Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Microsoft Comes To Its Senses at BUILD 2012

At last year's BUILD conference, I shared about how incredible the conference was. Microsoft had introduced Windows 8 and The-Design-Language-Formerly-Known-As-Metro, and the Vision and that were displayed was just amazing. Some people even remarked that it felt like they were at an Apple conference. The vision was great, but it was mostly just vision at that point--sure, we got some early prototype tablets and a pre-alpha edition of the operating system, but it was far from ready for prime time. What would happen by BUILD 2012? Well, that's finally here and we can answer that question: a lot!

This year, Microsoft showed a lot more than vision: they showed execution. In fact, I would say this is the year Microsoft "came to their senses". The way I mean that is, Microsoft is showing both sense and sensibility in all that they are doing. It's going to take a series of blog entries to really cover the many and amazing things we've already been exposed to at this conference. In this first post I'd like to talk about how Microsoft is showing not only vision but is fully engaging with all its senses.

I advise people to watch the BUILD Keynote videos for Day 1 and Day 2 (especially). You will be bowled over.

We saw plenty of vision last year, but even more this year. Last year, I was impressed--first of all by Windows 8 and the incredible amount of style and design thought that had gone into Metro. I was equally impressed by some of the offerings--like Windows Server 8. Most of all, I was impressed by how all of this was tied together by a common theme, that we are living in the era of "Connected Devices, Continuous Services". This year, we saw this general idea taken to a deeper level. Apps that work from large screen down to phones, that expect users to switch devices, and keep everything in sync. New and updated cloud and server services that provide the backbone to make the front-end revolution possible--and with an incredible improvement in usability and ease of use. As you watch the keynote demos, expect to periodically hit the pause button to digest yet another epiphany before continuing.

Microsoft has steadily gotten better at listening over the years, and that was very evident at BUILD. For example, oodles of new features in Windows Phone 8 were added that address 90% of developer requests. I've been a Windows Azure MVP for several years, and just about everything on my wish list for the cloud is now a reality. Nobody takes feedback more seriously than Microsoft.

Microsoft now supports Touch as well if not better than anyone else out there. From Windows Phone 8 to Windows 8 to Internet Explorer, you can provide first-class touch support in your apps while also supporting mouse, keyboard, and stylus just as well. I've been playing with the Windows RT Surface and Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 phones (generously given out last night to BUILD attendees), and all I can say is WOW. I'll have more specific things to say later on, right now I am simply bowled over by all the FUN and FUNCTIONALITY I am getting from these devices. I don't use them because I have to or because it's part of my job to work with them, I prefer them. I recently had my Windows Phone 7 die and had temporarily reverted to an older iPhone until my phone plan's upgrade time arrived. Nothing has made me happier than moving off that iPhone and onto a Windows 8 Phone today: type I can actually read, easy and fast navigation, larger screen--love at first sight. I can say equally good things about my Surface RT tablet--I also use an iPad, so expect a blow-by-blow comparison at some point in the future.

Knowing where things are headed is vital in our industry, and Microsoft has been showing it is looking forward and thinking correctly. Microsoft needs to both be a player in current trends as well as showing leadership in new directions, and it is doing both. Put simply, everything I've seen and touched at BUILD passes the sniff test. I challenge Microsoft detractors to actually get their hands on a Windows 8 phone or Surface tablet, you will change your tune.

As with last year's BUILD conference, Microsoft is not only building great hardware, software, and services from a functional perspective but is also exhibiting good taste: there's a style and class in what's being delivered that was previously only attributed to companies like Apple. No more. Microsoft's design and styling is first-class and tasteful. I prefer the interfaces on the new devices to the traditional leaders, and I've used both quite a bit.

Microsoft, I am glad you have "come to your senses" in not just being a player but a leader. I could not be more excited than I am right now about what we developers have been given. We can now create fantastic apps and services--and we will.

No comments: