Microsoft held it’s first Ignite conference this past week in Chicago. Ignite combines previous Microsoft conferences like TechEd and I think SharePoint and others. Unlike Build Ignite is about managing IT and services like Offic365. For me there wasn’t much news but there were still some interesting bits of information.

One of the biggest was the Windows Update for Business. The new Update allows businesses to stagger updates and control which users get which feature. Secondly Microsoft released a public preview of Office 2016. Office featured quite heavily at Ignite with news about Office365 and OneDrive. The news around OneDrive was interesting; for the first time we got a look at the roadmap for coming features and updates. The big news is OneDrive will be consolidating its consumer and business products on both the front and back ends. With Office Office365 is adding the newest Office application, Sway, to 365.

One of the more interesting events, or set of events, was Ignite had multiple sessions around Microsoft hardware. There was one for Windows 10 on phones. The session went over a bit of what was covered at Build, but it also covered Microsoft Lumia. While it was brief the Lumia discussion did confirm that there will be high end hardware (so you with the pitchfork and torchlight can go home). Ignite also held a number of sessions on the Surface.

There were the obvious ones about deploying Surface devices in workplaces. But there were two that were about design and development. One was an overview about the development about the Surface Pro 3. This one was interesting because it went into the cost of development and some of the reasoning behind certain design choices. Now the second one was done by Surface’s Creative director Ralf Groene. It was much more an overview of the Surface brand but it interesting because it describe the history of the Surface and the process by which it was made. (This will be its own post).

The last two weeks has been chock full of Microsoft developer and product news that I am only now getting to write down my thoughts.

This week Microsoft held both Microsoft Ignite and Microsoft Edge Web Summit. Last week it held it’s annual developer conference Build as well as a small gathering for analysts and investors. They even managed to squeeze in the release of their newest member of the Surface family.

Busy week

So I was planning on doing a guide for understanding the Windows Universal Platform; going in depth but forgot I am not a developer. But I still want to discuss this from a non-developer, layman’s view. I will be talking about a few of these topics in detail but a bit later.

Build

Like I said last week was the Build conference which is Microsoft’s big developer show. And the focus there was on it’s platforms. So the focus was on Azure and Windows 10. Build 2015 was an interesting event. Not just because it began with Azure or HoloLens, but how it illustrated where both Microsoft and Windows is going.

For the last two years I think many enthusiasts looking on from the outside have really questioned if Windows is relevant to Microsoft. Windows 8 and Windows Phone’s reception and the embrace of a cross platform strategy has led many, including at time myself, to think Microsoft is divesting itself from Windows. We wanted clarity and I think Build brought that.

The more I learn about Windows 10 the more I buy what CEO Satya Nadella says; this is Windows being retooled and rethought for the next stage. While I still think Windows 10 is mostly about regaining the desktop it is also not abandoning the mobile aspiration of Windows 8. In some ways 10 is a clearing of the deck. This is a version of Windows that is moving back toward the desktop and also cleaning it up to move forward. I mean for all the talk about pulling back from Windows 8, Windows 10 is also refining what 8 brought. Microsoft is expanding the Windows store in terms of what it offers and where it runs.

There will be one store across devices and it will even have programs built running traditional desktop code. The new Windows Universal Platform (WUP) is an expansion of the Windows Runtime. Windows 10 is about making it easier to use on a desktop laptop, but it is not a return to Windows 7.

Build being a developer conference was all about developers and code; which made some reporters supposedly upset cause they wanted this to be WWDC. The interesting thing for me was how much the developer part of the show was about them going to where developers are. They released a number of products to Mac and Linux developers; specifically Visual Studio Code.

They also opened up Windows development to developers on iOS and Android by making it easier to just port code. Yes this is a Hail Mary pass but it also makes sense. And to me anyway it didn’t feel like a death knell the way Android porting to Blackberry did or the way it was rumored for Windows Phone. The news about porting iOS apps was a surprise because no one was expecting it. The more interesting in my opinion part was the plan to bring traditional desktop programs into the new Universal Platform. The reasons this port is interesting is in order to do so developers essentially are having to get rid of the a lot of things that needed to go.

Beyond the developer news the other big thing was design. Or more to the fact the design team is finally talking publicly. One of the things that has been frustrating for me has been this silence on the design front. Around Windows the majority of discussions are around development and tooling but little about design. I think part of the issue with Windows Phone and especially Windows 8 development was this lack of designer input. This Build we actually had a high level talk and hell even a blog post. Progress!

So this week the Surface 3 finally went on sale in stores and online and I once again wade through the reviews (both written and video).

Since the release of the very first Surface I have noticed a pattern in a lot of the reviews that almost become cliché. Actually it reoccurs so much you could make a Bingo game out of them. I am not saying they aren’t making valid points but at some point even they have to know they shooting the proverbial dead horse and move on. So this is my list of things said about the Microsoft Surface aka Surface Review Bingo (Surface 3 edition).

Lapability

Now this is the part of the review that either comes at the end or sometimes is the whole review, especially when the Surface was new. Now this problem I blame on the Surface team itself; for giving a name to how well a tablet could sit on one’s lap. It seems like every review has to remark on it. How well it does or doesn’t and how some wish it were a laptop.

Is it a PC or is it a Tablet

This is the part of the review where you can tell how the whole of the review will go down. This part is also tied to the discussion on apps. Now the issue with the Surface for most reviewers is it doesn’t really conform to how a tablet is defined. Most tablets are defined by the iPad; a light, keyboard-less device that runs a mobile (phone) OS and apps which you touch the screen to use. A tablet (most times) doesn’t have or require a keyboard. The Surface is a tablet, but it also functions like a PC. The Surface also has an optional keyboard which makes it more of a PC; many reviewers will tell you it is required and thus the debate continues.

Apps

Now if a review mentions how to use the Surface or “real” Windows you have reached the apps portion of the review. Let’s get this out of the way, there are not a lot of apps (software written for tablets/phones) in the Windows store, and what is there is a mixed bag. When apps are talked about it usually ends up as, “don’t buy this to use as a tablet, you’ll be disappointed”. They’ll also mention again how you will need the keyboard because you’ll want to use the desktop which isn’t touch friendly and thus you need a keyboard.

“Real” Windows

Now up until the Surface 3 the Surface line was divided between the ARM based Surface line the Pro line that ran on Intel. The ARM version ran a ARM based version of Windows called Windows RT which only ran tablet apps and not the one’s built for PCs. The Pro line though runs on Intel which REAL Windows; desktop programs like Photoshop, iTunes, and Chrome. Real Windows has none of the limitations Windows RT did except not suitable for touch, not scaling well to certain screens, a tad on the insecure side. But hell its REAL Windows.

Why doesn’t Microsoft just include the Keyboard?

So the Microsoft Surface comes with a set of accessories. One of these has been the TypeCover which as it’s name implies is cover that also doubles as a keyboard. The keyboard section in the review usually goes like this, ” We love the keyboard, but wish it was included with the Surface. We also wish that there were a version that was a real keyboard attachment to turn this into a real PC.” Sometimes I wish they would say it’s optional (because it is).

Now these are just some of the re-occuring themes, motifs, and memes that will litter the next Surface review you read. I am not pointing them out to say they are wrong; only that they exist. I may even use one or two myself.

So I ran across this interview with writer and hip hop personality Karrine Steffans aka Superhead. It was an interview about her relationship with the rapper Lil Wayne with radio personality DJ Vlad. It was snippet of an obviously larger interview but the thing that struck me was how Steffans talked about her “relationship” to Wayne.

I don’t often write about this type of stuff but Steffans comments and her thinking left an impression.

Now for those that don’t know Karrine Steffans is famous for having relationships with numerous rappers and actors; which she later wrote about in a series of memoirs. Steffans is a controversial subject in hip hop circles because of her disclosures. I am not going to talk about that but about her and Wayne.

It seems that Wayne and her have been in a very, very open relationship for years now. It’s not like a traditional open relationship where both agree going in, set up rules, and make sure whoever they sleep with understand. It’s more like they just are and occasionally have other people.

It would be a modern thing except for the part that both have married and/or became engaged to people. Wayne had kids with multiple women, and Steffans expect any man she dates or marries to be okay with her running off when Weezy F Baby calls.

Now Steffans says these guys get with her knowing this because, “they like being with the woman of a powerful man”. Maybe that is true; maybe its getting with Superhead. Maybe they think they’ll change her, I don’t know. But as she explains they always leave; she expects them to leave.

I have no idea what the women that get involve with Wayne think, especially the one’s that have his kids.

I don’t know but it doesn’t seem like a healthy situation foor anyone because no one has any type of relationship. Wayne and Steffans are a loose concept of a couple; he goes to her when he needs to and she waits like 911. Anyone that walks in is at best a guest and at worst a fuckbuddy. Anyone trying to get hitched is silly cause they are committed until the call comes in. Steffans doesn’t want anything that creates the semblance of ownership or owing and in terms doesn’t value the guys she let’s in cause she’s waiting on them leaving.

It’s a mess or maybe it is love and I am too archaic to understand it.

I’m off to a monestary, y’all can have this mess.

There has been so much news coming out of this year’s Build Conference that it’s hard to just recap daily events. Beyond HoloLens which is amazing is a number of initiatives and changes that are making Windows 10 this very intriguing platform to watch. In particular the future of the UI once known as Metro and Continuum.

Now this isn’t exactly breaking news, other sites have reported it, but during one of the sessions on Windows Live Tiles one of the slides listed Interactive Tiles as a feature being worked . While Live tiles allow you to see information without having to open an application you still have to open an app to do anything proactive. Interactive tiles function like Widgets which allow you to interact with info without leaving the Start Screen. Interactive tiles were introduced as a research project two years ago and it looks like they will be coming in Windows 10.

Interactive_Tiles

On the other side of things is Continuum. Continuum is a system that makes it easy for users of Windows to switch between the Desktop and Tablet environments. Basically it’s a tablet mode for Windows PCs and 2-in-1 devices. On Wednesday Microsoft introduced a version of Continuum for Windows Phones running 10. unlike the PC/Tablet PC version, Continuum for Phones turns smartphones into PCs. This means with a dock, wireless dongle, or USB cord your Windows phone can deliver a PC experience.

Continuum_Concept

Now during a talk on how to implement Continuum for Phones members of the Continuum team briefly showed a slide that showed a device they described, “as not a PC but a device powered by a Phone.” The white laptop dock, which was also described as a detachable tablet PC, would work like a cross between Windows RT and a Chromebook. The team described it as one of a new class of devices that could be powered by Continuum for Phones. The idea of using a phone to power a laptop isn’t new; Motorola did it with the Atrix and Palm with the Foleo. Asus also markets the Padfone as tablet/phone device. The difference here is Microsoft is designing its software to work across screens and providing developers with the tools to do the same.

The fact that the developers showed off a picture of a device looks like Microsoft or one of its hardware partners is planning on showing us something cool.

build1220150429_web

Yesterday Microsoft kicked of its annual developer conference, Build, in San Francisco. With a packed audience the Day One keynote covered Microsoft’s cloud offerings, Office, and of course Windows.

Going into Wednesday’s event much was riding on what would be said by CEO Satya Nadella and various VP. While Windows 10 has been largely lauded Windows and the PC have seen declines in sales; along with the dismal fortunes of Windows Phones. So a lot was in play.

What followed in the two and half hour keynote was something that stated exactly what Microsoft is along with raising a few questions on where Windows is going.

build1020150429_web

Unlike pasts Builds the Day One event did not start off with Windows but Azure. In fact one of the interesting things about the keynote was it covered Azure, Office, and Windows with Windows going last. The Azure platform continues to grow and this year’s announcement’s by Server and Enterprise chief Scott Guthrie were about filling out the cloud story. On tap were improvements to Azure SQL Server, a new service for big data called Azure Data Lake, and Azure Data Warehouse. The big news for developers is a new product for Visual Studio called Visual Studio Code. Code is an code editing program that for the first time brings Visual Studio to OSX and Linux. It is also available on Windows. Code is currently in preview and free. Code along with Azure services continue to signal Microsoft’s commitment to cross platform. Next up was a brief run through of Office,

For a while now Office has been slowly moving from a pure application to a service; now its morphing into a platform. On the stage Wednesday, Nadella himself helped demo the ability to run add-ons like car service Uber within Outlook and Excel. Unlike the Micros of yesteryear, the new apps work across PC, Mac, and browsers. Along with the new initiative it was also announced that Skype will be launching an API for integrating into apps and the web.

Then came Windows.

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Now between each segment Nadella would walk out and introduce the next speaker. With Windows OS chief Terry Myerson came out to give an overview and update on Windows 10. He reiterated that 10 will be a free upgrade in its first year out. He also added that Microsoft’s goal was to have Windows 10 on over a billion devices across three years (That’s ambitious). Myerson also unveiled four new ways to create applications on Windows: Web, .NET/Win32, JAVA/C++ (Android), and Objective C (iOS). The addition of Android apps was and is a controversial move and you could tell from the reaction of developers. iOS was a surprise. Both moves make it easier for developers to port applications to Windows.

With the opening out of the way he introduced Joe Belfiore and Alex Kipman to show demos. Belfiore who heads up design and UX walked through changes to Windows 10.

The big news around Windows 10 in Build (other than HoloLens) was Continuum for Phones. Unlike the version on the PC which let’s users switch between touch and keyboard the phone version allows you to turn a phone into a PC like device. Belfiore also showed off further finishes such as an transparency layer similar to Aero and a new look to the Start Menu when in tablet mode. Kipman caped off the demos with the first look at HoloLens’ finished product and another UI demo. Basically HoloLens is the future even its only 15 minutes. The HoloLens demo showed how you can pin Video and Skype to a wall (and make it go with you), place a 3d weather model on a table, and have the wildest anatomy class ever. HoloLens continues to rack up workplace scenarios that make it feel more like a tool than a plaything.

Satya Nadella came back on stage to close out the presentation and once again drove home that his Microsoft was about reaching its customers where they live; that means both on Windows and across other platforms. I will have more to say later as the conference moves on but for now onto Day 2.

images: Microsoft

So it’s that time again, Microsoft’s Build conference. In a few minutes Microsoft will once again take the stage in San Francisco’s Moscone Center to talk about Windows and Azure. This time the Redmond gang will be talking Windows 10 and Windows across devices.

This year finds Microsoft in the now familiar position of underdog trying to sell developers on a platform many consider irrelevant, especially in mobile computing. Windows 8 wasn’t well received and Windows Phone has only made headway as budget phone option (barely). Microsoft’s own moves to push out services on other platforms has left users confused and concerned as to whether Microsoft still considers Windows valuable. And I will not even start on how people are reacting to changes in the UI/UX of Windows 10; let’s just say it is ugly.

So Build will be important because people want a definitive answer, let us hope Microsoft has the answers.

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