The rather lackluster Day 2 keynote from Build 2015 was short on big announcements as they looked to drive home the message of the power of the Windows Universal Platform including a few more details on the bridges they are building for Web, Android, and iOS developers to move their apps to Windows.
Day 2 started out with Steve Guggenheimer and John Shewchuck on stage highlighting apps built for Windows 10 including accelerometer equipped air drum sticks being built by Muzik with help from Questlove. After several video testimonials that crossed the “meaningless hype” barrier about halfway through, the audience was eager to “change gears”. David Treadwell came on stage for a more in-depth look at building Windows Universal apps and started by getting the audience rolling by letting them in on a bit of an inside joke about how Windows 10 is bringing back overlapping windowed apps all the way from 1986.
The last release should have been called Window 8.1 — David Treadwell
Kevin Gallo then proceeded to walk through building a single app which supported the features of every Windows 10 device including the 84″ Surface Hub, desktop PC, Surface Tablet, Windows Phone, Raspberry Pi, XBox 360, and HoloLens. The secret he showed is how new features of XAML called Adaptive Triggers allow developers to define customizations based on screen resolution. He also showed how features specific to the device can be implemented in the application to provide features like Ink for tablet and Surface Hub, or 3D viewing in HoloLens. They also showed a few of the Visual Studio 2015 improvements that make building apps for multiple devices easier like the XAML designer screen presets, and the Visual Tree view while debugging applications.
Next up was a bit deeper dive into what Microsoft is calling their “Bridges to Windows Universal Apps”.
.NET and Win32
They once again explained that Win32, WPF, and Windows Forms apps will be able to be packaged and run as Windows 10 Universal Apps including access to Windows 10 features. But there was no actual demo of this or how it will work, so how much code rework might be required is yet to be seen. We also didn’t get any more details on the isolated execution environment they will be employing to support this on Windows 10.
Again, there weren’t a lot of specifics for porting an Android app to Windows 10 including no mention of the Android subsystem that would be used to execute the code. They did mention that there would be a Java SDK to allow Android apps to take advantage of Windows 10 features and also that it was relatively easy for an Android app to swap out services such as Google Maps for Bing Maps.
Here, thankfully we got a little bit more information about how Visual Studio 2015 will be able to execute Objective-C applications. In the demo they used a command line tool to convert the XCode project to Visual Studio. Once loaded they could modify the Objective-C files as required and then build and run the application. They also showed via “file import” smoke and mirrors how easy it is to add Windows 10 features to the iOS app. They didn’t actually show the code IN those files so we have no idea how much work it was in reality.
The next part of the keynote focused on how to build apps in Windows for other platforms. Mentioning their emphasis on Xamarin in last year’s keynote this year they wanted to show off Apache Cordova support. To set the stage for the demo they explained how a W3C manifest file could be used to generate code for mobile apps on Apache Cordova using a new tool called ManifoldJS. They also announced a new remote debugging tool called Vorlon that allows developers to get live feeds of data from running mobile apps.
One actual announcement that did come out today was the availability of GitHub Enterprise on Azure, a GitHub for internal enterprise use.
No Build keynote could be complete without some discussion of the cloud and so Joseph Sirosh took the stage to talk about data analytics. His talks showcased historical analysis showed how cow pedometers were being used to help improve dairy farming. Yes, pedometers for cows can actually show mating and sleep cycles in a useful way. Go figure. He then moved onto streaming analytics while announcing Project Oxford, a group of APIs from Microsoft Research to enable things like Facial Recognition, Speech, Vision, and Language analytics. You can test the facial recognition yourself at http://how-old.net/. Results may vary. Next up was predictive analytics in which Joseph showed how a Microsoft employee used their Machine Learning service to more accurately predict the outcome of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament than Satya Nadella using manual processes and basketball experts. Last up was a look to the future with a view of human genome mapping service and a Norwegian startup that is using machine learning to save money by managing power usage. He also put in a significant plug for developers to learn the R language used for data analytics.
The keynote then moved onto gaming with a demo of the power of DirectX12 featuring the upcoming Final Fantasy game where what appeared to be video was actually 3D models rendered with amazing clarity. They also brought up one of the top Minecraft modders to show how Visual Studio 2015 can now be used to create mods for Minecraft, even ones that explode.
While today’s keynote was a bit of a let down compared to yesterday, there are sessions later that promise to provide some details where the demos were lacking, particularly of the “bridging” features to move apps from other platforms to Windows 10. We’ll have more info on those technologies as well as Xamarin and Apache Cordova development, so stay tuned!