Build 2014–Day One Observations

DevExpress Data Blog
03 April 2014

I thought I should jot down a couple of observations from Day 1 here at Build 2014. Would love your thoughts! Apologies for some of the blurry images up front.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update

While there was a ton of time spent on discussing the Windows Phone update, I thought the most interesting thing discussed was Cortana, the new Microsoft Digital Assistant. A lot of thought went into its implementation and it shows. It was designed to learn about the user in order to be more effective at displaying the right information at the right time. Two examples I think cut to the heart of it: context whittling (my term) and person based tasks. Context whittling is a situation where an additional query to Cortana on an already queried set returns a more refined result. In other words the context can be shrunk with each additional query. Person based tasks are tasks issued to Cortana based around a particular person. Whenever that person comes into context, Cortana reminds the user of a task related to the person in question.

In addition to Cortana, a slew of new devices were announced by Stephen Elop:

Lumia 930

Lumia 630/635

Windows 8.1 Update

The next update to Windows is slated to contain a number of features designed to improve support for the keyboard and mouse. The first is an improved start screen:

Windows Start Screen

In addition to the new start screen efforts have been made to have a more desktop-friendly approach to apps: these will also run from the task bar and execute as normal apps. Early complaints regarding the fragmentation of the desktop experience appear to have resonated with Microsoft enough to make these important changes. Finally, enough noise was made about the start menu that it will one day make its way back into the OS for good (still a prototype):

Windows 8 Start Menu

Universal Windows Apps

This portion of the keynote resonated with me primarily because it reminded me of XAF. Instead of targeting Windows and Web, UWA’s (I like to pronounce it yewas because I can) target both the Windows 8 device as well as the Windows 8 Phone device using a shared codebase. This also includes specific Visual Studio tooling to work with the shared and non-shared code.

Uiversal Windows App

This is only the beginning of it: Microsoft is also currently working on extending this type of application development to the XBox.

Office Touch

Microsoft announced their work on a Touch-Based office for Windows 8.

PowerPoint Touch

I personally love this application. It is clearly touch friendly and a great deal of effort was put into making the ribbon more touch friendly without sacrificing space.


There were obviously a bunch of other things mentioned (internet of things, more phone features, open sourcing WinJS, etc.) in the keynote that I’ll leave for another time. The overwhelming feeling was one of optimism – a far cry from the first Build to say the least. Microsoft feels more open and developer friendly. Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) even showed up in a t-shirt and jeans to answer honest-to-goodness difficult questions (why should I choose to build for Windows Phone instead of Android?) in an open and conversational manner. They also spent a great deal of time discussing roadmap-type stuff. My feeling is that if Microsoft wants the Enterprise on board with what they are doing they should at least give them a heads-up (something Microsoft did today).

Last and most important: Microsoft now realizes that it can no longer rely on revenue from the OS (particularly on devices 9” and smaller). In fact, it will no longer be selling the software but giving it away for free. While this was not necessarily trumpeted, I think it is a critical departure from Microsoft’s OS centric past to a device and service based future.

We’ve had tons of folks stop by to chat and take a look at what we offer as well.

DevExpress Booth

It has been great learning what our customers are developing and what our potential customers are keen on creating.

On to Day 2!

As always, if there are any comments and/or questions, feel free to get a hold of me!

Seth Juarez
Twitter: @SethJuarez

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