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Microsoft Student Partner

Windows 8 Elite App Showcase with Steve Ballmer

Yesterday Nick Case and I traveled down to Modern Jago in London for an event set up for members of the Windows 8 | Elite program. The Event was particularly exciting as the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, was presenting. I’ve been a fan of Ballmers since seeing the world famous “Developers” video on YouTube. Whilst a lot of people, myself included, find it funny I think its refreshing to see someone so genuinely passionate about what they do.

Nick and I caught our train from the Hull Paragon Interchange at 10:30 and were enjoying our journey until an announcement played on the train — “Please have all tickets and railcards ready for inspection”. At this point my heart sunk, I’d forgotten my Student Railcard in the rush to get out. Fortunately when the train guard came to me she was merciful and told me not to forget it again but that she would let me off this one time.

We arrived in the capital around 1pm and set off on our way to Modern Jago following the Circle line — enthusiastically referred to as the “Bright Yellow Line” by the woman opposite me on the train —  round to Liverpool Street Station from Kings Cross, from there it was only a few minutes walk to Club Row, the street on which Modern Jago is situated.

Welcome to Modern Jago!
Welcome to Modern Jago!

We were welcomed into the garden of Jago as there was an event which hadn’t yet finished still taking place in the hall. The building itself was formally a school and a lovely contemporary mix of old on the outside and modern on the inside.

Modern Jago Courtyard Garden
Modern Jago Courtyard Garden

Whilst in the network I had a look round for any familiar faces and spotted one of my fellow MSPs,  Abhilaksh Lalwani as well as a few people from Black Marble Studios.

Modern Jago Courtyard -- My fellow MSP, Abhilaksh Lalwani, looks dappa in his Yellow Jumper
Modern Jago Courtyard — My fellow MSP, Abhilaksh Lalwani, looks dappa in his Yellow Jumper

After around 20 minutes or so we were invited inside to be seated for the event. The chairs were in straight lines across the hall floor and I quipped “It’s just like a lecture apart from we don’t have anyone we’re friends with to look for”, with that we tried to find 2 seats next to each other in a decent position. The ones we found were 1 row from the front right in front of the speakers podium, fantastic.

Welcome to the Modern Jago Stage
Welcome to the Modern Jago Stage

First up was a short presentation about some of the applications that had been developed by people in audience, some were quite impressive. Of particular note were the ever impressive Cocktail Flow, The British Airways Inspiration app and UK Bus Checker.

Best of British -- Windows 8 App Showcase
Best of British — Windows 8 App Showcase

The Best of British app showcase finished with a look at the latest Windows Phone 8 advert, showing off the personalized start screen of a certain CEO. You can see it here:

At the end Mr. Ballmer was welcomed on stage with the introduction “heres the person who owns that phone”. He entered with his usual enthusiasm and thanked everyone for being at the event and for supporting Microsoft through the biggest change in the companies history. The event was very much about how much Microsoft values its partners and the people who develop for its platforms — underlined by the fact the final slide on Mr Ballmer’s slide deck simply said:

Succeed With Us.

Steve Ballmer Explains how Microsoft are "All in" with Windows 8 and Windows Phone
Steve Ballmer Explains how Microsoft are “All in” with Windows 8 and Windows Phone

The Microsoft CEO explained Microsoft ideas and ideals behind the Windows and Windows Phone platforms and explained how every department within the company had some involvement with the finished products, in other words Microsoft are all in.. Steve felt as if he had “bet the farm on Windows 8” saying

When you change so dramatically your main product, which is used by over 600 million people worldwide of course you’ve taken a huge gamble

Steve went on to explain how Microsoft didn’t see Windows 8 as merely an update to an operating system but as a complete change on the idea of what a device is an can be, he highlighted this by an incredible series of weird hand motions explaining how some of the new laptop form factors are tablets that dock, some have hinges and how some are just like normal laptops but with touch screens.

This moment has remained in my mind partly because it was quite funny, but mainly because it symbolized to me how great a speaker Steve Ballmer is. He was so animated and genuinely excited about everything he spoke about — it was infusing and made you inspired to work on his platform. And guess what? That’s exactly what he wanted. I’d love to be able to speak to crowds of people in a similar style.

After Steve had finished he didn’t take any questions, which was a shame. I really really wanted to ask him the rumours of a XBOX Surface Slate 😛 But we did get to have a look at some of the new Microsoft Surface’s and some Lumia 820’s — both of which really impressed both Nick and I.

All the Microsoft Products!
All the Microsoft Products!

I even took the time to put my website up on one of the Microsoft Surface Devices. I was surprised to find whilst doing this that the Type Cover (the physical keyboard dock) was actually perfect for my fingers and provided a better typing experience than my 15 inch dell laptop keyboard. The tap cover was still good but I imagine it would take a bit of time to get used to. I’ve heard some bad things about the screen resolution of the surface, but frankly I couldn’t see any issue and I was impressed by the field of view.

DanTonyBrown.com on a Microsoft Surface
DanTonyBrown.com on a Microsoft Surface

Shortly after  I played with all these lovely devices it was time to go. Thanks to Phil Cross and Co for setting up the event, Steve Ballmer for making the time to talk to us all and for a fantastic presentation and Nick for coming with me! 🙂

Danny.

Categories
Life

Microsoft Tech Center Day

A while ago I posted about how I had won the Windows Phone 7 Student Incentive Competition which allowed me to “spend a day honing (my) skills and (my) apps with (Microsoft’s) deep technical experts”. In a fantastic turn of events my housemate and great friend Rob Crocombe also won the competition meaning we could meet up in London, travel into Reading together and have a catch up after the long Summer Holidays at the same time as learning some really cool stuff at the Microsoft HQ.

When we eventually got to reading around 10:30 — I’d set off from home around 7:30 — we were given a security card to allow us to go around the building and shown to the demo room in the Microsoft Technology Center.

The demo room had seats along the back and a stage like area with several different sections, showing an office scenario, to a home scenario, to a living room scenario with various computers, display technologies and communications tech. Slap bang in the middle of the room was a “Samsung SUR40 with Microsoft Pixel Sense”. Even the softies laugh at how bad the product name is since a certain other piece of Microsoft Technology cannibalized its original name, Microsoft Surface, to retain its secrecy!

The Student App Winners, Including Rob and I join Dr. David Brown round the SUR40 running NUIverse for a group photo
The Student App Winners, Including Rob and I join Dr. David Brown round the SUR40 running NUIverse for a group photo

The first talk we had was about NUI – Natural User Interfaces – and how they are changing the way computing works. We were very lucky to have this talk delivered to us by Dr. David Brown, the man who single handedly created NUIverse — an application which allows you to explore the universe using a natural user interface on the Samsung SUR40. We wound back all the way to Command Line Interfaces and how GUI greatly improved on the usability of computer systems for the average person, but still required some training to use, whereas Natural User Interface attempts to require no, or as little as possible, training to use.

NUIverse by Dr. David Brown - which was demo'd to us - Image credit: Mobilemag.com
NUIverse by Dr. David Brown – which was demo’d to us – Image credit: Mobilemag.com

We spoke in depth about how some parts of NUI, such as touch screens are already mainstream whilst some others, such as object identification isn’t.

After this fascinating talk we went on a break for lunch (Tip: Go to as many Microsoft events as you can, the free food is always great ;)) in which we spoke to other competition winners. After the break we were shown into a conference room where Ben Nunney — the same man who did the Windows Phone 7 Camp at Hull University at the beginning of the year —  was getting ready to do a talk on preparing for Windows 8 application development.

The talk was on the same day as Windows 8 was released to manufacturing (also known as “going gold”) meaning that the code was finalized and sent off to the device manufacturers. In other words Windows 8 version 1 was finished. There was a clear excitement around the campus, especially with Ben — for whom it was his second RTM day having joined the company just after “that operating system between XP and Windows 7 that didn’t exist” was released (Also known as Windows Vista :P)

Ben’s talk focused on introducing people to Windows 8 from a complete novice stand point and built up to showing off the development tools and telling us where and how we could get more help to port our Windows Phone apps or create entirely new apps for the system. A highlight of the talk was trying to make the Visual Studio Windows 8 Simulator work in the simulator, A.K.A “simception” 😛

After this talk the 10 of us sat down with Phil Cross — the Academic Audience Manager at MS UK — to discuss how to improve the Microsoft UK Student developer group, and how some of the talks could be improved, made more interesting and become more likely to have an affect on the number of people actively developing for Microsoft platforms. I said I thought students needed greater access to systems such as tablets for testing, perhaps through borrowing them from Microsoft and that “Dev Camps” at universities needed to be less about convincing people the platform was worth buying – almost like a sales pitch – and more about showing them developer opportunities and practically how to do things.

Obviously there are some logistical and financial reasons why not everything is possible, but it was good to have the dialogue. In the end I think both the students who won the competition and the Academic Staff at Microsoft both got quite a lot out of the day — I certainly learnt a lot and enjoyed myself.

Danny