The key areas Microsoft must address at BUILD 2015

The key areas Microsoft must address at BUILD 2015

Microsoft’s BUILD 2015 conference is scheduled to begin on 29 April 2015 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and expectations are building for what Microsoft will announce there in several areas.

Rod and I will be out at BUILD covering the event for all of the Penton Technology websites including Windows IT Pro, SuperSite for Windows and Dev Pro Connections. We will be bringing you first hand coverage of the keynotes, announcements and other news and information we learn on site.

BUILD is Microsoft’s annual opportunity to show developers and industry watchers where things are headed with the company’s key platforms and with a new version of their flagship Windows operating system due this year across all platforms.

Enthusiasm, as indicated by the event’s sellout less than an hour after registration opened up on January 22nd, shows developers want to learn firsthand what is in store for Microsoft’s platforms and development stack.  For those who were unable to register or make the trip they will still be able to follow along with the live streaming of the keynotes each day and on demand viewing for a lot of the content through Microsoft’s Build 2015 website.

As we all wait for BUILD to arrive lets touch on some areas that we expect to hear much more about.

Windows 10

To say that this is the linchpin to all of BUILD is an understatement.

Windows 10 brings together a common Windows core OS across all of its platforms including desktop, tablet, phone, Xbox, Hololens and Internet of Things.

Microsoft has been publicly testing early technical preview builds of Windows 10 on desktops and tablets since late last year along with phones since February 2015.

These early builds, which are available to over 3 million Windows Insiders, definitely show Windows 10 in ways the general public has never seen Windows before as the builds are raw and very incomplete.  There are elements of the Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 UI peppered throughout and it is most definitely an OS in transition.

Now this is to be expected with pre-beta or alpha level builds but with the news earlier today that Windows 10 could launch in late July testers are restless to see this all come together and soon.

BUILD is the likely venue for Microsoft to release the next builds of both Windows 10 on desktops/tablets and phones. Hopefully they have been working on a build with a little fit and finish that will help increase enthusiasm about the state of the OS and also the prospect of a summer or July launch/release.

Since the reveal about Hololens back in January we have only heard a little bit of info about the device. If you visit the product page you are greeted with a big message to tune into Build to learn more about the hardware, development tools and meet the engineers behind it. This product has generated a lot of buzz and is likely the reason the Ninja Cat on a Fire Breathing Unicorn meme took off in the last few months.

As for Internet of Things (IoT), Microsoft’s official IoT blog site is very active and is regularly discussing this industry and their role in it. Back in February the big news was Windows 10 support for Raspberry Pi 2. Microsoft is not new to supporting the IoT’s but expect to hear a lot more about Windows 10’s role in this area during BUILD.

On the Xbox front we saw a demo of game streaming between a PC and console during the January Windows 10 consumer event but not much since then. Last week, when Xbox One Preview Program participants got some fixes for past updates, an option did show up in the Xbox settings that allowed game streaming to be turned on.  This should be a hot topic at BUILD and a key part of bringing Xbox gaming to the desktop which is a commitment Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Xbox boss, made during that same event.

Universal Apps

BUILD is a developer conference so it is expected this message will be strong and the company has already been talking about it regularly since the developer focused announcement of Windows 10 last fall.

This is also an area that many point to as the Holy Grail for Windows Phone in that it makes it easier for developers to bring their desktop apps to all Windows 10 based platforms. Of course, Windows Phone is top of that list.

With all of the design changes appearing in the current build of Windows 10 Mobile and the preview version of universal apps it also looks like developers over on iOS and Android may find it easier to port their designs to Windows Phone and Windows desktop/tablets at the same time.

 My hope is for the beginning of the end for the app gap that everyone feels in some way or another on Windows Phone.

It may be easy to ignore the distant third place platform but not so wise to ignore 1.5 billion PC users many of which will get free upgrades to Windows 10 over the first year of the OS’s availability.

By the way, we should also see the Office universal app previews arriving for Windows 10 for phones by the time BUILD begins next week. Outlook Mail and Calendar arrived as part of build 10051 of Windows 10 for phones a couple of weeks ago.

Microsoft Azure

A lot of effort continues to pour into Azure and there have been some big announcements recently such as Azure Fabric, Azure App Service, Azure Media Player and new Hyper-V Containers in conjunction with Docker.

There are also numerous opportunities for developers to support their apps and data in the Azure cloud to deliver great feature sets to their customers.

All of these and more will be demoed at BUILD as Microsoft is continuing to make Azure a big piece of their business.

Visual Studio

Just a few weeks ago the Visual Studio 2015 product lineup was announced by Microsoft with the big change being the combination of VS Premium and VS Ultimate into a single product that will be called Visual Studio Enterprise.

Of course the free Visual Studio Community 2015 will still be available for open source projects, academic research, training, education and small professional teams.

If you are a developer and have not joined the Windows Insider Program then you should head over there now because there is not a separate Developer Preview program for Windows 10. It is all being hosted under the single Windows Insider Program.

You can also check out our recent post about Kicking off your Windows 10 development learning to get yourself even more prepared.

Bottom Line

I think many who watch and follow Microsoft have very high expectations for BUILD and what we will learn from it.

At this point in the Windows 10 development cycle, especially with the expected July or summer release date, Microsoft needs to wow folks with some serious fit and finish progress with the OS. It may just be in the form of demos of builds that are further down the development path then those released to Windows Insiders but the natives are restless. Connecting the UI dots should be the order of the day at BUILD.

Another aspect of this OS’s development is that the date for features to be locked down is fast approaching.

If the July date is accurate that means all the final work towards RTM will be focused on bug fixes and the fit and finish mentioned earlier. No new features will be added at that point however, Microsoft’s has taken to removing what used to be embedded into the OS and making it a separate app that can be updated on a different schedule.  Some examples are the Music, Video and OneDrive apps.

It is also expected that Microsoft will regularly release updates, similar to Office 365’s current process, in order to fix bugs and introduce new features.

The one thing Microsoft cannot afford is a repeat of the Windows 8 release. It suffered from a very negative perception from the beginning and even a Windows 8.1 upgrade that addressed most of those shortcomings was not enough to overcome that.

As Rod wrote last month, Windows 10 is full of 1.x technology, and if it is not hitting on all cylinders whenever it releases then it is going to feel like Windows 8 Déjà vu all over again.

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