Build 2018 Reflections

Microsoft Build Developer Conference for 2018 is over and I'm sitting here on the plane home gathering my thoughts. Just like last year, the conference took place in Downtown Seattle and just like last year there was great value from attending it. I do feel the tone and momentum around Build was different from previous years though. I've been going to Build every year since it started in 2011 and WWDC before that so I do feel I have a certain level of experience in what composes a good developer conference. This will, of course, shape my reflections in a certain way, so bear that in mind.

Favorite things from Build 2018

So let's start with the positives, summarizing what in my mind was the biggest and most exciting stuff coming out of Build this year.

.Net Core 3

Net Core 3 and in particular the fact that .NET Core is coming to desktop apps. Very excited about this. One of my current projects is modernizing an old WPF app so this was perfect for me, being able to distribute it in a self-contained package and utilize the more modern project structure in .NET Core will be nice. We are leveraging .NET Core in shared libraries so it will be nice to see this all coming together. This time in a year or two we'll probably see XPLAT XAML as a continuation on this.
https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/dotnet/2018/05/07/net-core-3-and-support-for-windows-desktop-applications/

SignalR

Having a background in mobile gaming and real-time scenarios. I love the technology that SignalR provides and it's great to see it ready and finally put into ASP.NET Core, and also the new SignalR-as-a-Service to make it even more accessible to developers is very cool and just the stuff Microsoft executes so well. Hopefully, I'll land a project soon where I can utilize this.
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/azure-signalr-service-a-fully-managed-service-to-add-real-time-functionality/

Azure Sphere

This was announced a few weeks prior to Build, frankly, in hindsight, they should have kept it to Build TBH. That aside (for now), It will be really interesting to see how this evolves and it's very exciting to see Microsoft pushing into the IoT space with a good offering that on the surface seem like it just what that industry needs. Project Kinect for Azure was also pretty cool, although they brushed it by pretty fast in the Keynotes.
If you interested check out this great session on Azure Sphere, much of what could be keynote material: Secure and power the intelligent edge with Azure Spher

Kubernetes on Azure

Kubernetes has huge momentum right now, as you probably already know. The tools Microsoft provide us developers with are first class, Microsoft has done smart moves like hiring Brendan Burns from Google and acquired Deis and the toolchain is fantastic. AKS (Azure Kubenetes Services) dev-spaces definitely tells a story that resonates with how I want to build applications, especially when developing microservices. If you are building stuff using Kubernetes, Azure is the place to host it, Build made me certain on that.
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/kubernetes-on-azure/

Cosmos Multimaster Support

While certainly, both an evolutionary announcement as well as quite expected it's nice to finally see Cosmos have support for global scale multi-master. Some good conflict resolution policies with that as well. Working with distributed databases it's nice to see Cosmos finally getting this missing feature, making it the premiere database choice for most applications.
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cosmos-db/multi-region-writers

ML.NET

Machine learning is a big focus for Microsoft and they have together with Azure a very compelling and strong presence in that field. It's nice to see this coming to .NET, while myself would probably stick to a more high-level APIs they offer. It's definitely cool stuff and a welcome addition.
https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/dotnet/2018/05/07/introducing-ml-net-cross-platform-proven-and-open-source-machine-learning-framework/

Microsoft Engineers

This is probably where you make the most value on Build, take the time to hang in the Expo. You just can't deny the value of talking to the person that built whatever Microsoft service you are using and giving them feedback, discussing future plans etc. While it can be a bit scary to talk these smart people, it's well worth it. ;)

Not so favorite things

Keynotes

Firstly the keynotes during Build have and should always be where you set the tone and build (haah!) excitement for the coming week. This year, however, the keynotes were honestly quite bad in terms of content fitting the audience and waaay too long (there was an exercise break for god's sake).

While above takeaways are interesting announcements there was really not a single huge announcement. Maybe I'm a bit spoiled but I do feel this was a missed opportunity and kind of lackluster for us that attended.

As an example, Microsoft's vision is important and interesting for us as developers on their platform. However, I've never experienced this sort of disconnect between the audience and the presenter than during the Vision Keynote. It would have been enough with 20 mins about their company vision. Instead, most of my biggest takeaways were released as blog posts during the Vision Keynote and not even mentioned until the day 2 keynote, where it was already, of course, yesterday's news.

It's not like Microsoft don't have interesting stuff to talk about, but they missed the ball on presenting that in a compelling way.
PWA's was for example hardly mentioned? No good stories around that, no new partners coming onboard?
Game development? Not a single mention of anything cool regarding game development either.

Microsoft decided to focus on more high-level visions for the company (hence the day-1 keynote name) and then on the Microsoft Graph and Smart meetings, which by-the-way to me was just another lame staged presentation with bad actors. I've seen the same thing in different shapes and forms on several occasions. By the way, I love the guy wearing a thick leather jacket in that demo, who wears a leather jacket to a meeting? While this was supposed to be a "vision" for a future meeting, it's hard to see that working when currently it's so disconnected from how meetings usually go. Especially when you work at a company that's not an "all-in" Microsoft 365 shop, nor likely will be, as most other companies, you'll have a mix of products and SaaS solutions. Additionally, Microsoft seems fully dedicated to destroying Skype and under deliver on Teams which are both integral parts of that scenario, I have a hard time thinking it was a cool demo, sorry.

Another lame part was the new Phone Companion app for Windows. It's a bit sad to see how the Microsoft Mobile strategy has been reduced to an app that is synced with your SMS messages, hardly much to be excited about.

What made things worse was that each keynote started off with really, really lame jokes as well. Yarkoni, Satya, and Joe-B all felt hungover or something. Scott Hanselman (the Beyonce of Microsoft Developers) and Scott Guthrie managed to restore some honor by handling a mic-situation hilariously.

When the thing that got most cheers was the fact that Notepad now supports UNIX line feeds, it gets a little "crinchy" and I feel the need to ponder on what's going on here.

Conclusion

With the prices for Build tickets steadily increasing I expect Microsoft to execute with perfection. While I do see how Microsoft is using the ticket price on getting all these brilliant engineers available to us as attendees to talk to. Something that builds excitement was clearly lacking. Why not start with giveaways again, something that fits the attendees. I'm not talking about giving away a generic laptop like previous years but the obvious choice this year had been an Azure Sphere board, a Cortana speaker last year.

The industry in general and Azure, in particular, is certainly in a much more mature state now than Build 2011 for example, this will of course lead to less and less grandiose announcements, which, btw, is true for all the big tech giants. You could still have executed things with a lot more finesse.

The food was also terrible as always, at least this year they did not cheap down on only serving coffee during certain intervals, which was an outrage of course. ;)

There is always next year.

Douglas Isaksson

Writes code for a living out of Stockholm, Sweden. Technology and Legendary Beer enthusiast.

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