(This post is updated March 30th, 11 am PDT)
Build 2016: Announcements and thoughts (this blog post)
This week I am in San Francisco for the yearly Microsoft Build-conference. I try to attend at least one major Microsoft event every year and as Microsoft Ignite was rescheduled for September, I had a chance to allocate some time to spend 6 days in sunny San Francisco. This blog post will serve as a placeholder for my blogging throughout the week – I hope you’ll find this useful!
I’m based in Helsinki, Finland. That’s about 8700 km (5400 miles) of air travel for me, so I spent the better portion of Monday in transit. I’m able to sleep in most places and airplanes are no exception. First leg from Helsinki to London was a on brand new Airbus A350 – finally enough legroom even in economy!
The new (well, at least for me) bottom camera was a bit wobbly due to the heavy winds from storm Katie around London.
Pre-day before Build 2016
I had a chance to participate in an invite-only event during Tuesday, the day before Build 2016 officially starts. I cannot blog anything from that, but at least I can share a picture from yesterday evening – here’s Moscone Center getting ready for Build:
First day keynote
The first keynote is on Wednesday 30th of March, at 8.45. The room is packed, but wifi works surprisingly well – at least for now. I’m sure all respectable tech blogs and publications will provide a full run-down on the keynote, so I’ll try not to concentrate on each individual sentence and announcement. Instead I’ll try to track all the relevant announcements and findings below.
Some highlights from the keynote:
Terry Myers: Windows 10 has been out 8 months, and it’s been activated by 270+ million people
I confess I’ve contributed more than 10 times to this number myself. Windows 10 is the fastest Windows adoption (ever). I’m not surprised but I was maybe expecting more than 270 million activations by now.
As part of the Windows 10 anniversary update (out this summer) a lot of investments are being made to ink, and it’s now dubbed as a platform – not just the pen. I’m sure that better support for ink, especially from apps is a good thing.
Bash shell is now coming to Windows. I can’t say I’ve especially missed Bash or any other Un*x shell from my past but it’s a good step. PowerShell never took off as a shell, and command prompt is still the prominent “shell” people prefer using. Based on the on-stage demo even emacs works, which is impressive. Not sure if this is going to be a cross-platform addition, or just POSIX-based porting of the old stuff.
Desktop App Converter is a solution for converting existing Windows (Win32) desktop apps to “modern desktop apps.” These modern apps will have access to all universal Windows APIs.
Gaming is also a bit bet, especially with HoloLens. Microsoft tries to dub the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) as the best platform for game developers. The Forza Motorsport 6: Apex –demo was impressive, especially if I can eventually play the game in 4K on Xbox @ 60 fps. Not sure if that is reality before 2018. I felt this portion of the keynote was a call for game developers to stick or move to UWP.
Any retail Xbox One can now be turned into Xbox Dev Mode, through an activation app (available from the store). Remote deploy from Visual Studio works nicely to a remote Xbox, when the Xbox is booted in dev mode. Universal APIs are also available, including speech recognition.
HoloLens next up. It’s a Windows 10 device so UWP is a first class platform to develop on. Galaxy Explorer is a sample app which will be released on Windows Store, and the source code will be published on GitHub. HoloLens starts shipping today. All in all, HoloLens is magnificent but I didn’t see much if anything we didn’t see last year.
Conversations as a Platform is about bots and AI. Microsoft’s approach is about trustworthiness, augmenting human capabilities and being respectul. Not a bad place to start from!
Satya Nadella: Human language is the new UI
A lot of excitement around Cortana. Finland still doesn’t have Cortana available as-is, so I’m mostly sleeping through this portion of the keynote. You can apply for developer cortana preview through an invitation. Skype bot platform was announced, including support for video bots.
Every developer should build solutions that hook into Cortana, and thus every developer should build intelligent apps. For this there’s Cortana Intelligence Suite – this will be the core for all intelligent apps, including bot framework, machine learning and cognitive learning. The announcement was also for Microsoft Bot Framework, available at https://dev.botframework.com/. The SDK is already up on GitHub.
The APIs are very impressive – you can try http://imagednn.cloudapp.net/ by uploading your own image. I uploaded an image from my trip to Italy last year, and the result was amazing:
This concludes the keynote for day one. Time to go find some coffee and sessions!
Announcements from Build 2016
Here’s my full list of announcements up and during Build 2016.
- General availability of Azure Data Catalog
- Parse Server with Azure Managed Services
- Azure Logic Apps team is delivering a webcast April 7 – get the invitation
- Template export for Microsoft Azure Resource Manager (ARM)
Xamarin, cross-platform dev
- Windows 10 “anniversavery update” is free and coming this summer, bringing along Windows Hello support for apps and Microsoft Edge, among other features
- Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 and Anniversary SDK preview
- Desktop App Converter is a tool for converting existing Windows apps to modern desktop apps (.appx)
- HoloLens dev kits are available for ordering today
- Skype bot platform
- Microsoft Bot Framework
I work with Azure and frequently write about my experiences. I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, ex-MSFT. Based in Helsinki, Finland.