BUILD: All That is Old is New Again

Watching Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer cap the Day 2 keynote address at the Microsoft BUILD Conference, I couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of déjà vu. Despite the touch-sensitive tablets, the cloud-savvy tool demos, and the dive into the ASP.NET MVC features in Visual Studio 11 and .NET Framework 4.5, Ballmer’s BUILD comments invoked a profound nostalgia.

Ballmer confirmed the message that Microsoft Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky had earlier delivered. When it comes to developer strategy at Microsoft, it is Windows first, Windows last, and Windows always. With a slimmed down and composed Ballmer pacing the stage, I felt myself traveling back in time, to an era before .NET Framework, when Microsoft was still the determined underdog in so many attractive markets.

“This year there will be 350 million Windows devices sold,” Ballmer told the audience. “There is no phone, there is no tablet, there is nothing on the planet– there’s no operating system on the planet — that will ship 350 million of anything, other than Windows. And that creates opportunity for developers.”

The ghosts of PDCs past are whispering in my ear. The room is thick with the shadows of IBM OS/2 and Novell Netware, vanquished rivals that once held the ground that Apple iOS and Google Android occupy today. And Ballmer — fit, poised and quietly impassioned — punches the air with his words. There are markets to be won, contracts to be landed, career opportunities to be seized.

“It’s the day and age of the developer,” Ballmer intones as his address draws to a close. “It’s the day and age of the Windows developer.”

It’s a strangely shocking statement. There’s a confidence in Ballmer’s words, almost a swagger, that has been missing in Redmond during the .NET days. Suddenly, Microsoft is no longer the company of broad abstraction and managed code. It’s a company built around a simple idea – Windows everywhere – and the opportunities that idea creates. As Ballmer concludes, his words are direct, focused, native.

“And in the day and age of the Windows developer, I am going to leave you with one last thought. Let’s move forward together, and let’s seize the opportunity for developers, developers, developers.”

Oh yeah, this is the Microsoft I remember.

Comments (2)

  1. A developer says:

    Oh for goodness sake. Is there anything that MSDN magazine won't cheer-lead? We can't use Silverlight because it's essentially DOA in Windows 8, and everyone will have to switch to HTML5 despite it not being clear if HTML5 can do what Silverlight or Flash can do. .NET is on the way out, but you can't use the new API's because only WIndows 8 supports them, and in the real world not everyone instantly moves to the latest OS. The tool chain is vaguer than it's ever been, and MS has essentially said they're depreciating every tool we're familiar with, and this is supposed to be a new great era for developers?

  2. RobertWG says:

    @A developer

    I have largely the same reaction, though not quite as extreme.  Nothing stops working in Win8 so far, which I consider a minor victory.  I also have no problem with Metro or the WinRT–for tablet development.  They actually look great, minus a few sore points (App-store only deployment, Cloud connectivity required for notification, general lack of enterprise appeal).  I am sorely disappointed that I cannot use most of WinRT from a desktop app, particularly the XAML stack.  I use WPF extensively and love it, but really need better performance.  Silverlight is not an option for being integrated into an existing WinForms app.  So, I'm stuck in Limbo unless some nice open source XAML stack comes out somewhere.  At least that would be more likely to work on Win7 or XP.