So Microsoft's BUILD conference kicked off today with the keynote presented by Steven Sinofsky, VP of Windows and Windows Live.

As a developer by trade, I was excited as heck by the keynote, and I'm frustrated as anything that I can't be there in person, to get my hands on the Windows 8 tablets they're (allegedly) handing out to attendees. However, compared to keynotes by Google, Apple and all the other giant multi-billion tech conglomerates, I was disappointed by the lack of consumer focus. Microsoft wants people to upgrade to Windows 8, they still have to sell to consumers. I appreciate their value and their money is in pitching to developers who can add value to the platform, but Apple comes out with devices "that just work". I want to see more of that "it just works" stuff - I want to see someone doing music playback, watching movies, writing school essays, business reports, connecting to Wifi - all the stuff a normal domestic user does.

Now that my big gripe is out of the way - WOWZERS. Windows 8 strikes me as a developer's dream. Here's a small selection of the (pretty awesome) feature list from the first hour of the keynote:

  • Everything from Windows 7, runs on Windows 8;
  • Visual Studio 11 for writing Windows 8 apps, can handle both native HTML5/JS apps, Silverlight, and Winforms/WPF - and pass code back and forth between it and Expression Blend for making your apps both beautiful and functional;
  • 30% lower memory footprint than Windows 7 out-of-the-box (404MB compared to 280~ish MB in the demo);
  • Windows APIs now support pushing services from apps back into the APIs for consuming from other apps;
  • Support for 256TB hard disks... (that's about a quarter of Google's index size);
  • A new Windows 8 App Store, which is optional for developers to use - no more Apple- or Google-style monopolistic control of the marketplace;
  • 3 lines of code to hook up to device-centric sensors (accelerometers, webcams, and so on).

So what does this actually mean for developers?

Well... I can write an HTML5/JS app, and it'll run natively on the desktop, be consumed by the desktop's other apps, but can also run standalone on my mobile phone, my tablet, my Linux PC, my Mac PC (if you're so inclined... boo hiss). I can write a Silverlight app and take full advantage of XNA on the desktop, XBox and Windows Phone.

Windows has finally recognised that interoperability between hardware platforms and applications is a must to stay ahead. This is the most cohesive effort I've seen from them, Apple or Google to unify the entire platform offering, giving developers (and their employers) maximum freedom to experiment, innovate, and inspire.

The Windows 8 developer preview will be available at 8pm PST. I'm tempted to go to bed early and get up at 4am local time just to download it.

The keynote's still going on at the time of posting, so I might be back to update it with more cool stuff later as it's announced.

Benjamin