Microsoft Build 2013 is over, I am back from San Francisco and I am starting to get back into the swing of things. I have had time to contemplate my experience and I have had time to catch up on some of the sessions that I did not get to attend. I have also completed the end of conference survey. If I had to summarize my opinion in one word I would have to say underwhelmed.
There were too many 200 level sessions that retreaded the same old demos that they have been showing for the last year. In the sessions I attended there was not enough technical content. Microsoft has been on a rapid release and as such they have been showing off what they when they have it. This is great but this does not leave much to show at their conference unless they get more technical.
Everyone was eagerly awaiting the Windows 8.1 bits and Microsoft delivered. There were plenty of sessions covering the new functionality though they did not go too deep on any one topic. There is enough new functionality that some thought is required to comprehend it all. Microsoft took the feedback from user and incorporate that feedback into Windows 8.1. These changes mean that some refactoring will have to happen. Some new controls will make development easier.
The other major area that Microsoft emphasized was Azure. They have been releasing updates to Azure at a more rapid pace than they have their other technologies. The goal is to make Azure enterprise ready. Just about every Azure service they had in preview went GA and introduced new services as previews with the promise to bring more service at the same pace.
The other emphasis was on Azure for mobile devices and not just Microsoft devices but others as well. It was nice to see demo’s using iOS and Android devices. There was even a demo of Xamerin and PhoneGap. They are starting to realize that there are opportunities on those other platforms.
There were two main areas where Build missed. First there was no appearance of the next version of Windows Phone. All the phone sessions were either retreads from TechEd or basic concepts from other online sessions. My guess is that they are not as far along as they would like to be.
To a lesser extent there was no love for the indie game developer. Since the announcement of the next generation gaming console, indie developers have been worried. XNA seems to be on its way out and Microsoft hasn’t filled the gap in what’s next. I am not a game developer so it did not bother me but others around me were not happy. This was the perfect opportunity to fill the gap.
Other no shows included the next version of Office. There were some sessions on building Office applications but these centered on functionality available today in both Office and Azure. PDC used to layout the product roadmap but those days seem to be gone. There was a cameo of an RT version of PowerPoint but not enough to really garner any coming functionality.
One of the other reason to go to to conferences is the networking. There were plenty of opportunities for that. I was able to make some new friends and got to get some perspectives of other Windows 8 developers. I also got to talk to some of the product teams to find out some of the choices they made in developing WinRT. They were always happy to hear some feedback from a developer’s point of view.
I did see one of my favorite presenters in person. I have always enjoyed listening Bill Buxton talk about user experience. He did a session on Designing for Ubiquitous Computing. There was no code and no talk of specific technologies, only ideas on what technology can deliver. I really did enjoy seeing him present and I plan on watching this session again.
Overall I am happy with the direction Microsoft is going. It is nice to see them rapidly respond to user feedback. There are some functionality that they need to address to further make users happy. I hope that future conference will contain sessions with more technical content and leave the marketing for press events. In the next few post I will cover some of the new features Windows 8.1.