Microsoft BUILD Conference 2012 – Thoughts & Highlights

Microsoft is heading towards a new era with it’s Windows ecosystem and Azure cloud platform.

Azure adoption on fire

It’s been repeated several times during the conference that Microsoft is surprised by the demand to their Windows Azure cloud computing platform. In his session, Mark Russinovich mentioned that getting a new Azure datacenter up and running from the decision phase to reality takes about one and a half years and at the moment they’re constantly investing in new datacenters.

Weak Windows Store App ecosystem

On the other hand, the new Windows ecosystem, Windows RT and Windows Phone, are pretty latecomers in the market where iOS and Android devices heavily dominate. These new Windows operating systems and devices have been taken very positively by the tech media in general but with one big question: Will the Windows app ecosystem be able to catch the momentum and compete with it’s competitors? This has been declared as the weakest spot of the new generation of Windows devices and Microsoft is well aware of it.

Microsoft is Opening Up – A Mindset Shift

This is the reason why Microsoft is doing everything it can to get developers on board and convince them building applications for the Windows store. They’ve been trying to present a compelling development story from design stage to submitting the app to the Windows Store, trying to make this a joyful experience for developers building Windows Store apps. They’re educating developers, giving them free ebooks, devices and a lot of sample applications. Everything is done for creating a rapid development momentum that will enrich the Windows Store with many applications.

Another part of this story is about the steps that Microsoft is taking with it’s technical stack. For many years Microsoft had been very exclusionary of software languages and stacks that were not “invented” under it’s control. Every solution Microsoft was offering needed to be 100% Microsoft.

This “not invented here” mentality seems to be fading away. Microsoft has been investing heavily on Javascript. Chakra engine of IE, the TypeScript language and the Javascript API’s of Windows RT are clear examples of this investment. Strange enough, a Windows 8 application can now completely be written using Javascript, CSS and HTML. Smart move to get more developer support, which is now very critical for Microsoft.

Who would think one day someone would be able to run Linux servers on Microsoft datacenters? Or Azure Command Line Tools would be written in Javascript using Node.js. Microsoft is definitely opening up.

Some Highlights from the Trip

Monday – October 29
  • It was somewhat stressful to fly on the worst day of Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately the flight was not cancelled. The route was over the Greenland and there was quite some scene through the window.

Mountains from the plane

Flight map

Ice everywhere

  • First day was only about registration. There was a long registration queue all day but fortunately it got much shorter later around 19:00. And I got my badge.

Build Badge

Tuesday – October 30

  • Heading to the tent for breakfast. Further down, there is a much bigger tent with a Windows logo on it. That’s where keynotes will take place.


  • First keynote was given by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. It was about the most important delivery of Microsoft: Windows 8. About how the family of Windows 8 PC’s and mobile devices live in harmony together, with SkyDrive backing them up.

  • Steve Ballmer actually gave a demo himself, which was unusual but I think very positive. It’s a general expectation these days: CEO of a high tech company should be “hands on” with the technology. Technically savvy managers are more popular indeed. It looks like Steve also pushes himself towards that direction.

  • You can watch the whole show here:


  • This first day was completely about Windows 8. In fact, Azure Cloud Platform would be the topic of the second keynote on the second day of BUILD conference.

  • We were having breakfast and lunch in the big tents that were built right next to the conference buildings. Yes, tents are not very exciting but the food was.

Good Food

Wednesday – October 31

  • The second keynote of the BUILD conference was about the other important pursuit of Microsoft, the Azure Cloud, and the applications that developers can build into it. Applications that can be built lego style, using the tools and pulling the libraries as you like.

Second Keynote

  • Scott Guthrie presented Azure Mobile & Media Services and Hanselman gave a short demo of new ASP.NET features and support for known social networks. All applications written during demos are eventually getting deployed on Azure. So basically now Azure plays a role in every server side technology of Microsoft.

Scott Guthrie


  • After the keynote, heading towards the session buildings. And the red trees of Seattle…

Redmond Red Trees

Thursday – November 1

  • There were four rooms where you can borrow some brain from the experts. Everyone had certain office hours. This was not a very easy experience though. For some of these brains one had to wait a long time in the queue.

Brain Box

  • Channel9 broadcasting studio. It was in the same building where some of the sessions took place.

Channel 9

  • BUILD conference map on the ground.

Conference Map

Friday – November 2

  • Two public figures Scott Hanselman and Jon Galloway preparing for the last session of the BUILD.

Build Last Session

  • This strange sign took my attention.

Strange Notification

Saturday – November 3

  • At the final day of my trip, after the conference, I found some time to hang around in Seattle.

  • A Windows Store in Seattle. At the time of this writing, there are around 60 of these in various states in U.S.

Windows Store in Seattle

  • Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks. As a matter of fact, this Starbucks shop is where it all started.

Birthplace of Starbucks

  • Somewhere in Seattle, a building on which everybody is sticking gums. I don’t know the reason or the story behind it. But it was really disgusting to be there next to it…

Gum Wall

  • Space Needle is one of the symbols of Seattle. I also went up there, obviously a great view.

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle