Microsoft Build, often written as //build/ is a yearly developer conference hosted by the Redmond giant. In the past few year, the event used to focus only developer tools and announcements related to their ecosystem development, but in the last few years, Microsoft has combined all of their conferences, making Build a sort of catch-all event. Build 2015 was held in San Francisco, California at the Moscone Center.

Before we kickstart with all the cool stuff, I would like to share that I am thoroughly impressed with MSFT as they have kind of stepped up their game lately. It seems like a new young company altogether now with no hint of old bossy boring Microsoft. Also, Satya Nadella seems to have boost up the moral of the devs/marketing teams as since the beginning of this year , we have witnessed a lot of awesome tech with new announcements. Windows 10: The Next Chapter was the point where it all started on January 21, 2015.

Windows 10 Ecosystem Plan - Build 2015

Windows 10 Ecosystem

MS is breaking off from its contemporary nature and is desperate to prove its mettle in field of innovation which is evident by rapid deployment of Universal apps on Windows ecosystem along with great ecosystem high quality native apps for Android and iOS. What can be a bigger compliment when the Verge quoted – “The best Gmail app for the iPhone is now made by Microsoft(Outlook. Yes, Outlook!)“. Looks like Satya’s mantra of “Mobile First, Cloud First” will be the key for their success.
So, naturally I have had a lot of expectations from the //build/ and it would be safe to say that I am not even 1% disappointed. The whole event was amazingly planned out with some great demonstrations and announcements. So let’s get started with:

Everything you should know about BUILD 2015:

#1 HoloLens – The coolest VR ever!

The HoloLens that Microsoft will ship will be a Star Trek-style visor that wraps around your head and becomes a part of your world. This mixed reality device(explanation below), powered by the Intel SoC and with custom Holographic Processing Unit(HPU) built-in, promises to give you a glimpse into Future of Perceptual computing. HoloLens, first showcased in Windows 10: The next chapter event in Jan’15, continues to impress as in a short span of <100 days. This super-secret product which was secretly under development from received a very positive reaction at the time. Microsoft came back again with exponential improvements and more detailed demos in Build 2015 and stole the show.

People, not devices, are mobile. Move beyond today’s digital borders

You can have a close look on its Harwdare evolution here:

At Build 2015, Microsoft arranged a special boot camp for both developers and journalists to get an opportunity to experience HoloLens in the flesh. HoloLens is one of the most amazing pieces of tech I’ve seen. This time there were no wires, and no separate computer. The whole thing is now wrapped in a small and light (relatively speaking) pair of rings, including a set of miniature speakers and a “holographic processing unit” that powers its tracking capabilities.

Microsoft showcased a superb demo on their web stream of Build 2015 with the person interacting with Holograms (MS way of calling apps running on the HoloLens) like any physical object but sitting there in Virtual reality. The experience seems by FAR most superior to any other previous augmented reality (AR). Microsoft calls it Mixed Reality because the HoloLens format makes it much more natural since you have both hands free and it covers a much larger section of one’s field of vision. HoloLens is something more than just games, MS insists on using it as an industrial tool. I am attaching the demonstration video straight from the Build 2015 for your viewing pleasure:

#2 Continuum – Perfect convergence from your phone to a PC

Yep! You heard it right. Windows 10 will bring Continuum which seems something straight out of fantasy. It gives us into a glimpse to the future where the screens would be just a medium to view things and all the processing/storage/rendering would be handled by a portable device. Continuum promises to be built into Windows 10 for phones, which will allow users with “selected high-end devices” to connect their phone to a keyboard, mouse, and external screen for a full-blown Desktop-like experience.

If you are a webzen and you don’t live inside the cave, you must be knowing about Ubuntu’s ambitious crowd-sourced prototype project on the same lines known as Ubuntu Edge, a high-end smartphone capable of running full Ubuntu OS on Monitor if connected to a special dock. But the project couldn’t complete the overly ambitious $32m(yep $32,000,000 USD) worth of funding to roll off the production line and was dropped forever until Microsoft surprised us nerds with the working demonstration for real! 

Windows 10 Continuum - Build 2015

Continuum in Windows 10

How it will work is that when a user will connect his phone to an external monitor via HDMI, along with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, he’ll be greeted with a desktop environment. The Metro UI will adapt to fit the larger display with start-menu. It looks like this is where the universal app model is going to shine as during the demo, Microsoft showed off their Office suite running from a phone on an external screen, and it looked very much like the PC application and guess what, it also supports all the keyboard short-cuts! It can run full-scale apps while the phone’s display remains active for running apps in parallel!

Here’s a cool demo from ever-awesome Joe Belfiore :

Overall, this looks like an amazing use of Continuum, showing off the universality of Windows 10 across devices. Given the right equipment, you’re basically carrying a PC in your pocket at all times. Hopefully someday a smartphone will be the only PC we need to do all the work from gaming to productivity apps to video rendering.

#3 Microsoft Edge == Project Spartan

Internet Explorer to Microsoft Edge - Build 2015

Makeover or Transformation? You decide!

So, we all saw a tiny glimpse and few leaked screenshots of Project Spartan, Microsoft attempt to reignite the Internet browser battle by redesigning/developing a browser from scratch. It was officially showcased in //build/ and guess what? It has a new name now(not like we didn’t like Spartan) – Microsoft Edge. Internet explorer used to enjoy a hefty browser market share (70%) and was a leader by huge margin only few years back(before launch of Chrome) but since then it has declined steadily and at present the usage trends show that only 7.70% of users actively uses IE.

This is a huge blow-back to Microsoft as even being the makers of  Windows OS which amounts to over 91% of market share of Desktop market(that’s when approximately 80% of software sold in China was pirated), they just couldn’t get a browser right. Even after improving IE 11 by a lot and making it blazing fast, MS just couldn’t help with negativity in perception of users as they still have a mindset of IE being a clunky and full of bloatware software. One of the most long-standing criticisms of Internet Explorer is that it lacks basic interoperability with web standards and other browsers. Put another way, pages that render fine in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari may still be broken in Internet Explorer because it just has to be different.So, Redmond giant desperately needed to reinvent and get back in the game, thus resulting in birth of…

Microsoft Edge deck - Build 2015

MS Edge slide deck from Build 2015

Microsoft Edge is made specifically for Windows 10 from grounds up. It has new features such as built in note taking(hooked up with OneNote), universal sharing and will also have Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant baked right in the product which is cool IMHO. Edge have a top tab layout, which will be located in the address bar in the middle of the page. It will also include top sites, including if there is an app, and user information. It looks ultra clean and centuries ahead of even the latest iteration of IE. Best part would be that web extensions made via HTML and Javascript will also be supported which means any extensions made for Chrome can work with Edge with just a few code adjustments.

You can try it out now if you’re running the Windows 10 preview.

#4 Windows Insider is a success

Windows Insider program was announced on September 30, 2014 along with Windows 10. The motto of this program was to allows users to sign up for early builds of the Windows operating system previously only accessible to developers. By the end of 2014 over 1.5 million people were running the Windows 10 technical preview.

Windows Insider is a success - Build 2015

Be a Windows Insider today!

Surprisingly, At Build 2015, Microsoft announced that 3.7 million people have signed up for its Windows Insider Program to try out preview builds of Windows 10 for the PC and smartphone. This is yet another big increase in the number of people(+2.2 million people) who have signed up to participate in the program.

This has enabled Microsoft to kind of crowd source the software testing of product as 3.7 million people tinkering with the OS = Lots of bug report = Faster response to bug squashing process by the devs. Windows Insider has also helped in piquing interest and curiosity amongst the users and tech bloggers. You can also try out the Windows 10 preview builds from here and contribute your part in improving the Windows 10 OS.

#5 Development ++

The Dreaded app gap Microsoft - Build 2015

App gap has always been a concern for Microsoft!

This! This is something I was expecting from Build 2015. Being a windows developer and owner of Lumia 1520 and user of Windows 8.1 on Desktop/Laptop, I agree to the fact that developing native apps used to be a pain and tiny market share of WP didn’t seem lucrative to many developers which resulted in App gap when compared to Android/iOS. Although all the major apps are present but half-baked updates and lack of some new kickass apps was heartbreaking for many users. We did see a lot of initiative and events by MS to pull developers to their platform but fragmentation was the culprit to blame.

Before Windows 10, we had Windows Phone App (Silverlight/Non-Silverlight), Windows RT apps, Windows Metro apps, Windows x86 apps, XBox apps! So many platforms scattered across needing multiple efforts to build an app for. Microsoft saw this and quickly planned smartly. With launch of Windows 8.1, they dropped the support for Win RT apps and introduced the concept of Universal apps which you will use to build app for both Phone and Desktop counterpart with maximum code reusability which was a bit of half-baked. But, with launch of Windows 10 we will see the true power and potential of Universal apps as they will combine whole MS Ecosystem in one by deploying just 1 universal app which we scale according to the device it is running on which is epic.

An Universal app created for Windows 10 platform will work on ALL Windows 10 devices (desktops, laptops, convertables, tablets, phablet, phones, xbox, hololens, etc.).

Universal App can be defined as an app that will flow from one platform to another — whether that’s a phone, a tablet, or HoloLens — and reshape itself to fit the platform it’s running on. You can understand it by using the analogy of responsive Web pages that change shape intelligently when you resize your browser window, or move from your laptop to your smartphone.

Windows 10 targeting 1 billion devices for Developers - Build 2015

Deja VU!

There were some rumors to be including Android app support in Windows, but what was announced at Build 2015 looks so much better than anyone might have thought because it doesn’t just stretch to Android, either. Microsoft is courting iOS app developers, too, in fact, it already has done.  Microsoft is making it the easy way so that Android developers can reuse their existing Java/C++ code to create a Windows 10 Universal App. The outcome will be a Windows app that behaves like a Native Windows app. It can use all functionalities like live tiles, Cortana and Xbox Live integration. It’ll require very little work on developers part, Google services will be substituted for Microsoft services, and all apps will integrate with the standard Windows navigation. And it will be same for iOS apps written in Objective C.

In fact, we learned during the same presentation that this has already begun with the smash hit Candy Crush Saga.It was released completely secretively as a recompiled version of the iPhone app, Candy Crush has received high ratings in the Windows Phone Store indicating that the experience is certainly pretty good. Don’t know if it will finally pull devs to MS ecosystem or not but it does seems like a $profitable$ venture for developers to me.


• Secret message on @joebelfiore tee:

Did you know, Joe Belfiore had a secret message hidden in his tee? Yep! In 4 quadrants of the Windows Logo on his t-shirt we had 4 secret messages encoded in binary. It was first discovered by Kevin Gosse.

Secret message on Joe Belfiore shirt - Build 2015

Here’s the secret tee

Secret messages that were decoded are:

  1. There are 10 types of people in the world
  2. Windows 10, because 7 8 9.
  3. Congrats on being one of the first.
  4. Windows Insiders help us develop the future. Talk to us @ Windows

#1 is a very old binary joke as (10)binary = (2)decimal.
#2 reveals why we Microsoft jumped to Windows 10 from Windows 8/8.1 and not Win 9. Well, 7 8(ate) 9 😉
#3 Credit to Kevin Gosse.
#4 Appeal for Windows Insiders to make Windows 10 a success.

• MS Edge logo’s hidden “Edge”

Microsoft Edge logo secret message - Build 2015

This can’t be unseen!

The logo is only similar to Internet Explorer as MS Edge was designed from scratch but what’s interesting is the fact it’s cleverly done. If you look at it carefully it spells out edge, every last letter. “EDGE” brilliant, isn’t it?