Internet Explorer helps you stay up-to-date with Windows 8.1, services like Office 365, and devices like the Surface Pro 2.

For further insight on:
- How Enterprise Mode can help you stay up-to-date
- How Enterprise Mode can provide better Compatibility
- How Enterprise Mode can be managed
Find out more by checking out the IE blog.

Windows Phone 8.1
If you’re a Windows Phone user, you already know that we set out to create an experience that puts you and the things you care about most front and centre. As a result, we believe Windows Phone is the world’s most personal smartphone… and with Windows Phone 8.1, we’ve added a BUNCH of new features that make your smartphone even more a reflection of your personality and desires. 

New Windows Phone 8.1 Updates: Windows Phone 8.1 is full of little touches that make a big difference including Drive Mode, Word Flow Keyboard, and more

Great for Business Users and IT Managers
Windows has long been the choice for the enterprise and professionals. Windows Phone fits easily and seamlessly into a corporate ecosystem making it easier to work when you are on the go. Last year, PC Magazine’s readers selected Nokia Lumia/Windows Phones as the Business Choice Award for smartphones by scoring them the highest in end-user satisfaction.  

With Windows Phone 8.1, we’re making it even easier for IT professionals to manage devices and for professionals to connect to essential business apps and services with features such as customizable MDM enrolment, support for loads more MDM policies, LOB application & certificate management, S/MIME and VPN support.

Check out the Windows for your Business blog post to read more about enterprise features in both the Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Update.

Cortana: Your PERSONAL Digital Assistant

Get to Know Cortana!

clip_image002Of everything we’ve announced in build, we’re most excited to introduce you to the world’s first truly personal digital assistant, coming to the UK later this year on Windows Phone. We were inspired by the popular character from Halo who served as a brilliant AI and a deeply personal digital assistant to Master Chief… so we called her Cortana.

Powered by Bing, Cortana is the only digital assistant that gets to know you, builds a relationship that you can trust, and gets better over time by asking questions based on your behaviour and checking in with you before she makes assumptions. She tracks the stuff you care about, looks out for you throughout the day, and helps filter out the noise so you can focus on what matters to you.


When Can I Get It? And on which phones?
Windows Phone 8.1 will be available to all Windows Phone 8 device owners in the UK over the next few months. It will also come pre-installed on new phones, including those announced by Nokia yesterday.

A new cloud experience and tools to deliver the cloud without complexity
‘On Thursday at Build in San Francisco, we took an important step by unveiling a first-of-its kind cloud environment within Microsoft Azure that provides a fully integrated cloud experience – bringing together cross-platform technologies, services and tools that enable developers and businesses to innovate with enterprise-grade scalability at startup speed. Announced today, our new Microsoft Azure Preview Portal is an important step forward in delivering our promise of the cloud without complexity.’ – Scott Guthrie

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With a vision to speed up and simplify the software delivery process, the Microsoft Azure Preview Portal is bringing together cross-platform tools, technologies, and services from across the company, partners, and the open-source community in a single integrated workspace.

In addition to our groundbreaking new Microsoft Azure Preview Portal, we announced several enhancements our customers need to fully tap into the power of the cloud. These include:

- Dozens of enhancements to our Azure services across Web, mobile, data and our infrastructure services
- Further commitment to building the most open and flexible cloud with Azure support for automation software from Puppet Labs and Chef.
- We’ve removed the throttle off our Application Insights preview, making it easier for all developers to build, manage and iterate on their apps in the cloud with seamless integration into the IDE.

Read the announcement in full by checking out Scott Guthrie’s article or visit the Build Newsroom for more information on Thursday’s news and to watch the keynote. You can also see more about Thursday’s news specific to Microsoft Azure on Scott Guthrie’s personal blog.

A final //BUILD/ Highlight…..

GuggsTeam 1.

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We were delighted to see Steve ‘Guggs’ Guggenheimer, Chief Evangelist & Rick Claus, Sr. Tech Evangelist at Build rocking our UK IT Pro speaker shirts – If you want to see these exclusive shirts in action come along to our IT Camps in the next few weeks!


Announcing the Windows Server 2012 R2 Update.

Not part of Build, but we thought it would be good to keep you in the know! As we mentioned back in February, we’ve been working on an update to Windows Server 2012 R2 in conjunction with an update to Windows 8.1.  In the update we’re providing Windows Server 2012 R2 Update to MSDN and TechNet subscribers and it will be generally available through Windows Update starting on April 8, 2014.

We continue to focus on providing a world-class platform for IT Pros and developers around the globe.  This includes an easy way to get up to date with the patches, bug-fixes, and improvements that we’ve been working on since we released Windows Server 2012 R2.  To that end, we’re releasing this update which brings everything together for you in one easy-to-deploy package.

No system APIs have been changed and there are no changes to hardware requirements.  Aside from a single reboot, there is no action for you to take if you have turned on automatic update.  Plus, you will not need to re-verify nor re-certify your server applications, including System Center.  They should “just work” without requiring any additional testing.


Here is what’s all included in Windows Server 2012 R2 Update:

Cumulative roll-up
 -Windows Server 2012 R2 Update includes all of the previously-released monthly roll-ups, individual updates, and security updates released since RTM.
Bug fixes - In response to customer and partner feedback, this update includes a range of performance and reliability improvements.  
Enhancements  -A range of enhancements are also included in the update including:
Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer (EMIE), Active Directory fix for Office 365 and User interface enhancements read more at _______

We encourage you to apply this update to your Windows Server 2012 R2 systems as soon as possible.  This'll ensure that you continue to benefit from the enterprise-grade performance and protection that our platform delivers.  It'll also ensure that you continue to get the best servicing experience from Microsoft. 
For further technical information on Windows Server 2012 R2 Update landing page on TechNet.


So, what are you most excited about from all of our build announcements? Let us know in the comments box below, or tweet us at @TechNetUK.