16 Scenes From The Microsoft Build Conference11:30 AM EST Wed. Sep. 21, 2011
Programmers who build applications on Windows and Microsoft's development platforms are among the company's most loyal customers. Whether they work for solution providers, ISVs or organizations that use Microsoft products, these developers have staked their careers on Microsoft's technology.
And it's a good bet that the several thousand developers who attended last week's Microsoft Build conference in Anaheim, Calif., are among the hardest of the hardcore. Cheering Microsoft executives like rock stars, attendees were rewarded with the first detailed look at Windows 8, the next generation of Microsoft's desktop operating system.
Tables are set for breakfast on the first day of the Build conference in the Anaheim Convention Center.
Microsoft didn't disclose attendance numbers for the conference. This dining area appeared to be set up for more than 3,000 attendees. During the morning keynote session executives said they had 5,000 Samsung tablet computers to give attendees.
Steven Sinofsky, Windows and Windows Live division president, and a parade of Microsoft managers devoted a two-and-a-half hour keynote on the firs day of the conference to showing off Windows 8's tile-based Metro user interface, its advanced development capabilities, and its ability to run on a range of x86- and ARM-based devices.
Sinofsky touted Windows 8's touch capabilities that will allow it to run touchscreen-driven tablets as well as traditional PCs that use a keyboard and mouse. "I think touch is going to become a big part of user interaction," he said.
Even more exciting for developers than Windows 8 was the free Samsung tablet computers Microsoft gave to every Build attendee. The line for the giveaway at the end of the first day's sessions stretched for much of the length of the Anaheim Convention Center.
The computer, a prototype based on the Samsung Series 7 Slate, was jointly developed with Microsoft and came loaded with a developer's preview version of the operating system. It uses a 2nd generation Intel Core i5 microprocessor, has 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of solid-state disk, and uses an 11.6-diagonal Samsung Super PLS display. Microsoft included one year of AT&T 3G service with the giveaway.
After demonstrating the device in a keynote, Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president of Windows planning and ecosystem, said to wild applause: "I've been told it's impolite not to share, so I've got 5,000 in a warehouse nearby."
Hundreds of boxed-up Samsung tablet computers are stacked up, ready for show attendants (right) to hand out to attendees.
Build attendees make their way through the line where they picked up their free Samsung tablet computers loaded with the developer preview of Windows 8.
Raymond Hilgencamp, a software developer from the Netherlands, tries out Windows 8 on the Samsung tablet.
Another attendee tries out his new tablet while enjoying the free beer and pizza given out in the attendee lounge
It's like opening presents on Christmas morning. (Still, a few of the tablets have since been spotted for sale on EBay.)
Day Two of the conference was all about the new tools for building Windows 8 applications. "This is a huge opportunity for all you developers to lead the way with this transformation," said Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, in a keynote presentation.
Microsoft also unveiled a developer preview of Windows Server 8, the next generation of the company's flagship server software, with a range of enhancements for building private cloud applications.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in a surprise appearance during the keynote session on the second day of the conference, touted the company's efforts to "reimagine" its Windows franchise to make it run on a wide range of hardware devices, support cloud services and deliver new "application scenarios."
Ballmer fired up the several thousand developers attending the session, saying: "There's never been a better time to have software development as a core skill."
"It's the day and age of the developer," he said to cheers, "and it's the day and age of the Windows developer. Developers, developers, developers."
Windows remains very much at the center of Microsoft's efforts to move into cloud computing, Ballmer said, and to expand Microsoft software to x86- and ARM-based tablets and smartphones. "It's about broadly re-imagining Windows, taking it in new and unexpected ways," he said, pacing the stage.
The CEO touted what he said is the momentum behind the Windows Phone mobile operating system, calling it "gratifying." (Although one day later, in a meeting with financial analysts, he admitted that Windows Phone sales this year have been disappointing.) He also said there would be some 500 million PCs ripe for upgrading to the new Windows 8 OS.
"This all adds up to unprecedented opportunities for developers," Ballmer said. "We want you to be able to sell applications, and services, and content and data. We want you to be able to make money off of the work you have done."
The developer's lounge and adjacent sponsor expo gave Build attendees the opportunity to mingle, exchange ideas and swap development war stories.
Build co-sponsor AMD was showing off a range of laptop and tablet computers that run on AMD microprocessors. At the conference AMD announced that it has created drivers to support Windows 8 on AMD-based tablets, netbooks, PCs and servers. AMD technology natively supports Microsoft DirectX 11, C++ AMP, OpenCL and Accelerated HTML5, as well as planned support for DirectX 11.1 features.
Other Build sponsors included ARM, AT&T, Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm's Snapdragon, Samsung, Texas Instruments and Vodaphone.
Show-goers needed to regularly recharge their laptops and other mobile devices – including all those new Samsung tablets given to every attendee. Show organizers thoughtfully set up these recharging stations throughout the developer lounge area.
The developer lounge area included refreshment stands (which became bars during the show receptions) that were well stocked with Red Bull.