Belgians at //Build 2015 – Summary from Day 1

 

It’s that time of the year again, the conference every developer focusing on Microsoft technology is looking forward to: //BUILD. Selling out in less than an hour shows how eager we developers are to join this event, with the purpose to get the latest news and to expand our network. With 40 Belgians on site, we do have a nice delegation in San Francisco.

For days the suspense has been building up for the keynote this morning, hoping for it to be packed with great announcements and we got what we hoped for. If you want to re-live the entire keynote or just watch the parts you like in particular, you can head over to Channel 9. Here’s my short summary of the announcements made today. I’ve broken them down into groups to make them easier to follow:

AZURE

  • Azure received over 500 new features in the last year! And several of them were open source related. We got an extensive demo on Docker running on Azure.
  • Azure SQL Database gets transparent data encryption and full text search. Elastic Database Pool will help customers to get the best performance and productivity out of their SQL databases for the lowest price.
  • Analytics on Azure received 2 major additions: SQL Data Warehouse (elastic scaling of your data storage) and Data Lake (HDFS for the cloud, able to store petabytes of data).

DEVELOPER TOOLS

  • We all love our favorite IDE and as of today Visual Studio Code (a trimmed down version of Visual Studio) is available for Windows, Linux and Mac. It brings real IntelliSense, debugging and Git integration.
  • .NET Core runs on Windows, Linux and Mac. Previews are available as of today.

WINDOWS 10

  • Windows 10 is proclaimed to be a ‘new generation of Windows’, delivered as a service with a unified store. A single binary of your universal app across all type of devices.
  • Windows Store now has carrier billing (for all platforms), subscriptions and affiliate referrals.
  • Windows Store for business, with highlighted consumer apps and private LOB apps.
  • Windows 10 upgrade is free for the first year, which should give a kick start to the aimed goal of 1 billion devices running Windows 10 in 3 years.
  • Cortana has a deep integration with your Windows 10 and can be used as the single access point to tasks and interactions like starting a conversation.
  • The lock screen on Windows 10 will learn from your choices through the Spotlight feature to show your preferences. It also brings app advertising and installing an app directly from the lock screen.
  • Project Spartan, Microsoft’s new browser is now known as Microsoft Edge. It has extensions like we’re used to have in Firefox and Chrome.
  • There’s more: Continuum for phones. Attach a screen and your phone just turned into a desktop, with apps on the big screen showing as they should on a real pc. Add in task switching and keyboard shortcuts and you’re set. Note that this requires new phone devices with dual screen support.

 APP DEVELOPMENT

  • Office as a Platform. Add-ins follow you everywhere, be it on the desktop, online or on an iPad. Data comes to you, there’s no reason to open up another app for it.
  • Integrate Cortana, Xbox Live, add natural user interactions like pen and speech and finally turn your app into a hologram. 
  • Since Windows 10 is available on all form factors, apps should be written for this flexibility. Looks and behavior change according to form factor and it is called Continuum.
  • There are 4 new ways to get apps into the store:
    • A packaged web site with e.g. push notifications and in app purchases.
    • Native .NET and Win32 applications, Adobe will bring Photoshop Elements
      to the store.
    • Reuse of your Android Java/C++ code.
    • Reuse of your iOS Objective-C code, which includes full support for it
      in Visual Studio.

HOLOLENS

  • HoloLens allows you to see holograms everywhere, attach apps to your wall (e.g. video player) or even let the app move with your while running around the house.
  • HoloLens has a wide range of scenarios: from architects designing a house to teaching students surgery.
  • The combination of HoloLens and IoT allows robots to move around the environment without sensors as the environment is scanned by HoloLens.

 

As you can see, it was a very packed keynote. Next to that we also have the release of Visual Studio 2015 RC and a new Windows 10 Insider build (10074). Together with some of the other sessions today, these
are my personal impressions after day 1:

  • Microsoft keeps putting a lot of effort in open source, both releasing their own code but also integration third party products, with great results.
  • Azure was already an important service for Microsoft and will continue to be. The amount of updates and new releases over the last year is mind-blowing. Azure took the center stage in the day 1 keynote, where in the past it was often kept for the second part of the keynote or day 2.
  • Microsoft will do everything to close the app gap on their platforms, trying to remove the argument media keeps bringing up why the platform can’t be a success. While reuse of existing Android and iOS code might be great news for end users, I’m under the impression that quite a few of us app developers feel like their left in the cold with their XAML expertise. Time will tell what the market does with this.
  • HoloLens is awesome. There are plenty of useful scenarios for both business and end users where this device can be a winner. Attendees had the chance to register to test it, but places were limited and I wasn’t one of the lucky few. The future seems bright, but everything will stand or fall with the release timespan and the price (which are both still unknown).

Don’t forget to tune in on Channel 9 for the keynote of day 2 as plenty of extra news should be announced. All other sessions are recorded as well and will be online in the next few days.

Bart Lannoeye is an enthusiastic consultant at Continuum for the Microsoft technology stack. He’s mainly focusing on custom .NET solutions, but he’s always open for a new challenge and eager to learn. He’s board member of the Belgium Metro App Developer Network – MADN and also a MEET (Microsoft Extended Experts Team) Belgium member.

Bart started mobile development back on the early days of Windows Phone 7 and spent the last 2,5 years creating mobile applications for healthcare on Windows 8. In his spare time Bart is looking into the new Microsoft technologies, with most of his time going to the XAML stack.