Monday, November 05, 2012

Looking back at Build 2012

A question which was asked many times during the week was whether or not this trip to Build 2012 in Redmond was worth the time and money. image

Even after four days of raw content, there is no short answer here. As Dennis Vroegop clearly illustrated, the organization was definitely not up to the task just yet. The big problem is that I was expecting to visit a conference in the style of the Professional Developers Conference (which it clearly wasn't). Since Build is organized by the Windows division I should have known that they would primarily focus on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. On the other, the session list wasn't disclosed until a day ahead, which fed my hope to learn a lot of really new stuff. Many attendees I spoke to had the exact same thing.

On the other hand, we did receive 1200 USD worth of gadgets, and me being there give me a myriad of opportunities to network with other people in the community. The time in Redmond also kept me away from the daily challenges of my current project which allowed me the necessary peace to actually dig a bit deeper into the content. Granted, I won't go home with the mind-blowing ideas and insights such as those you get after visiting a QCon or the Norwegian Developers Conference. But at least Microsoft managed to motivate me to start the Boiling Point RT project, a revival of the Silverlight Cookbook for Windows 8.

Although Windows 8 is a major improvement over Windows 7 (just read the Building Windows 8 blog post series if you don’t believe me), but I’ve always had some doubts about the added value of the new Windows Store on an ordinary desktop PC. But this all changed after a week of using my newly acquired Surface RT. Windows 8 on a tablet is absolutely awesome. Almost everybody who I showed the device to was genuinely impressed with the sleek design, the operating system and some of the better apps. The same can be said about the Lumia 920. I really liked my Lumia 800 and found Windows Phone 7 a major improvement over Android. But I’ve always felt that WP7 was a bit limited on the customization level and lacked some decent apps. For instance, WhatsApp and Facebook were painfully slow. But this all changed with the combination of Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 920. And the fact of the matter is that I would never have know this if I hadn’t been there.

But the question remains if it was really worth the time and money? For me it did, but that's mainly because the content was not the most important aspect for me. There were so many opportunities for meeting new people, extending my social network, and having in-depth discussions with other experienced developers, that alone makes it worth the trouble. However, it is questionable whether I will visit another Build if I get the choice. I’ll probably choose a more advanced conference such as QCon. On the other hand, maybe Microsoft will improve on itself next year or reintroduce the PDC. You’ll never know….