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The heritage of Microsoft’s BUILD conference and some key takeaways

In some ways it’s curious to look at Microsoft events in terms of their family tree.

Microsoft BUILD conference 2013

To this end the Microsoft BUILD conference is the child of their MIX and PDC conferences. The former was held from 2006 to 2011 and was targeted at the startup and designer set. MIX07 still ranks as my favourite Microsoft conference of all time and, as an avid reader of The Economist, the Andrew Rashbass panel discussion was a real highlight. With the early Microsoft MIX conferences you felt that Microsoft had really got it; that they’d clicked to the movement of the market towards mobility, consumerisation and devices. Then the event seemed to end up being consumed by the rumbling morass and turned into yet another Program Manager Show Up and Throw Up Microsoft developer event. I thus went to this year’s BUILD, held in San Francisco in late June, to see if the spark was back.

The latter event series, the Microsoft Professional Developers conference, ran intermittently from 1992 to 2009. It was the unveiling place of developer technologies that, to the Microsoft developers amongst us, all rank as hugely important. From Win32 to COM to C# and .NET, Windows Azure and a whole heap else.

I spoke at both events over the years and both had some positives and negatives. MIX (early on) had a diversity of thought from across start-up and agency land as well as the more traditional content. PDC went deep; if you wanted to watch Anders on C# then you went to PDC, and if you wanted to see Guy Kawasaki you’d go to MIX.

The PDC genes dominate the BUILD event and I really think that Microsoft lacks for an event – and indeed an all-up messaging strategy – that talks to the digital agency and new school start-up audience. I’d love to see MIX 06/07 back again.


Microsoft 3.0: A New Cadence

It’s just eight months since the last BUILD event. That probably provides some immediate context when Ballmer talks about an increasing cadence at Microsoft. Microsoft is running much faster but it is still running slow. Even its most agile divisions such as Azure aren’t iterating as fast as folks like Amazon – yet.

Windows 8.1

But, things they are-a-changing. To give you some idea of just how big a change this is, Windows NT ran over a year between Beta 1 and Beta 2. Windows 8 will probably ship their point release in less than 12 months. Windows 8.1 is definitely more than just a service pack.

If you’ve not thrown the Windows 8.1 Preview onto a box yet then you can grab it here:

If you want to see some of what’s new then best place to start is the Day 1 keynote
then scroll through to about 24 minutes into the recording.


The Start Button

I have to admit that I just don’t get the issue with not having a start button. The best thing that Windows 7 did was gave us the ‘Search’ box; and it’s still there in Windows 8.

Try this; Press the ‘Windows Start’ key on your keyboard (bottom left corner). On Windows 8 it’ll bring up the start screen. Now just start typing what you want; type “Word” or PowerPoint or Control Panel. You don’t need to type the whole word. Once the app appears hit enter.

Those cheers you hear in the keynote, the ones from my software developer peers from around the world, they were the cheers of people who are less well informed than you now are on how to use Windows correctly.

We’ll have more detailed posts on BUILD over the coming week. 

Posted by: Chris Auld, Chief Technology Officer, Executive Director | 08 July 2013

Tags: Microsoft, Windows 8, Microsoft BUILD conference

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