Today was BUILD’s first official day, and there was a lot going on! I have a lot to cover, from the keynote to a long day full of sessions. I also had the chance to have a 1-on-1 clinic for Windows 8 apps with Microsoft’s UX guys, chat with a lot of different partner companies including Xamarin and Unity, and finally picking up my brand new Surface tablet and a Nokia Lumia 920 device. So, here it goes!
The keynote was actually pretty good, except from the long wait on the queue to get in. Seriously, queues and long waits all the time (more on this later on). However, the wait was worth it. Jordan Rudess, Dream Theater’s keyboard player was rocking the stage while people got it. It turns out that Rudess is an enthusiastic for digital music apps and modulators and is really into Windows 8. He co-created two Windows multi-touch apps called MorphWiz and Tachyion. Hopefully they will be available in the market. I must say that both apps where amazing, and they were showcased on the new all-in-one Lenovo A720s and also on a Surface tablet.
After Rudess, it was Steve Ballmer’s turn. Although I don’t really like Ballmer’s showman skills, I must say he did a good job demonstrating the different form factors, the key Windows 8 features and the overall message. Starting with a quick run down on the stats, Microsoft claims that in only three days they had 4 million Windows 8 upgrades without counting partners and OEMs. The company says that there are around 670 million computers running Windows 7, which are potential Windows 8 upgrades in the short term, and they are also foreseeing that in the next year the market will see 400 million new Windows 8 devices introduced. Those are really compelling numbers for any developer able to see the huge monetization opportunity.
Among the keynote breaking announcements were the free music streaming service that will be available in all Windows 8 devices through Xbox Music. Ballmer showcased a range of hardware from big screens, including the recent purchase of a company called Perceptive Pixel which does big interactive screens, to small screens and the hero phone. Among the most compelling was the new Lenovo ThinkPad II, which is a full Intel tablet capable of running all Windows x86 and Windows RT software, even Visual Studio and the full office suite.
Next, Ballmer called Steven Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President for Developer and Platform Evangelism, to talk and showcase the importance of the application experience in Windows 8. The main topics were the importance of multi-task experiences where users could play, work and share seamlessly. He also pointed how Windows 8 modern applications could be introduced as companions to hardcore desktop applications. For example, he demoed a Windows 8 sketch app on a tablet that worked seamlessly with a 3D desktop application. The most compelling part was when he was playing a game while calling an intern using Skype on snap mode and having the rear tablet camera showing the audience on screen. True multi-tasking, play and work at the same time.
Ballmer got back on stage to make the announcement where were all hoping to hear. A Surface for every BUILD attendee, along with a 100GB SkyDrive storage card. The crowd went mental at this point, and I’m sure everyone was satisfied.
Then it was the turn of Kevin Gallo, Director of Program Manager for Windows Phone. Gallo went through the Windows Phone story and announced the public availability of the Windows Phone 8 SDK. He emphasized that 75% of gross apps on mobile platforms are games, and how native support and Direct3D will make Windows Phone 8 a much more compelling mobile gaming platform. Monetization was a big topic and In App purchase was announced.
Unity support for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 was also announced, which is great news for all Indy developers. Finally, Richard Kerris from Nokia came on stage to announce that along the Surface and the SkyDrive extended storage, every developer would also get a Nokia Lumia 920!
Nothing more to wish, a Surface tablet and a Lumia 920, killer hardware for the developers who now will hold the last word on how Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 actually perform and engage consumers into the new generation platform.