Microsoft Build 2016 Day 2 – Azure, IoT, Xamarin, Office Productivity, the Global Developer Community

Day 2 started with another great keynote, this time lead primarily by Microsoft Executive Vice President of Cloud + Enterprise, Scott Guthrie and Microsoft Executive Vice President of the Applications and Services Group, Qi Lu. Building upon Day 1, today gave participants an even deeper understanding of Microsoft’s investments in Azure, Office 365, Xamarin and more. While heard a lot of exciting news, there was one announcement that particularly caught my attention, Xamarin will now be included free in Visual Studio, and the Xamarin core will be open source.

Below is a brief overview of today’s essential highlights that I found most interesting. I highly recommend you watch the Day 2 keynote, already available for free at Channel 9.

Azure – the Hyper cloud

With more locations around the world than AWS and Google combined, Azure has the largest physical presence of other cloud providers. While I still believe that AWS is poised to win the IaaS war, I think Azure will win the far greater PaaS war, but the physical size of Azure is beyond impressive.

Azure is about choice and flexibility

It is not an understatement that there are a plethora of ways to utilize Azure, in fact, possibly too many. Azure may also be installed into private clouds, yet built around the same management tools for a consistent administrative experience. This is beyond impressive, as no other major cloud provider offers this type of ability. What’s more exciting is its current adoption in the Enterprise world, over 80% of Fortune 500 companies are already using the Microsoft Cloud in some manner. Not to pile on, but over five million users are already using the Azure Active Directory. It is no understatement that Azure is climbing the ranks in Enterprise adoption as an innovative productivity tool.

And yes, there has been some moments where Azure has stumbled, and similar to all great technology, there is still room for improvement. Despite some minor set backs, Microsoft is upping the competition with Azure. As they have stated they are fully invested in the cloud, working towards future adoption in all sectors.

IoT

The Day 2 keynote offered a few insights into IoT for developers, but I was most intrigued by the demo provided by BMW. While it was a little flashy and futuristic, I was still pretty neat. BMW is looking to provide a driving experience that begins well before you get into your car. By leveraging multiple Azure services, the power of the cloud and multiple connected devices, BMW seeks to provide one heck of an experience. They also announced today a new mobile app, BMW Connected ( currently only available for iOS).

Xamarin Announcements

With a particular interest in Xamarin, I was awaiting the moment when it would be discussed. The announcements today were huge. With an awesome introduction and overview of Xamarin, Miguel de Icaza showed us how to create our first mobile app. He announced that Xamarin will now be free with Visual Studio, as well as the Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition. But not only will Xamarin be included in VS for free, but Xamarin will also be fully open sourced!

In the overall scheme of things, this makes complete sense. Xamarin competes with other largely utilized toolsets to allow mobile app developers to rapidly build app across devices. Related tools include React Native, Trigger.io, Ionic and Phone Gap/Cordova and more. These other platforms are almost all available to the community and for Xamarin to truly compete, it has to be introduced to the open source community as well. The value to us developers is obvious and I can’t wait for other developments in the Microsoft backyard.

Miguel also showcased the Xamarin Test Cloud, a Visual Studio Team Services ready cloud that allows real time testing of mobile applications in over one thousand different devices. This includes screen capturing and video playback on how an app performs on different device types. Xamarin, along with Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team Services, and Xamarin Test Cloud, all on Windows 10, proves Microsoft’s commitment to offering the best toolbox for all developers, even those that work specifically with mobile apps.

Power BI Embedded in Public Preview

I know there are a lot of Power BI advocates out there, well now you can include Power BI directly into your apps. Microsoft announced the Power BI Embedded Public Preview. The demos were really cool, check them out in the Day 2 keynote. I believe this is all free until at least May 1st.

Extend Office with Our Own Apps

There was an emphasis on how we can build apps that quickly and easily integrate directly into Office Apps, including the ability to add our functionality directly to the App ribbon. This integration would promote a cross-platform, modern distribution system. Plus, we can use JavaScript and HTML as our native app add-ons. It’s great to see that Microsoft will embrace modern, open language support. Working with Word or Excel using JavaScript? How cool is that?!

Conversation as a Platform

Yet another reprise from the Day 1 keynote was the concept around Conversation as a Platform. Human language is the existential user interface. Conversation as a Platform is a paradigm to help us discover, access and interact with everything, ideally removing the need to download an app or visit a website. Rather, we can interact with our interface (i.e. our workstation, phone, tablet…etc.) and that interface helps us interact with everything.

Skype For Business Web and Mobile SDK Announced

Another key takeaway for me was the new SDK Public Preview announced for Skype for Business. This SDK will allow developers to embed Skype For Business directly into your apps. If you have time, this is another really neat demo that I recommend watching.

Here is my challenge to mobile app developers. For those that know me, I am a Windows Phone holdout. I like my Windows phone but the Skype for Business App for Windows Phones is beyond atrocious. Huge kudos to the developer or company that creates an app using the Skype for Business SDK that provides the basic abilities to start and join text, voice and video Skype for Business conversations, in an app that doesn’t crash nor take 5+ minutes to load.

Microsoft’s Global Developer Commitment

With Microsoft beginning to embrace the open source community, I am really happy to see what lies ahead. With an active commitment to reinventing productivity, Microsoft will continue to deliver on the mobile platform, as well as enhance their productivity ecosystem. With intelligence on all levels, new developments by Microsoft, no doubt, work to increase trust, collaboration and open communication.

Don’t miss out on the great keynotes and sessions- If you aren’t here, don’t forget all of this material is on Channel 9. Sound off, what are you thinking?

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