10 Takeaways from Microsoft Build

Microsoft believes Windows 10 will be big for consumers, and an even bigger opportunity for developers. The company trotted out nine more solutions that should keep developers busy.

The Microsoft Build conference is one of the most anticipated events of the year for developers. Windows 10 seems to be what's on everyone's mind, but the scope and breadth of developer-related announcements spanned the entire Microsoft solution ecosystem. In that spirit, here are 10 things with which you should walk away from Build 2015.

1: 1 Billion Devices
With Windows 10 becoming the one OS to run on every Microsoft device from desktop to phone to Xbox to HoloLens and beyond, adoption becomes an extremely important goal for Microsoft. It is tackling this problem in a variety of ways, including free upgrades from Windows 8.1 for the first year. The company's ambitious goal is to have Windows 10 running on 1 billion -- yes with a "b" -- devices in two to three years. Obtaining numbers anywhere even close to that makes developing for Windows 10 a more attractive offer for developers.

2: Android Apps
One of the things that has plagued Windows Phone has been the lack of popular apps in the Windows Store. The apps help to drive users to the device, but developers don't want to make the investment to migrate their apps until enough users have the device. It's a tough problem to solve. For Android apps, Microsoft's solution was to create an Android subsystem that runs on the Windows Phone. Android developers can now submit their apps directly to the Windows Store and surface their apps on Windows Phone with no code changes. This new subsystem will only be available on ARM devices, so these apps will not be available to the desktop.

3: iOS Apps
One of the biggest surprises of Build was the new iOS compiler being made available in Visual Studio. iOS developers can now migrate their code base to Windows Phone with little to no changes. A converter utility is included to create a Visual Studio solution from the iOS project file. The result is a universal Windows app that also has access to Windows features, like in-app purchases, Xbox achievements and live tiles.

4: HoloLens
How can you not like Microsoft's new augmented reality headset? Microsoft told developers they would get a better look at the device. While still not ready for prime time, it has come a tremendous way and the keynote demonstration and videos left the audience drooling. They even brought more than a hundred devices to allow attendees to get a closer look.

5: Microsoft Edge
"Project Spartan," the new browser for Windows 10, was officially branded as Microsoft Edge. With a ton of OS integration and extensibility, it's poised to be a great competitor in the browser space. It supports extensions and can handle most of the extensions written from Chrome with very little changes.

6: Continuum
Microsoft demonstrated Continuum, which allows a Windows Phone to be connected to a monitor and Bluetooth devices such as a keyboard and a mouse. Universal apps really shine in this scenario when they scale from running on the phone to a full monitor. While current phone hardware really isn't prepared to handle something like this, it was hinted that there might be some solutions in the near future.

7: Office Apps
One of the most overlooked opportunities for today's developers is creating and selling Office apps. The Office team showed off some great examples of how apps can interact and provide benefits to the user, including solutions from companies like Uber and Inc. They also had a fairly large presence at Build to help inspire developers.

8: Windows Store
With Windows 10 comes a lot of new changes to the Windows Store. For one, there will be a single store across all platforms. While still keeping its solutions for large enterprises, like Microsoft Intune and System Center Configuration Manager, a new Windows Store for Business was also announced. The new store will allow businesses to distribute their products securely and handle multiple types of payment. This should go a long way toward making universal apps more appealing to the enterprise.

9: Visual Studio Code
You probably never thought you would see the day when Visual Studio would run natively on a Mac. Well, the newest member to the Visual Studio family, Visual Studio Code, does just that. Visual Studio Code is a lightweight code editor that has versions that will run on Windows, Mac and Linux. But don't let the fact that it's lightweight fool you. It's packed with a ton of features like full IntelliSense, color coding and more. Even better, it's free.

10: Microsoft Azure
One of the fastest-moving platforms in Microsoft has to be Azure. More than 500 new services and features have been created for it in the past year, while a number of new Azure services were announced at the keynote. The Azure SQL Database elastic database allows you to easily spin up unique databases for each of your clients while sharing resources between them. Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a new relational data warehouse service that is scalable to handle enterprise-level data for analytics. Finally, Azure Data Lake is a hyper-scale data store that's optimized for analytics.

The Build conference is always a great and exciting time. It not only informs but inspires countless developers every year. If you weren't able to attend or missed out on some of the packed sessions, there's no need to worry. All of the sessions and the keynotes will be available online.

About the Author

Tony Champion is a software architect with more than 18 years of experience developing with Microsoft technologies. As the president and lead software architect of Champion DS, he remains active in the latest trends and technologies, creating custom solutions on Microsoft platforms. Tony is also a Microsoft Windows Developer MVP.

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