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Highlights from Build2015 - Summary of the summary

It has been a long time since I attended a full-day Microsoft developer event. Although I love attending the events, there was usually some project drama to sort out that prevented me from going the last few years.

Last week was Microsoft's "Highlights from Build 2015, the Developer track" and I finally got to go.

I guess it was supposed to be a modern day "DevDays". Unfortunately it was underwhelming. There were only a tiny amount of people compared to the "old days", when there were several auditoriums full of people. And while the presenters were entertaining and eloquent, the topics were only mildly interesting.

However, in between all the boring "fluff" you usually find some interesting tidbits. So I thought I would share a list of interesting things I found out about in bullet-point sized chunks, in essence, a summary of their summary.

Here is what was interesting:

About the IT sector:

  • In the next few years:
    • 82% of servers will be virtual servers.
    • 45% of IT spend will be on "Cloud" infrastructure.
  • Over the next 5 years, we can expect an extra 50,000 jobs in the South African IT sector.
  • 45-60% of businesses [surveyed] said that skills shortages have a major to critical impact on their business. So IT is a good space to be in.

About Windows 10 and other microsoft offerings:

  • The Microsoft Virtual Academy has loads of free training.
  • There is an Office365 Marketplace that sells apps that work with Office365 apps, for example: an Uber app that integrates with Outlook.
  • If you sign up to the Windows Insider program, you can get Windows 10 for free.
    • Or alternatively, upgrade your existing version of Windows 7 or 8 for free.
  • Cortana is Microsoft's voice recognition/personal assistant solution (like Siri).
  • Continuum is a Windows 10 technology that allows you to run a phone app (which is actually a Universal app) from your phone, on a big screen.
  • With Windows Hello you can log in to Windows with facial recognition. Apparently it's smart enough not to be fooled by a printout.

About Azure and cloud services:

  • Azure is not hosting any data centers in Africa yet, because some boxes can't be checked currently:
    • Power grid stability. (Oops)
    • Political stability.
    • Cost effective bandwidth.
  • Azure Logic Apps and Api Apps can be combined to create rich pipelines. Very interesting.
  • Twilio is a service that you can use to send SMSs. It works well with Logic apps.
  • Azure has Data Lakes which allow storing of very big data, so that it can be analyzed.
  • Azure Machine Learning looked very interesting, although I did not understand much of it. You can create "experiments" and "models" on your data. Very much a data science tool.
    • How-old.net used Azure Machine Learning to learn how to determine your age based on a picture.

About Universal applications:

  • "Universal" apps are meant to run on all Windows devices (Windows, XBox, Windows Phone). So...
    • "Universal" really means "Microsoft-Universal".
  • There will only be one Windows marketplace, for all universal applications.
  • Platform Bridges compile iOS and Android apps to Windows Universal apps. This sounds like dark magic to me.
  • Visual Studio 2015 has some very nice performance and memory debugging tools.
    • These tools are only available in the Pro and Enterprise versions.
  • Applications accross devices now have a uniform lifecycle.
  • XAML has useful-looking VisualStateManager triggers that allow you to make your application responsive to layout changes, without having to write code.
  • There are new namespaces that give you access to memory usage and battery usage figures, allowing you to write more considerate applications.

About Designing Universal applications:

  • The presenter had a couple of interesting tips:
    • "Design for smallest device first, then scale up."
    • "Use your own colors!" (No more battleship-grey applications?)
    • "Use your own look and feel." (No more "everyone do an Office ribbon" applications?)
  • ColourLovers.com is a useful site to play with colour palettes.
  • Design in Effective pixels (not plain pixels, plain pixels are so 1990)

About Internet Explorer's successor: Edge

  • Chakra is the Javascript engine used in Edge.
  • Edge needed to be created, because Internet Explorer had two decades worth of backward-compatibility baggage.
  • Edge will be evergreen, and always be up to date. (No more compatibility mode?)
  • Edge will handle "-webkit" CSS tags.
  • Edge will set its user-agent to Mozilla to help with website compatibility (Lies!)

About Hololens

  • I wish more was said about this, but we were only treated to a very short short video.

That's all I recorded in my notes. There are some interesting things on the way and it's clear that Microsoft certainly isn't the company it used to be (in a good way). Hopefully next year will bring some more goodies, especially web-focused ones!

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