BUILD Day 1: My Summary

October 31, 2012

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After nerve-wrecking last minute flight changes, I made it to BUILD on Monday and heroically spent almost 2 hours in the registration queue. After a good night’s sleep, we regrouped for the first day’s keynote. Another long line, and we were sitting in the third row!

Ishai Ram, Alon Levi, Noam Kfir – 3rd row of the keynote hall.

Steve Ballmer and others – Day 1 Keynote
Surprisingly, Steve Ballmer himself kicked off the keynote with an incredible amount of energy. Although he didn’t jump up and down screaming “Developers, Developers, Developers”, there was a great sense of accomplishment in his talk, showing off the great Windows 8 devices already released and many more that are yet to come, including an “82 inch slate” by PixelSense.

Steve Ballmer with an 82-inch slate.

Notably, the tablets Steve showed included the Surface RT, Microsoft’s flagship offering with Windows RT. The Surface is shaping up to be a great tablet, with the innovative Touch and Type covers. In fact, since every BUILD attendee got a Surface RT, I can attest myself for the keyboard quality on the Touch Cover. After a couple of minutes getting used to it, I was able to type pretty quickly with fairly little typos, without looking at the keyboard.

BUILD giveaways: Surface RT with 32GB and Touch Cover, Nokia Lumia 920, and 100GB of SkyDrive storage.

Steve shared some statistics on Windows 8 upgrades: four million upgrades over the weekend since the October 26 release. Some other notable insights included the focus on sharing code between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, syncing everything through SkyDrive, Xbox Music free streaming and Xbox Smart Glass.

Towards the end of the keynote, Kevin Gallo talked about the Windows Phone 8 SDK, focusing on tap-to-send, and concluded by telling us that we all get a Nokia Lumia 920 with “maps that work” 🙂

“Maps that work”, screenshot from Lumia 920.

Shai Hinitz – Designing Games for Windows 8
This talk had a lot of potential, but unfortunately there were considerable problems with the demos exacerbated by a 20 minute projector blackout, that could only be restored by rebooting the projector… Shai showed several examples of Windows 8 games, and outlined some guidance for great Windows games, including creating a great splash screen, supporting multiple screen orientations and Snap view, and using the richness of the Windows sensor platform, all the more relevant to interactive games.

Will Tschumy – The Microsoft Design Language
This was an excellent session by a great speaker with a strong design background. Will explained in detail the level of commitment at Microsoft – all across the board – to design on every screen, including Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox.

The core principles of the Microsoft design guidelines, then, are the following:

  • Get the OS out of the way. Content before chrome, in every way.
  • Screen edges are important when there is no chrome. This is why they were chosen for charms and app bars.
  • Craftsmanship and quality are of paramount importance in apps. All apps are fast, responsive, grid-aligned, familiar, offering a consistent user experience.
  • Focus is important. An app should do one thing, and do it great.
  • Contracts with other apps and with the OS bring productivity and user confidence to the next level. A small set of charms addresses a huge variety of user needs, in a consistent way across the system.

Will had a great number of examples and explained these principles very vividly. Even if you’ve already written a Windows 8 app (or ten), I still recommend that you watch the session recording.

I am posting short updates and links on Twitter as well as on this blog. You can follow me: @goldshtn

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