Microsoft Build 2016 – impressions and thoughts

I was lucky enough to be able to attend this year Microsoft Build conference. Almost 5000 tickets were sold out in just 1 minute – according to Microsoft. And that was with a pretty hefty price – 2195 USD for 3 days conference.

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At the registration

Yes I’m pretty excited. This conference is for developers so Microsoft intends to shows their most exciting technologies for the year ahead.

One thing I was most disappointed about is this year Microsoft gives no hardware as gift. Instead, they gave us an Azure account. I haven’t checked it, but it is supposed to value at $1000 or so (It is an account for some of the Code Labs, it’s not a gift from Microsoft). Last year, it was a HP x360 Spectre laptop, and the year before that attendees got an Xbox One (which was 499$ at the time) and 500USD credit in Microsoft Store. Microsoft explained that they want offer a “deeper technical experience” instead. I don’t know if they’ll deliver that promise, but a hardware gift would be really nice. I did hope for a HP Elite X3 this year. Lesson learned: Never set your expectation too high.

And today the show starts.

I’m amazed to see the how big the KeyNote is. Well, at least on the first day, almost all 5000 attendants were here:

It was, undoubtedly, the biggest conference I’ve attended. The keynote at NDC London 2016 was big? It’s small compared to this.

And we have Satya Nadella on the stage. When you see Microsoft CEO talks about something, you know they mean business.

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The focuses of BUILD this year, are:

  • Hololens. Of course. The mighty reality platform Microsoft has talked about for sometimes. And it’s finally real – Microsoft starts shipping it from March 30th. The demo on stage was pretty inspiring. They also have another demo – Destination Mars, which was built by NASA and was available for developers on the exhibition – if you are fast and lucky enough. I tried several times and failed all the time to get a ticket into the demo session. There were a looong queue of people eager to get a ticket, and Microsoft seems to think it’s better to keep them hungry. Hololens could have had a much more impact if it was given to developers as a gift, but that’s not realistic if you look at the price – 3000$. I truly hope Microsoft will continue to push this, and after some iterations, it might be cheap enough to give it to developers for free at BUILD. Good luck to developers in upcoming BUILD conferences.
  • Bot Framework/Cortana:
  • Windows is a new home for developers. You must have heard about Bash coming to Windows. And it’s a big thing.

The keynote in the first day ended with a touching story. A developer, who lost his sight since 7, with the help from technologies, created something that allows him to see. And he hope it will help other people, too.rsz_12903850_10154126208534038_1064989287_o

It’s a smart glass which when he swipes over its temples, it will tell him what is happening in surrounding environment, such as “I think it’s a young man riding a skateboard”, or “I see two person, one man, 40, looks exciting, one woman, 22, looks happy”. It’s really emotional moment when Satya appeared on stage with the developer and said “It’s not about dreaming the future, it’s about building it” (Or so, I don’t remember the words exactly). Many attendees stood up and cheered. Well done Microsoft. It’s how you ended a keynote.

The keynote the second day – which Scott Guthrie, once Program Manager of ASP.NET MVC (and known as “ASP.NET MVC guy”, his blog was the source to go if you want to be updated about ASP.NET MVC), now an Executive Vice President of Microsoft, on the stage, talking about Azure platform.

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Some numbers there. Microsoft is pushing Azure hard and I think they made some great progresses. However Azure is still lagging behind some competitors, such as AWS. At least, competition is better for customer.

The keynote was also about Xamarin: Scott announced It’s now free for Visual Studio developers, even with Community version (which is free itself). This was somewhat predictable when Microsoft announced they acquired Xamarin, but it’s nonetheless got the applauding and cheering from attendees.

The final part was about Office. Many developers decided to leave early, which is understandable as Office is not that popular framework.

If there were anything bad about this BUILD, then there are two things come into my mind:

  • Foods. The foods provided to attendees were abysmal. They were too bad that many developers decided to grab something outside to eat. When I was at NDC London, the foods are freely available through the day and you have the options to choose from (Mainly Australia, Britain and Norway foods, three places where NDC conferences are held). They are not that fancy, but they were more than OK to keep you fed during the day. At build, there was only one meal at lunch, and you can only choose between meat and vegetable. I know it’s hard to feed 5000 peoples, but Microsoft could have definitely done better than that.
  • Code Lab sessions. I attended a sessions named “ASP.NET Core MVC deep dive”, and it’s not deep dive at all. The information there was not even deep as the official documents at http://docs.asp.net/en/latest/conceptual-overview/aspnet.html . The session itself is not so bad, it was the misleading title. You can have better result with one hour reading the documentation (which I did) than attend those sessions.

In the end, this year’s BUILD conference was a big thing for me. It’s not only about learning new things. It’s also about inspiration and thinking ahead. I would like to express my thanks to my employer, for sponsoring the ticket and the trip to San Francisco. If I have a chance to BUILD next year, I would jump in without a second thought!

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