Not for the first time (and hopefully not the last ) I was a happy participant at Microsoft’s annual Build conference – you know, the conference called “Christmas in May for Microsoft developers”. I started the participation on these conferences a long time ago – to be specific, I was there when .NET was announced, or was there when WPF was christened – yes, they weren’t touted as ‘Build’, rather ‘Professional Developer Conference’, but close enough. Later, was part of ‘TechReady’, the internal Microsoft conferences tailored for the ‘field’ part of Microsoft, but nevertheless similar to Build/PDC, and been participating/presenting on TechEd as well.
After this short intro, what do I think about the 2018 Build? It’s different and it’s the same. The same energy was there – save for the keynote, but more about that later – many of the same presenters (sometimes about a completely new topic), same and new friends to meet. Why it’s different? Because it’s no longer the same company, not even the same company compared to a year ago. With some more execs leaving from the ‘old’, ‘Ballmer’ era, now the company can completely tear off the old wounds, and can change trajectory; although they are little like the Titanic (hopefully not by hitting the iceberg, rather than the way how it’s hard to change direction), so there are areas which are slower to understand – everything has changed.
It started for MVPs and RDs a day earlier – I’m neither of that –, but this meant good news for Oren Novotny, my old friend and ex-mate – not only his project (RX.NET) got moved to the .NET Foundation (becoming https://github.com/dotnet/reactive), was he appointed to join the Microsoft Regional Director program, but he was also honored to become the Ninja Cat of the Year! Btw, do you know where Ninja Cat is coming from? Originally it was featured in an internal powerpoint deck about Windows 10, and quickly became the logo to celebrate and symbolize the passion and energy of the people behind code. Unofficially, it represents the spirit of Microsoft employees. Officially, the award, one of the 2018 Windows Developer Awards decided by voting, recognizes the Developer (with capital D), who demonstrates the core values of Microsoft the best and made one or more significant contributions to Windows development in the past year. So, Oren ‘NinjaCat’ Novotny – congratulations! Well Done!
So, on day 1, as I was standing in the registration line (one of the first in line), I tried to summarize my expectations for the conference and for the announcements. As Morgan Stanley is heavily involved in the early discussions for many of the products (whether that is the next version of .NET, .NET Core, Azure, Azure Stack, etc.), many of the announcements coming up I was already aware, or in some cases, already played with. So I was more to look forward meeting with some of the industry leaders, meeting with the product groups, meeting with the decision makers and to learn more broader term next steps the industry and Microsoft is going to take. It also gave me a thrill – for the first time ever, I wasn’t only to enter the Build conference – I was to also visit ‘MRJam’, a ‘semi secret’ Mixed Reality subconference, also by Microsoft, on the same premise. What did I expect from MRJam? As being the first one of the kind, did not had any special expectations, just being able to see other people doing development for mixed reality headsets and the HoloLens (I’m the latter) and to listen some sessions seemed to be adequate – however it turned out to be something significantly better. More about that later
Freshly registered we lined up for the keynote – I had to admit the registration experience was significantly more organized than last time (that was a mess in a small room, now it was a 5x as big room with 3x as many registration stations AND the swag handling (t-shirts only) was done in a separate section), we could walk next to the expo and a newly designed, much bigger, better Channel9 area.
While walking down the fenced corridors, could not avoid spotting Seth Juarez preparing for his opening Channel9 remarks – not a small feat to do to cold open a 3 day conference AND prepare for 3 straight day of talking to people – haven’t seen the Channel9 stage empty during the days Btw, could not avoid spotting, beard became now the new norm
We definitely weren’t alone. I haven’t seen an official tally yet, but based on what I saw on the various sessions, in the lunch room, etc., I guess 7.000 people – don’t quote me on that, I might be absolutely crazily completely off with that.
The line of announcements started meanwhile standing outside, if you had an open ear to the Channel9 recording booth, started with – Windows 10 1803 ISOs showed up on the Microsoft Volume License Center’s website (with its hopping 4382 MB to download)! Also, we all knew for sure that we would be Hanselmanned sooner or later, but he did actually show up shortly before the keynote with many ‘aaah’ and ‘oooh’
Than the show began! Same as last time, I was sitting next to the Press area, just to slightly right from it, Mary Jo, Thurrott sitting just a few feet from me – this has to be a good seat
The opening words were new in so many ways. Yes, we have had opening words delivered at Connect 2016 by no other than Stephen Hawking, and many other amazing scientists, but this time, it came from Charlotte Yarkoni about Project Emma, a wearable device which we saw as a prototype a year ago. It’s to help those patients, who are suffering from Parkinson’s – Emma herself got the disease at age 29, and being someone talented with wonderful ideas (being a designed and a creative director) she was afraid the diagnosis might end her career. With the new Emma watch, she is able to live a full life, and can have her wonderful ideas being fleshed out by herself.
The actual opening notes from Satya Nadella made me googling/binging quickly – why does Bill Gates speak about Apple stock prices? Yes, I wasn’t following what exactly Warren Buffet said about stock prices, and wasn’t sure others were following him either – lost me a little bit there. And if your cold open is not hitting the right vibes, you start to feel out of blues… Back to announcement mode, two new mixed reality business applications announced, layout and remote assist. As the name implies, it is showing two common usecase – layouting physical objects over real world, and providing real 3D, context sensitive help when needed using a mixture of devices – I actually have had the ability to try out an earlier implementation of the latter by a company called Kazendi where they showcased their holomeeting product. We got another reason for using Visual Studio Code – Sort JSON Objects addin for sorting both your objects and your settings. Announcement of Microsoft’s own content delivery network (CDN) – this time again Microsoft is trying to get into a rather busy field, although with the promise of a rather big number of EDGE sites this might be more promising than it sounds (50ms on average in 60 countries with 54 edge pops in 33 countries + 16 cache pops); although I don’t see this as an imminent threat to akamai, cloudfront, cloudflare, level 3, etc.
We went a little hardware and IoT Edge from here (so many edges Microsoft have now ), so when you were thinking (for a good reason actually) that Microsoft XBox Kinect is dead – here is Kinect for Azure. A hardware solution not insimilar to the one in the next HoloLens in 2019, with depth sensor resolution bumped up to 1024×1024 from 640×480. As Microsoft did give a Kinect to each developer at a previous Build, many developers who weren’t really into gaming figured out, that with the ‘Kinect for Windows’ SDK, many amazing industrial solutions can be made – this is what lead to the fourth reinvention of Kinect into this small devices that can be fit along with other IoT solutions. To be honest, I can already see some amazing mixed reality projects forming in my mind. News about IoT is not ended: IoT Edge itself got opensourced, along with an AI Developer Kit for Cameras from Qualcomm and a Drone SDK from DJI, demonstrated by flying an actual drone in the keynote recognizing flaws on the pipes on stage. This is actually enabled by many updated cognitive services, some of them are part of Azure IoT Edge, enabling you to train in the cloud but run on the device enabling blazingly fast decisions while being superiorly precise at the same time. Already at Azure, did you know about the new Terraform resource provider? This would enable you to write an ARM template that creates a Kubernetes Cluster on Azure Container Services (AKS), and then, via the Terraform OSS provider, Kubernetes resources such as pods, services and secrets can be created as dependent resources. Also, geo replication for Azure Container Registry with ACR Build, to enable easier OS and framework patching with Docker. Also – actually pretty slick way to enable/disable – Azure SignalR with literally half line of code change (AddSignalR –> AddAzureSignalR), moving SignalR connectivity to Azure Edge using a fully managed service.
This next one is big: Microsoft is changing the revenue mix. App developers now going to get 85% instead of 70%, and going to get 95% if you get redirected from the developer website to the store. Would this be enough to be a gamechanger? Would this result in a landslide? Very hard to tell, when looking at this number I don’t feel little, but I feel late. Back to User Interfaces – XAML Islands are coming up (enabling the use of Edge WebView in the earlier tech)! These enable you to host UWP content in your Winforms or WPF applications – who said that Winforms/WPF is dead? Actually, everyone said it.
But if, we are already at WPF/Winforms – next to announcing .NET Core 2.1 RC1 (which contains a performance related PR and a Linux compatibility PR from me!), an important announcement of .NET Core 3.0 is also there – with the ability to run Winforms and WPF on top of .NET Core 3.0, giving it side-by-side ability and probably opening the way of them becoming opensource. And actually, clippy can help you code it. Not kidding, IntelliCode is trying to become the clippy of development and provide AI assisted capabilities by not just better contextual intellisense and focused PR reviews, but in the future actually trying to compare your source code to other source codes and trying to point out if you used the wrong variable in a line.
When it came to AI again, Microsoft showed all the breakthrough we had in AI in the short past – Vision test with object recognition parity in 2016, Speech recognition test parity in 2017, Reading comprehension parity in 2018 January, and Machine translation parity in 2018 March. But where it becomes scary, is at things like Project Brainwave, an Intel FPGA solution enabling superior and never before seen acceleration for real time AI while being cost effective and efficient.
When it comes to AI, one of the topics always brought up are bots & intelligent assistants. We got used to frozen hells by now – and looks like the previously announced Cortana-Alexa partnership is actually going to happen, although I found it quite awkward that I explicitly had to sign in/out of them. One of the biggest applause of the keynote was a rather unexplainable moment – one of the canned responses of Alexa about Cortana. Another very good example for the kind of thinking about AI came up than, as part of a mega Microsoft 365 demo with an ASL interpreter included – we had a sense what is coming up, but it was still groundbreaking how easily the machine was able to transcribe not only what was spoken but also who spoke and what was the call-to-action. We saw integration with HoloLens, integration with LUIS, integration with Surface Hub, etc. – if only my workspace would look like this
I’ll continue after the break – we actually had a break with a little gym exercise included