Volume 29 Number 5
Editor's Note : Building Bridges
Michael Desmond | May 2014
The Microsoft Build 2014 conference took place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco early last month and set the tone for the upcoming year in application development across the Microsoft ecosystem. And what developers saw was a Microsoft eager to meet them where they live—be it on the desktop, in the cloud, on tablets or phones, or even on the Xbox gaming console and competing device platforms such as iOS and Android. Microsoft is building bridges in 2014, and the impact of that effort will color development for years to come.
That message was sent loud and clear in the first hour of the opening day keynote, when David Treadwell, corporate vice president of the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, unveiled Microsoft’s Universal Windows apps strategy. The approach enables developers to maintain a single code base that can target Windows 8 desktops and tablets, Windows Phone handhelds, and even the Xbox One entertainment platform. Universal Windows apps don’t promise full “write once, run everywhere” capability—devs will usually tweak the UI for each target—but it does create huge potential value for developers coding to the Windows Runtime.
Microsoft’s bridge-building efforts span gaps beyond the Windows family as well. New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spotlighted the efforts of partners like Xamarin, PhoneGap and Unity to enable efficient, cross-platform development from Visual Studio and the Microsoft .NET Framework. Xamarin co-founder Miguel de Icaza, for example, took the stage during the day-one keynote to demonstrate how the Xamarin add-on for Visual Studio extends C# development to iOS and Android.
Perhaps most notable at Build were the bridges Microsoft worked to build for incumbent developers. Three years after unveiling its Windows Runtime strategy at the Build conference in 2011, Microsoft made a point this year to strongly affirm its commitment to the .NET Framework. As Microsoft Technical Fellow Anders Hejlsberg told a gathering of journalists during the conference, “We are going all-in on .NET.”
The commitment to the .NET Framework was evident in the launch of the open source .NET Compiler Platform (Project “Roslyn”) and the forthcoming update of the managed C# programming language that is the subject of this month’s lead feature by Mark Michaelis (p. 16). It’s also evident in the release of .NET Native, which compiles C# to native machine code to yield quicker start up and reduced memory footprint compared to apps based on managed C#. Microsoft also launched the .NET Foundation, an umbrella organization to help shepherd the growing fleet of open source technologies in the .NET Framework.
As is the case with almost every Build conference, this year’s get-together created nearly as many questions as it answered. But with Microsoft’s renewed commitment to the .NET Framework, and impressive support for cross-platform development both within and beyond the Microsoft ecosystem—not to mention what seems to be a fully committed embrace of open source—there’s a lot to be excited about.
Still looking for answers? You might check out the Visual Studio Live! (bit.ly/1k0vBvJ) event in Chicago, May 5-8. This four-day gathering of developers, software architects and designers offers cutting-edge education on Microsoft development platforms. Master the emerging tools and techniques that are shaping development in the Microsoft ecosystem, and maybe build a few bridges of your own.
Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine