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!
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.
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.
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”
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.
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