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Worldwide Build Tour Lures Developers for Universal Windows and Azure

Now that Microsoft has outlined its Universal Windows Platform and its new model for building and deploying modern applications for its Azure cloud, the company has hit the road to make its case to developers throughout the world.

The Build tour is taking place today in London and New York. These one-day developer confabs follow last month's annual Build conference, which took place in San Francisco. In the coming days and weeks Microsoft is hosting Build events in Atlanta, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo and Mexico City, among numerous other locations.

I attended the New York event today where a few hundred developers took in a condensed version of the larger Build conference, featuring an overview of Microsoft's UWP and Azure strategy and demos on how to build and port apps to the new platform. Kevin Gallo, Microsoft's partner director for developer ecosystem and platform, gave the opening keynote address in which he called on developers to learn how they can enhance Android and Apple iOS applications for the new UWP by bridging them to Windows. At the same time, Gallo emphasized the ability to port legacy Win32 apps to the new UWP.

Key to the new UWP is the notion that developers can build their apps for Windows regardless of whether they're for a phone, tablet, PC or the new Surface Hub large conferencing system. "All these new APIs are to help create different user experiences on different devices," Gallo said.

Likewise, Microsoft's new love of open source platforms is carrying over to the Build tour, both in terms of the new UWP, which includes the new Edge browser, native support for HTML 5 and XAML, which Microsoft officials emphasized is appealing for developing responsive design to apps. Gallo explained how the new "bridge" capability for developers addresses four key form factors: Web, Win32 apps and integration with applications built in Objective C for iOS and editors for Android developers such as CodeMe. Developers "can use their Android tooling and port to Windows," Gallo said.

Gallo also showcased Microsoft's new Windows for IoT  (Internet of Things). The new Windows IoT Core is available for Raspberry Pi, the popular low-cost small device platform and for MinnowBoard Max, the open source environment for developing embedded apps for Intel Atom processors.

Building on Azure
In the second half of the Build tour keynote session, Neil Hutson, a Microsoft's engineering evangelist, took the stage to talk about extensions to the Azure public cloud. In keeping with Microsoft's emphasis that Azure's not just for Windows and .NET apps, Hutson said that 25 percent of the instances running in the company's cloud are Linux based. "If you want to use a favorite language, platform, framework and operating system, we pretty much have you covered so you can do your best work with us," Hutson said.

While Microsoft has extolled that message for some time now, the next key selling point for Azure rests on its new Azure App Services. The notion behind Azure App Services is that it enables developers to build and deploy modern and mobile apps that can scale globally across the Azure cloud.

Hutson also gave airtime to the array of new data services hosted in Azure ranging from what he described as a high performance SQL DB to support for a variety of alternative SQL and NoSQL database types. Hutson outlined three new features in Microsoft's Azure SQL DB service. First is Elastic Database Pool, which will allow customers to maintain separate isolated databases, the ability to aggregate activity to smooth peaks and the ability define strict performance SLAs. Second is support for full text search and the most warmly received new feature -- based on audience applause -- was support for transparent data encryption (TDE). "That means when data is at rest, it's fully encrypted," Hutson said. Hutson also talked up the new Azure SQL Data Warehouse, which "lets you suck information from SQL DB, and aggregate on premises systems," Hutson said.

Circling back to the Internet of Things, Hutson also talked up how the various data services including Azure Machine Leaning and Event Hub can connect to and process data from millions of devices in near real time.

Stream Analytics consolidates all of that data and allows users to create reports using the new Power BI. They can store infinite amounts of data in the new Azure Data Lake. Hutson also underscored the new Office APIs that will enable interactivity among third-party apps and components of the productivity suite, especially Outlook. With the new Office APIs and Office Graph, developers can build native application experiences into Office 365, Hutson explained. Rather than toggle between Outlook and, the two can now be integrated, he said.

Microsoft knows developers will be critical to the success of UWP, Azure App Services and the next generation of Office. If the road show comes to your neighborhood, you may want to learn the details and decide for yourself.


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/18/2015 at 11:20 AM


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