Microsoft 2014 Build Conference – Day 1

Today (Wednesday, April 2, 2014) was the first day of the 2014 Microsoft Build Conference. Build is Microsoft’s conference for software developers. There are a total of about 8,000 people here (which includes attendees, speakers, vendors, press, and so on).

The format of the beginning of the conference was a bit awkward in my opinion — a mega-keynote lasting 3 hours long, from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM, given by five or six speakers (I lost count). My first point of feedback to the conference organizers will be that I prefer a more traditional, separate, set of one-hour keynotes.

There was so much information presented in the keynotes it’s hard to pick out what I thought was most interesting or relevant to me. Because I’ve been working with speech recognition lately, I thought the Cortana demo was interesting. Cortana is the (vaguely disturbing according to Wikipedia) AI female voice that’s sort of Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri.

If I had to pluck out a theme of the keynote talks, I’d say it was the notion that developers are feeling pressure to write software that needs to run on multiple platforms — desktop, mobile, Xbox, very small form factor devices — and so Microsoft is focusing on tools and technologies to make this happen. One of the keynote demos showed something where a guy wrote an app (some sports information thing) and then used something in Visual Studio to generate both a mobile app and a PC app. “Write-once, run anywhere” is an idea that’s been around for a while. Because of the multiple-devices theme perhaps, it feels like there’s an excess of Phone and Xbox related talks at Build this year.

Anyway, there’s a ton of energy here at Build. I’ll be speaking about neural networks on Friday. The picture below is one small section of the huge room where lunch was served today. I did a quick scan of the lunch area. I could see about 100 attendees and counted 3 women, so I’d estimate that Build attendees are roughly 95% male.


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