The History of Microsoft Build Conferences

With this years Microsoft Build Conference now finished, we thought it would be interesting to look back at the history of the developer conference and the game-changing announcements that have been made along the way. 

What is Microsoft Build?

Microsoft Build is an annual conference aimed at software engineers and web developers who use Windows and other Microsoft technologies. The company has always hosted developer conferences, albeit in a less frequent and formal setting, such as the Professional Developer Conference and MIX. Today, Build has superseded the previous iterations and has taken over as one of the leading global annual developer events. The conference gives delegates the opportunity to learn about new innovations from Microsoft, gain first-hand experience and collaborate with peers and industry experts. As well as being an excellent opportunity for sharing and collaborating, it is also the platform for company announcements. Hundreds of thousands of people tune in each year for the keynote with bated breath to find out about new updates to Microsoft platforms and services. 

The History of Build

The first official Microsoft Build conference was held in 2011, and it saw a genuine change in track to previous conferences with announcements, cheering and whooping. It set the scene for a conference that delivered updates, announced new features and built enthusiasm for the company, its services and products. Here are the key highlights that we’ve seen over the past eight years at Microsoft Build:

2011 – The Year of Windows 8

The conference was heavily focused on Windows 8 where a server upgrade showed a vastly improved Hyper-V visualization and lost of changes around storage, networking and data deduplication. The developer preview was released during the conference and delegates were given a Samsung tablet with the build. The year also focused on Windows Server 2012 and Visual Studio 2012. 

2012 – The Year of Windows Phone 8

After the success of the conference in 2011, tickets for Build 2012 sold out in under an hour. The conference focused on the recently released Windows 8 and the development of apps with Windows Phone 8. The aim being a change of direction for Microsoft where PC’s and mobile devices would work together harmoniously. Microsoft Azure was the other main focus of the 2012 event. At XAM in our Azure Consulting department, we love Azure and are so excited that Azure has come so far since then.

2013 – The Year of the Windows 8.1 Update

The keynote at the 2013 conference talked about the company changing and embracing new trends, although actual updates weren’t as exciting as this suggested. The main announcement was that of the Windows 8.1 update, which included significant changes including the return of the famous ‘Start’ button, better integration with apps and a refined Bing browser. 

2014 – The Year of the Windows Phone 8.1

2014 saw many announcements demonstrating Microsoft’s shift to open Windows to the entire platform. The most notable changes were for the Windows Phone 8.1; the update brought several usability enhancements, more personalization and customization. Among these changes was the arrival of Cortana, Microsoft’s voice recognition system. 

2015 – They Year of Satya Nadella

With new CEO, Satya Nadella, now at the helm, the 2015 conference took another turn. The keynote speech was one of collaboration and integration with partners, and even competitors. The vision of the company, having achieved the goal of placing a PC on every desk, moved to have one billion Windows 10 Devices by 2018. The focus for the future was stated to be intelligent computing, a reinvention of business process and more personal computing with Windows 10. 

2016 – The Year of Technology that Touches Lives

If you thought tickets selling out in under an hour was impressive, tickets for the 2015 conference sold out in one minute. There were fewer announcements around new technologies this year and more around providing open source tools, cross-platform implementations and intelligence services. Windows 10 was to receive a free Anniversary Update later that year with new features such as biometric security, Cortana on Skype and Windows Ink. The company unveiled plans to build technology into everything, with a future focus set firmly on AI.

2017 – The Year of Mixed Reality

Build 2017 came with details of an upcoming Windows 10 update, the Fall Creators Update. The update was to see new features centering around a new design language, a unified and responsive user experience and new applications. The update would allow users to work efficiently from any device, Windows, iOS or Android. Microsoft’s mixed reality efforts were the big talking point, with its own mixed reality motion control hardware announced at the event. 

2018 – The Year of AI for Everyone

In this year’s keynote, Nadella made it clear that Microsoft’s AI would be for everyone and announced the launch of a program to fund AI projects to assist the disabled. Mixed reality continued to have a strong presence with a mix of HoloLens and Mixed Reality headsets unveiled. While the Windows Phone wasn’t a success, the company focused on making Windows 10 compatible on all devices. Meanwhile, Alexa and Cortana were announced to be joining forces, sharing each others ‘smarts’ through speakers and in Windows 10. Although not the primary focus, there were also hints of the future for Windows 10. 

Microsoft Build 2019

It has certainly been an exciting eight years of updates, announcements and vision from Microsoft and this year didn’t disappoint. The big emphasis this year was on bringing services like Edge and Xbox Live to more platforms. The company showed off some significant upgrades for Cortana, its virtual assistant. Here are the highlights from build 2019:

  • New Microsoft Edge – Microsoft plans to bring the new Edge to as many platforms as possible. What’s more, the Chromium-based browser will have baked-in Internet Explorer mode for business.
  • Cortana – the company demonstrated how Cortana’s AI can be used to suggesting meeting locations and provide traffic information, using an extremely natural interface. The update has promise for the future. 
  • Fluid Framework – a new platform to aid collaboration in offices, allowing multiple users to work of documents across various platforms. The platform promises a great improvement to Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of products.
  • Minecraft – the company teased about an augmented reality version of the game, more will be unveiled later this month. 
  • ElectionGuard – a software development kit to protect digital voting with plans to roll out the service in time for the 2020 election. 

As always, we’ll have to stay tuned during the year to see how these updates roll out and when new services and products are released. However, with a heavy dose of cloud, AI and IoT, it looks set to be another exciting year for the company. 

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

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