Build is Microsoft’s annual developer’s conference. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to one of these.
This year, for the first time in some years, I feel like Microsoft is back to their old selves. It’s like they were in an incompetent funk for a very long time.
Consider the idiocy that has flowed from Redmond in recent years:
- Creation of Silverlight and subsequent abandonment (Silverlight was awesome)
- Windows Presentation Foundation and its abandonment (WPF was awesome)
- The Windows Sidebar and its abandonment (this was just a dumb idea)
- Windows Phone 7
- Games for Windows Live (good idea, horribly executed)
- Microsoft Live’s abandonment (great idea, well executed, abandoned)
- Windows 8 in its entirety (this would be a long list of incompetence)
- Windows Phone 7.5 (took like 30 years to get this update out)
- Calling the new XBox the XBox One (Seriously, who named this?)
- The first iteration of “Windows Store” (You can’t find anything)
- Windows RT vs. WinRT (One is the Arm version of the Windows OS, the other is an API designed for making “Modern” apps
- Surface RT’s condition when it shipped
As a long time Microsoft watcher, especially as someone whose formative tech years were spent watching the Microsoft of the Bill Gates era behaving with a combination of ruthlessness and competence (Windows 95, NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP, SQL Server, ASP.NET, Win32, .NET, DirectX, the NT kernel, etc.) it has been painful watching Microsoft decline into sheer ineptitude.
But with their new CEO, it seems like it’s a brand new day at Microsoft. In talking, off the record, with many tech leads and managers here at Build, it’s pretty clear that the best and brightest at Microsoft were being held back.
Let’s look at Build 2014 and the sudden coherence of what Microsoft is doing:
- They announced WinU, a single API that will work on XBox One, Windows Phone, and Windows allowing developers to use their favorite language (C#, C++, etc.) to make Windows apps that can be recompiled for different platforms.
- A new version of Visual Studio that integrates these features into it.
- An admission of the foolishness of Windows 8 by bringing back desktop functionality like the Start menu and letting Windows store apps run in a window on the desktop.
- The unveiling of Cortana, a developer friendly personal assistant that is leveraged by Microsoft’s vast and varied cloud services (and make no mistake, Microsoft Azure is, by far, the best cloud tech out there)
- DirectX 12 which is being designed not just for games but as a platform for creating high performance graphics apps that will work on XBox One, PC, and Windows Phone.
- Microsoft services and products being introduced across multiple platforms. This means Office for iPad and the unveiling of Office for Metro.
These 6 steps demonstrate that Microsoft is back in the game. It’s a brand new day for Microsoft.