Microsoft Build 2011

Just watched the keynote address from Microsoft Build 2011.

Microsoft’s new take on what a modern software platform should be. Clearly heavily influenced by a reaction to Apple’s success with the iPad and the App Store. But where Apple are now trying to bring some of that success back to the Mac, Microsoft are really starting from scratch in this space and are building a strong unified platform.

Some of the main themes from the demos as part of the Build keynote were clearly reactions to the new market for tablets

  • New Metro tiled UI
  • Touch
  • Low-power, fast-start
  • Serious work to engage hardware manufacturers for new Windows tablet devices

And some were reactions to Google’s growing strength and Apple’s new push with online services

  • Synchronisation of data from applications between desktop, tablet, phone
  • Access to SkyDrive online storage from any application to share and synchronise data
  • Use of Windows Live as single sign-on
  • Ability to access one PC from another through Windows Live

While others showed a new appreciation of how people’s online social life has changed as data and devices have become more mobile

  • Integration of Facebook and other online services into Contacts book
  • Integration of images from sites like Flickr into searches
  • Automatic upload of images taken with camera on a device
  • Roaming on 3G and Wifi networks, with limits when on networks with usage charges

Other aspects showed their strong attempt to unify the Windows 8 platform and avoiding the platform splintering that Apple and Google are currently dealing with

  • Single OS for all hardware form factors, desktops, laptops, tablets, phones
  • Unified runtime WinRT for all languages
  • Ability to write first-class applications in Html/Javascript
  • Ability to port Silverlight applications quickly to new UI
  • Ability to write native-code applications targeting the new runtime
  • Ability to run all existing Windows 7 applications

For me as a developer there were some big gaps left in how the platform works and how the software stack fits together which should be addressed in the rest of the talks from the conference.

This also doesn’t yet ease fears about support for existing technologies like WPF. Html5/Javascript apps were strongly featured, easily porting a Silverlight app was demonstrated and support for native code in C++ was mentioned. Later talks hopefully will cover migration from the various existing platforms both for existing applications and existing application developers in the real world where employers will now be making a new assessment about the future development skills


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