James Governor's Monkchips

Microsoft BUILD 2019 Hot Take: Get On The Front Foot

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I just got back from Microsoft Build in Seattle. It was a good trip. Microsoft had some solid announcements, but I felt the event lacked an overall theme. I am a story-teller, so I am always looking for narratives to hold together an analysis.

In the Vision keynote the message that resonated most strongly with me was probably CEO Satya Nadella’s pitch for Microsoft’s “Power Platform” as a process automation platform for end users and independent software vendors (ISVs). Not exactly sexy, but a good Microsoft DNA kind of story. Power Platform includes Power BI, Microsoft’s business intelligence and visualisation platform, and PowerApps, the company’s lowcode or citizen developer tools. Some of the PowerApps case studies are profound. At Virgin Atlantic, for example, a fuel efficiency expert was looking for a way to better manage the airline’s process for managing fuel use. She taught herself to use PowerApps, and now automates her own working practices.

If I had written the keynote though I would have made it 20 minutes long with one theme – We’re Your Favourite Tool – and four examples.

  1. GitHub is the developer’s favourite source code management and collaboration platform. It is where modern developers live. Microsoft is now integrating the platform into its broader software delivery story.
  2. Visual Studio Code is simply kicking ass right now. The Go language community loves it. JavaScript developers love it. Even Java developers are getting good results with Code. It’s lightweight but powerful, with great collaboration tooling for remote pair programming
  3. TypeScript is exploding. We wrote it. Get on this, yo!
  4. Go full Oprah – every attendee gets a Surface Book 2. Microsoft is going to provide the best developer platforms, and that includes a workstation.  Microsoft may not quite have nailed this yet, but the aspiration is on point. Windows now runs native Linux with some elegance, Microsoft has a compelling new terminal for command line users. And honestly… developers are increasingly bored of restrictions on their Apple laptops, and Apple’s seeming apathy to their needs. I think it’s past time for Microsoft to try and surprise us by the fact you can write code using its software on Mac hardware. Instead just stand there and say This Is Your New Favourite Laptop.

Once-you’re-using-all-these-tools-Azure-will-feel-like-the-natural-choice. Mic Drop.

I will be looking at some of announcements in more detail next week but for now, I feel Microsoft missed a chance to be more aggressive about highlighting the incredible momentum story of adoption of its platforms by developers. Microsoft is back, and not just because it’s supporting other people’s platforms, meeting developers where they are, but because it itself is where developers are. Tim was wrong.


Microsoft paid T&E and is a RedMonk client.




  1. I wouldn’t say that Windows “runs Linux with some elegance”, but it does run it and that is impressive. OTOH Windows with Linux bolted on does not match the elegance of MacOS. There is no need to bolt on Linux for most developers because MacOS is BSD Unix at the command line (the OS than Linux based its design on) and runs all the same command line tools. Docker on Mac does use a VM under the covers but it feels seamless and indistinguishable from docker on Linux. Nothing feels bolted on.

    Yes the current Mac hardware situation is a bit frustrating (I am sticking with my 2014 15″ MBP for now) but that command key is very useful in terminal (cut and paste doesn’t conflict with standard Unix control key sequences). I am not particularly impressed by MS Surface products though, most of the disadvantages of Mac hardware and you still have to use Windows.

  2. The regularized programming model used in Microsoft Bosque is interesting.

    The language is being designed so that it can be easy to reason about by both humans and machines. By removing complexity, Bosque will democratize programming because automation (auto code generation, code analysis, testing and refactoring) will enable things like conversational programming.

    Microsoft will also be able to use metadata generated by the GitHub and VS Code ecosystem to continuously improve its developer services – Azure. A strategy AWS/GCP will find increasingly difficult to respond to.

    So, Bosque (or something similar) will become the lingua franca of GitHub (Microsoft’s Workflow Automation as a Service) and in turn cloud computing in general. A safe prediction?

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