Microsoft Build Day 2 Keynote Puts Developers First
Windows Azure and Visual Studio 2013 take center stage on the second day of Microsoft's flagship developer conference.
Developers who were concerned about the lack of detailed, code-level guidance during the Day 1 keynote at the Build 2013 Conference in San Francisco need not have worried; Wednesday's lengthy Day 2 keynote, which focused broadly on Windows Azure, was aimed right at developers. The session was led by Satya Nadella, president of the Server and Tools Business, and included presentations by Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in the Windows Azure group, Scott Hanselman, principal program manager for Windows Azure, and Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Developer Platform Evangelism.
During his remarks, Nadella announced the general availability of both Windows Azure Mobile Services -- enabling development of cloud-connected apps for Android, iOS and Windows -- and Windows Azure Web sites. Both technologies have been available in preview form. Nadella also announced the release of the preview versions of Visual Studio 2013 and .NET Framework 4.5.1.
Guthrie announced the preview release of two Windows Azure-related technologies during his presentation, including availability of the new AutoScale feature, which lets developers and administrators set rules around how Azure environments scale in response to shifting demand and resource consumption. Guthrie also introduced the Windows Azure BizTalk Services preview, showing in a demo how developers can quickly integrate complex business systems using industry standard JSON and REST APIs. Developers can access the new tools here.
Guthrie went on to demonstrate the updated authentication infrastructure of Windows Azure, showing how companies can use Windows Azure Active Directory to enable cloud-based, single sign-on (SSO) of Windows Azure applications in the enterprise.
"It's now easy to create an application, host it in the cloud and enable enterprise security throughout," Guthrie said, noting that cloud-based SSO can greatly help streamline management of employee accounts as applications proliferate.
Unlike the Wednesday keynote, which focused largely on visible improvements to Windows 8 and compelling demos around the Bing development platform, the Thursday address featured a lot of code-level demos. Hanselman drew repeated and enthusiastic applause as he walked through the creation of a cloud-connected, One ASP.NET project comprised of multiple ASP.NET APIs.
Hanselman's demo showed off several improvements in Visual Studio 2013, including a streamlined project selection for ASP.NET-style apps and the ability to define multiple default browsers in Visual Studio when building a Web app. Hanselman's demo used SignalR to enable real-time interaction between Visual Studio and multiple browser targets.
"There is a fundamental, two-directional link now between any browser, including mobile browsers and simulators, and Visual Studio," Hanselman said.
The demo also showed off some of the welcome new tweaks to the user experience in Visual Studio 2013. The new Map Mode feature lets developers scrub quickly through large pages of code, making it easy to track down a particular element. Hanselman also showed off the rewritten HTML editor in Visual Studio, and showed how Visual Studio can display live, visual trace log data to help assess application behavior in real time.
New .NET Guidance
The lengthy keynote closed with Steven Guggenheimer, who took a moment to talk about Microsoft's efforts to support and encourage current .NET developers.
"One of the things I don't think we've done as good a job as we can is sort of giving people the guidance on how to think about.NET and what we are doing going forward and how to plug into that," Guggenheimer said. "So going out of the session today you'll see set of new whitepapers and guidance documents coming out specifically on .NET."
Guggenheimer dove into an exploration of Microsoft's efforts to leverage devices and services across Windows 8, Windows Phone and Windows Azure. He was joined by Microsoft Technical Fellow John Shewchcuk, who showed off the improved WebView control in Windows 8, and the updated F12 debug tool in Internet Explorer 11.
Guggenheimer's presentation also highlighted the role of Microsoft partners in the ecosystem, and included demos around the Unity gaming graphics engine, a SAP Windows Phone application, and a visually-intensive, WPF-based operations application from energy firm Acciona. That last demo also highlighted some intriguing new IntelliSense features around XAML code in Visual Studio 2013, including autocompletion for databinding and removal of extra closing tags.
Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.