Duane Newman

Entrepreneur, Coder, Speaker, Consultant

Microsoft Build 2016

27. April 2016

I hate it when I find a blog post draft that I forgot to post for *weeks*, it’s a little late, but here are some of my impressions from Microsoft’s Build conference this year.

This year's build was pretty exciting for .NET developers. With strong progress around the Windows platform and major announcements in the mobile developer space. Build was an fun experience and I was able to both reconnect with friends I've made on the conference circuit and meet a lot of new faces. Here are some of my reactions to the announcements, activities, and experience of the Build 2016 day one keynote.

Windows Updates

The first major item Satya covered was the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (previously known as Redstone on Windows Insider builds) that will be coming this summer. They have been busy over the 8 months and had some pleasant, and some surprising features to announce.

There were a lot of the expected "improvement" updates, like improved pen and touch support. The update will add additional pen features such as a ruler that helps you create straight lines when drawing or align items along the edge (even at an angle). There is also a new sticky note feature that integrates with Cortana, it features word recognition (while leaving the ink in place) and when you write things like dates and times Cortana can turn that into a reminder alert. Other pen input features being added include routing in Maps, strikeout and highlight support in word, and stencils. These are all pretty handy improvements and show that Microsoft is continuing to use and improve pen input, which is great, because I like having my pen available.

Another cool item was Centennial app support and an a converter to bring existing Win32 programs to the app store. With a special bridging app you can even add support for things like live tiles to these apps.

Now for the big ticket items

One of the biggest reactions was for native Bash support. Yes, Bash, every Linux developer's favorite shell. And yes, native support. They added a new windows subsystem specifically to provide support to run user mode Ubuntu binaries on Windows. My first reaction was WOW. This is a big deal, not because I'm a bash fan (I'll take PowerShell, please), but because Microsoft is actively working with Linux companies to make sure developers on Windows can do ALL their development tasks without having to leave Windows. If you are wondering why Bash on windows is such a big deal take a look at how web development has changed (even in a MS oriented environment) to include many other community technologies. A lot of these technologies started on Linux environments and either have tooling that only exists on Linux or are heavily documented based on using the bash shell. Now these tools are available to devs on Windows without having to run a VM or remote into a Linux PC (or getting lost Cygwin). For more info you can take a look at Scott Hanselman's blog post: Developers can run Bash Shell and user-mode Ubuntu Linux binaries on Windows 10.

Another really cool announcement was that and Xbox One will be able to be converted, on demand, into a dev unit. There are some limitations, like the inability to access console-side features (you will still need a full-blown dev-kit), but you can create and deploy UWP apps to the Xbox to test support for your app on the console. Starting with the update this summer you will be able to deliver your apps to the Xbox with the Windows Store. This is pretty big for anyone that has a general purpose app they'd like to put on the Xbox, anything that might make sense to work with on the big screen.

And of course, there is Conversations. Microsoft is introducing a new platform, the Microsoft Bot Network, to make it easy to make "bots." The demos around bots on websites, in skype, and using the Cortana Intelligence Suite looked pretty cool. To me this is a big push for people to begin creating what can become integration points for Cortana. It would be cool to be able to say "Cortana, order me a large pepperoni pizza from Dominos" and have it begin to interact with the Dominos bot to place my order.

Xamarin

A HUGE announcement for me and other mobile devs centered around Xamarin. Lots of cool things happened with Xamarin at Build, but the most exciting for me was that Microsoft made Xamarin free, including Visual Studio integration. This means that an independent developer or small company can now use Visual Studio Community Edition and Xamarin to build cross platform mobile apps for nothing more than the cost of the platform developer license. The other big announcement was that the Xamarin libraries would all be open-sourced. This is pretty cool, and I look forward to the chance to contribute fixes or features to the Xamarin libraries.

Inspiration

The day one keynote wrapped up with an inspirational story of a blind developers work to create software that could help him and other blind people to "see" the world around them. You can read more about my thoughts on him and that project in my post: Bringing Sight to the Blind (Seeing AI).

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