Build 2016 Review

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I got the opportunity to hit the Microsoft Build conference this year. Last time I was able to make it was 2012, so it was good to be able to get back in and see what’s new in person.

I’m going to review this from my perspective as a web / web service / REST API sort of developer. As a different person or developer, you may have picked up something different you thought was super cool that I totally missed or tuned out. So.

Usually there are some “key themes” that get pushed at Build. Back in 2012, it was all Windows 8 applications. This year it was:

  • Internet of Things
  • Office and Cortana Integration
  • Cross-platform Applications
  • Microservices and Bots

Keeping in mind my status as a web developer, the microservice/bot stuff was the most interesting thing to me. I don’t work with hardware, so IoT is neat but not valuable. I don’t really need to integrate with Office, and Cortana isn’t web-based. I can maybe see doing some cross-platform stuff for mobile apps that talk to my REST APIs, but this was largely outside the scope of what I do, too.

I was reasonably disappointed by the keynotes. They usually have some big reveal in the keynotes. Day one left me wanting. Something about 22 new machine learning APIs being released that I won’t use. Day two the big reveal for me was free Xamarin for everyone. Again, cross-platform dev isn’t my thing, but still that’s pretty cool.

The sessions were impossible to get into. In 2012 they hosted the conference in Redmond on the Microsoft campus. I got into every session I was interested in. Since then they’ve hosted it in San Francisco at the Moscone Center. I can’t speak for other years, but this year you just couldn’t get into the sessions. If you weren’t lined up half an hour early to get in, forget it - there weren’t enough seats. In total I only got to see three different sessions. In three days, I saw three sessions. I don’t feel like I should have to catch up on the conference I paid to attend by watching videos of the sessions I wanted to see.

The schedule wasn’t public very early. I normally like to check out the web site and figure out which sessions I want to see when I get there. They didn’t release the speaker schedule (to my knowledge) until the day before the conference. I may well have canceled my reservation had I known the list of topics ahead of time. Maybe that’s why they didn’t release it.

There were great code labs. Something they didn’t have as much in previous years were interactive labs so you could learn new tech. They did a really good job of this, with several physical labs with hardware all set up so you could try stuff out. This was super valuable and the majority of my conference takeaways came from these labs. In particular I finally got a good feel for Docker by doing this lab.

There was no hardware giveaway this year which makes me wonder why the price was so high. I get that there are big parties and so on, but I would rather the price go down or there be some hardware than just keep the price cranked up. That said, I did come out with a Raspberry Pi 2 Azure IoT starter kit, so I can at least experiment with some of the IoT things they announced. Who knows? Maybe I’ll turn into an IoT aficionado.

There was a pitifully small amount of information about .NET Core. .NET Core and ASP.NET Core are on the top of my mind lately. Most of my current projects, including Autofac, are working through the challenges of RC1 and getting to RC2. There were something like three sessions total on .NET Core, most of which was just intro information. Any target dates on RC2? What’s the status on dotnet CLI? Honestly, I was hoping the big keynote announcement would be the .NET Core RC2 release. No such luck.

Access to the actual product teams was awesome. This almost (but not quite) makes up for the sessions being full. The ability to talk directly to various product team members for things like Visual Studio Online, ASP.NET Core, NuGet, Visual Studio, and Azure offerings was fantastic. It can be so hard sometimes to get questions answered or get the straight scoop on what’s going on with a project - cutting through the red tape and just talking to people is the perfect answer to that.

There was a big to-do around HoloLens. There seemed to be a lot around HoloLens - from conceptual demos to a full demo of walking on Mars. The lines for this were ridiculous. I didn’t get a chance to try it myself; a couple of colleagues tried it and said it wasn’t as mind-blowing as it was promoted to be.


  • Logistics: Not good. If you sell out in five minutes and don’t have enough seats for sessions, that’s not cool.
  • Topics: Not good. I get there’s a focus on a certain subset of topics, but I can usually find something cool I’m excited about. Not this time.
  • Educational Value: OK. I didn’t get much from sessions but the labs and the on-hand staff were great.
  • Networking Value: Good. I don’t normally “network” with people in the whole “sales” context, but being able to meet up with people from different vendors and product teams and speak face to face was a valuable thing.