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.
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.
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.