Last week I attended Microsoft’s Build Conference in Seattle. It was my first time attending so I was excited and didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t take long to realize that Microsoft puts on a top-notch event. From DJ’s playing music during the waiting line, to the constantly available live-stream piped everywhere throughout the event, to “cuddle-corner” where attendees could pet animals and relax, to the awesome expo, and non-stop new features and functionality being rolled out one could easily be impressed. It was indeed a great event and I’d like to share a few things I learned from having attended the conference. These items will be more high-level and conceptual things I noticed versus down-in-the-weeds technology specific items. 1. You Better Embrace the Cloud! As attendees listened to live-streamed sessions and keynotes the word cloud and “Azure” was prevalent throughout. I spent a lot of time in the expo hall of the event and I must have walked around it 6 or 7 times looking and booths and talking with Microsoft staff. Each booth has a navy-blue sign with white letters at the top indicating the technology being demonstrated at the booth. It was very eye-opening how many of the booths started with the word “Azure”. Sure, Azure has been out for a while now and that’s nothing new. I’m just communicating that walking around the expo and listening to sessions and keynotes it is crystal clear that Azure is a major component of many Microsoft technologies. Take Home Point: If you are reading this and are hesitant to embrace Azure, you should re-think your position, or you’ll soon be left in the dust. 2. Microsoft is Investing More in IOT At the event Microsoft released “ Sphere ” which is a solution for creating highly-secure connected microcontrollers (IOT devices). And you guessed it… they connect to Azure! Many of the highly attended sessions and one of the most highly-trafficked booths all centered around Sphere. As an IOT hobbyist I spent some time at the Sphere booth asking all kinds of questions about the Sphere Development Kits. I think the devices will be high-powered and offer a lot of functionality, but right now the price-point seems high in comparison to competitor solutions and the device that was being demo’d only connects to wi-fi currently. I imagine in the future they will connect to cellular via a SIM as well. One could argue that the increase in cost is the tradeoff for security as Microsoft touted how secure these devices are. While micro-controller devices were being demo’d it’s important to note that Microsoft is not making the micro-controllers, rather they are working with established vendors in the industry to do so. Microsoft is collaborating in the design of the devices and helping align them with their IOT strategy for the future. Take Home Point: Microsoft is continuing to invest in IOT, is linking devices to Azure, and is promoting the security of their IOT solution. 3. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Everywhere Another common thread throughout the event were the words “ML” and “AI”. You could hear this being presented in several sessions, keynotes, and there were booths discussing and demoing these topics as well…. and it makes sense. If your overall strategy is the cloud (Azure) and now IOT devices are easily connected to the cloud and sending tons of data to the cloud, then what will you do with all the data? The answer: you will learn from it and use it to make better decisions and become predictive. An example demo showed a DJI drone flying over the top of a building looking at HVAC pipes analyzing them for inconsistencies or anomalies. Within seconds the drone was able to pick out the pipe that had the issue and show it to the audience in real-time. One can easily see the benefits of equipping the drone with AI capabilities. But it doesn’t stop there… Microsoft is making it easy for developers to tie into their ML and AI capabilities in Azure. If you’ve got data stored in Azure, chances are leveraging the ML/AI capabilities offered to you by Microsoft could help your organization. Take Home Point: Don’t write “ML” and “AI” off as just buzzwords. If you are using Azure then you may be surprised at how ML and AI can already help you. Give it a look! 4. Renewed Energy in the Microsoft Space One thing that also stuck out to me at the conference was the energy and level of enthusiasm of attendees and exhibitors. And I’m not just talking about Microsoft fan-boys. There were a lot of non-Microsoft developers at the event which was interesting and served as proof to me that Microsoft is on the right track strategically speaking. As of late Microsoft has been heavily promoting open source and being open in general. From the open-sourcing of many of their .NET Technologies, to embracing non-Microsoft technologies (think running Linux in Azure) Microsoft is earning the respect of developers. But this stuff doesn’t just happen by luck. Microsoft has taken a different strategic stance and it is paying off… you could easily “feel” it while at the conference. Take Home Point: This ain’t your granddaddy’s Microsoft! 5. Build is Awesome! I’m glad I went to Microsoft Build. I’ve been to several conferences over the years (including South by Southwest) and Build was by far my favorite. Yes, the content was great, but the conference experience extended beyond the content of the sessions and was woven all throughout all touch points of the event. Everything was well-planned, organized, and first class from what I could tell. The registration process went smoothly, swag was everywhere, food and drinks were easily available, “Flow” of the expo was easy and open, the venue was great, several hotels were close by, the new technologies and content was awesome, and the Microsoftees were friendly. I didn’t see any attendees who had issues connecting to the internet or complaining about the typical things you’d see at conferences. All the details seemed to have been handled. After all, where else could you hear about the latest and greatest technologies, pet dogs/rabbits/miniature horses, get free massages, meet the leaders of Microsoft, and have bottomless refreshments and snacks all in the same room? Take Home Point: If you haven’t been to Build, you should go. It’s a great event.