For a number of reasons, my wife & I decided not to go on a vacation over spring break like we normally do, so I was pleased that my company offered to send myself and a colleague to San Francisco for the Microsoft Build 2014 conference. After that brutal winter we had, it was good to get out of town for a few days – and the weather there was actually really nice!
Since I hate dealing with driving to the airport and parking, I used a new bus service, AirRide, that goes from downtown Ann Arbor to the airport and back – $22 round-trip. Really worth it not to deal with the hassle. The flight got us there around 3:00 or so the day before the conference to give us a chance to rest before the 3-day Microsoft onslaught.
Now, I am nor have I ever been much of Microsoft fanatic. Yes, I use their tools to make a living and I like many things they do, but overall I never thought highly of them as a company. However, there’s a changing of the guard going on in Redmond, and it’s much needed.
There were many huge announcements at Build, and most of them focused on moving towards a more open relationship with developers – not least of which was the open-sourcing of their C# compiler (“Roslyn“). From the reaction of the crowd, I’d say that was the most significant news for devs.
Microsoft pushed a lot of their mobile platforms and new hardware from Nokia coming soon, along with their voice-assistant Cortana. Next up were improvements to their cloud platform, Azure – positioning it to better compete with Amazon and Google. Plus there was much about the (now-released) Windows 8.1 update making it more palatable for mouse-and-keyboard users, along with the announcement of a universal app platform – where apps will work across all devices, available through their app store. (Apps man).
Apparently they usually give out good swag, and this year they gave every attendee a brand new Xbox One gaming console. I’m not much of a gamer, so don’t know what I’d do with it (yes, I know it’s more than games). On the last night of the conference, Microsoft took over a movie theater and setup Xbox’s on the IMAX screens – the racing game Forza Motorsport 5 was especially impressive on the big screen.
I’m hopeful for the future of Microsoft. My current employer is a MS shop, and I develop in C#, that much of our future is tied to theirs. They seem now to be more willing to open up and accept input from the community. A lot of the recent announcements seem to point in that direction.
On the last morning before we were to fly out, I went out to breakfast at a place my mom recommended, Sears. Last time I was in SF was in 1981 (I was 9) and apparently we had eaten there then. It was right up the street from our hotel, so it would have been a shame to miss it. I got the sourdough French toast – pretty good, but probably not worth the $15 or so bucks (plus coffee). Granted, it was the best breakfast I had on the trip.