Every year Microsoft is hosting a gigantic developers conference for new technology in the Windows sector. This year a major part of the conference was focused around Microsoft Azure - the company's superb cloud platform. Another important part was the future of .NET.
The future of .NET looks much brighter than people actually believed some years ago. Microsoft has finally realized that developers are important and that they have to do something to make them happy. This has now happened. Microsoft invested some money and build a lot of tools and partnerships for providing a solid basis to developers. A basis that is not bound to Windows as a platform or Microsoft as a supplied.
With the announcement of the .NET foundation we can be sure that finally the initial vision of .NET might become reality. One platform to make every developer happy. In the recent years Xamarin has done a great job to fill this gap. Now Microsoft has partnered up with them (and a long list of other companies) to bring .NET to every platform with a stack of interesting technologies.
Also the new C# / .NET compiler Roslyn is open-source. There is also a high chance that RyuJIT (the new JIT for MSIL) is also being realized - at least to vendors - in the near future. This means two things at the moment:
- C# is going to be more active in development than ever before
- Errors, extensions and customizations can be easily fixed / integrated
In my opinion this will drive C# even more and it will open up C# beyond Microsoft. This great language deserves much more - and maybe we can finally get rid of this Java crap (sorry, the idea was great, but now it is just lacking too many state of the art features).
A crucial announcement was introduction of .NET native. This will compile Windows Store apps (will be extended to normal apps in the future) to native applications, which will decrease memory consumption and increase startup time. In the end there is some ahead-of-time compilation and a special corefx framework binding, which will be very useful to limit the usage of resources.
Also with SIMD coming to .NET we will finally be able to fully access the power of the current hardware - without going to C++ and using intrinsics.
Great, just great. A lot more features, a new portal and a much better integration into Visual Studio. The direction is clear: Give developers an easy way to spawn resources in the cloud, without having to worry about managing those resources or allocating them. Everything will be set up and if somebody wants to do it more manually, they will have the chance.
Microsoft's infrastructure here is just amazing and the amount and quality of services is simply outstanding. The renaming makes sense to avoid confusion about the choice of operating systems. I already run Linux based systems with the same performance as Windows servers in Microsoft Azure and I believe, that Azure is the ideal cloud platform. I don't see any other possible choice at the moment, unless you deeply mistrust Microsoft or have any affiliation with another vendor.
PS: Now Microsoft is giving every website a free SSL certificate. This is like Christmas and easter on the same day! Are there any reasons any more for not hosting the webpage on Azure and making HTTPS mandatory?!
Windows Phone (8.1)
Finally a sign of life of the Windows Phone OS. I was a little bit disappointed in the last weeks, as other mobile platforms got some useful updates, however, we are still stuck at this very solid one. It seemed to me that Microsoft lost all advantages of the Windows Phone 8 platform in those two years. They started with a big lead, but then Apple stroke back with their redesign. Also Google improved the Android platform so much, by adding a ton of new features.
Finally Windows Phone is on the move again. With an incredible digital assistant "Cortana", new lock and start screen features and a bunch of useful new applications, the promised 8.1 update provides everything that will make Windows Phone 8 sexy again.
And finally VPN will also work out of the box! The dual SIM card support is also beautifully integrated. This upgrade will also contain the unified store experience and HTML applications. Finally some of the advancements of the Windows 8 platform will come to the phone. Did I mention the new Nokia phones (especially the 930) and the new keyboard? Very nice!
The XBox One (especially the Kinect) can be seen as a key part in Microsoft's strategy. With the announcement of shared applications - such apps that may run on Windows Phone, Windows (PC) and the XBox - we can be sure that every developer is now invited from Microsoft to develop for this great platform. In the end Microsoft tries to push developers to create apps that work everywhere.
In my opinion this has been quite flawed, however, the strategy is now changing in the right direction. Microsoft realized that they need to offer some kind of code sharing principle that is superior to the concept of portable class libraries. Don't get me wrong - PCL is a great feature, but in the end it is dominated by the lowest common denominator. This makes building UIs (even though the components are all available on the various platforms) impossible. It is now possible with the special kind of shared projects.
Build is proven once again that Satya Nadella has been the right choice as CEO of Microsoft. Also the direction seems to be suited for the future again. Finally it also showed that Microsoft is a real innovator and far from being dead. The last time a company has been this innovative is Apple between 2004-2007, which resulted in the first iPhone and brought other devices such as the iPad as a consequence. I suspect similar things to happen in the next few years.