Thursday, 26 August 2010 14:24

Tripping through tasty tech at Microsoft Australia's Tech.Ed 2010


With over 2700 attendees at Microsoft's annual Australian Tech.Ed conference, there's clearly still huge support for Microsoft's software and services, with plenty of detail to deeply delight devoted devs, catch attention with Kinect, amaze with Azure and spill more info on WinPho 7.

It's Tech.Ed week in Australia, where nearly 3000 of Australia's developers, system admins, techs, speakers, assorted Microsofties and the media descend to devour and feast upon the cornucopia of knowledge that hath descended from high upon Redmond.

It's being billed as the biggest Tech.Ed yet, and started off with a slightly different format, with an afternoon keynote on the 'day before', instead of a morning keynote, to ensure the 'meat' of the main 3 days is filled with as many session opportunities for attendees as possible.

The keynote featured an extended version of Michael Kordahi's Foxtel demo seen at Microsoft's recent Remix developer conference, where 'the cloud' and technology worked together in more natural ways to give Foxtel subscribers a much more integrated experience across the different screens they owned, serving as a 'peek' into a future that is already technically possible with today's technology, although still not yet commercially available.

There was also a demo of the Windows Phone 7 platform, with Tech.Ed serving as a massive reminder and learning opportunity for developers to start creating apps for Microsoft's upcoming mobile platform, essentially using all the skills they already know, while placing particular emphasis in the keynote on the solid Xbox Live gaming opportunities the Windows Phone 7 platform enables.

The keynote showed a stack of games that looked like they came from the iPhone platform, including even the still popular 'Flight Control' game. For developers, an example of an Xbox Live game normally played on an Xbox 360 was shown running on a Windows Phone 7 device, having needed only minimal changes to be Win Phone 7 ready.

Other demos of apps for Win Phone 7 devices made an appearance, such as a real estate app from Fairfax, and Telstra's 'One' hub which delivered most of Telstra's major online properties and services.

The interesting thing about these apps is that they were native Windows Phone 7 'apps', perfectly maintaining the design and flow of the Windows phone 7 user interface, an interface that has truly ensured that 'Microsoft is back in the game' when it comes to having a phone platform that has what it takes to take the fight to Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Nokia's Symbian/Meego, Samsung's Bada and RIM's BlackBerry OS. 

As Telstra's Director of Mobility Products, Richard Fink explained, 'The TelstraOne hub harnesses Window Phone 7's panorama design to allow Telstra customers to access live information at a glance and with the flick of a finger. For example, the hub takes news and sports feeds from BigPond News and displays them live on media tiles on the phone. We think our customers will love the real-time experience that Windows Phone 7 makes possible.'

On the Fairfax front, Fairfax's Director of 'Classifieds Technology', Matthew Faries said that: 'We are excited to be working on an application for the launch of Windows Phone 7, as it has such an interesting approach to the user interface design and is quite different to anything currently on the market. In addition, the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 platform is ideal to work with, as our team doesn't need any additional technical training and can use their existing Microsoft .NET skills and the rich library of Silverlight controls.'

Thus'¦ while Apple has a veritable flood of apps on its iOS platforms, a massively mountainous megalopolis of magical and revolutionary apps is coming Microsoft's way, precisely because it places so much emphasis on its developer community through events such as Tech.Ed, its many and varied development platforms and programs and its ability to harness all of this for PC devs, Xbox devs and phone devs so as many skills can be re-used as possible, lowering the learning curve as much as possible.

Keynote attendees also got to see Kinect for Xbox 360 in action, and it was very, very impressive, turning your body into the controller while giving gamers an experience that outWii'd the Nintendo Wii. Clearly this is one Wii-ing contest Microsoft firmly intends wiinning, with the Kinect due to retail for AUD $199 and able to work with up to six people out of the box.


Continued on page two, please read on!

The price of the Kinect Xbox 360 add-on was mentioned in the keynote, with the presenters pointing out that while $199 was potentially a higher price than some consumers may have expected, when the price was compared with all of the additional Wii remotes, Wii Fit boards, Wii Motion Plus adapters and more that Wii owners were expected to buy, the Kinect's $199 price seemed a lot more reasonable. Consumers will be the ultimate arbiters of that.

It wasn't all just Kinect and Win Phone 7, of course, there's naturally an emphasis on Microsoft's cloud offering, Azure, while a talk by Microsoft's August de los Reyes, principal user experience manager with Windows Design and Research at Microsoft Corporation, and designer of the Windows key at the bottom left hand corner of most PC keyboards, looked at Microsoft's work in creating 'natural user interfaces', something we're seeing in Kinect, Win Phone 7 and Surface.

While this seemed like an ideal opportunity to explain to us all that any future Windows 8 would be radically re-interfaced with a 'natural user interface', there's no official word on anything Windows 8 being shared at Tech.Ed, but that's hardly a surprise given it's still a while away yet and there's already plenty to keep developers well occupied, with any Windows 8 stuff no doubt coming not only to the world, but future Tech.Eds, too.

Finally, at least for this article, Microsoft also made the decision to stream a number of sessions for 'non-attendees', with the keynote, locknote and '15 sessions' available to be streamed from Microsoft's Australia Tech.Ed site.

So'¦ while Google is 'cloudifying' the world's software and hardware, Apple is 'iJobsifying' the planet and Linux is open 'sourcifying' everything it can, Microsoft is still making massive waves, rocking the boat, doing the developer dance, naturally Kinecting with new user interfaces, reassuring Azurers of clear yet cloudy blue skies and getting ready to give its smartphone competitors the 'wake up call' they've probably been dreading.

It's continuing to be a very interesting year!

Alex Zaharov-Reutt travelled to Microsoft Tech.Ed 2010 Australia as a guest of Microsoft Australia.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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