It seems like Microsoft Build 2024 is more about AI fluff than developer stuff

Remark Microsoft’s Build 2024 conference kicks off in Seattle. As the company Copilot makes a flurry of AI announcements, one question seems pertinent: Is Build and Microsoft’s commitment to developers starting to wither?

The event has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels of in-person attendance. About 4,000 people showed up in Seattle, though Microsoft would point to many times that number having registered for on-demand streaming. Last year that number was around 5,000.

It’s a far cry from the more than 12,000 people who showed up in Paris for KubeCon in 2024. More than half of them were also first-timers.

Build is aimed at software engineers and developers and has been held since 2011. The event is the successor to the venerable Professional Developers Conference, which dates back to the 1990s. Microsoft has another major annual event, Ignite, which succeeded the TechEd conference (also from the 1990s) and is more aimed at both IT professionals and developers.

The comparison between the 2019 Highlights and the 2024 Build clearly sheds light on the issue for developers working with Microsoft technology. In 2019 it was all about Visual Studio. The Windows subsystem for Linux 2, packed with a Linux kernel for Windows 10, was on display. There was Windows Terminal and Microsoft was discussing what would happen with .NET 5.0: greater scope and a performance boost.

2024 is a different story. If a developer hasn’t swallowed their AI pills and put on their Copilot pants, Microsoft doesn’t seem that interested.

Nowhere was that disinterest in anything that can’t be slapped with the Copilot or AI label more evident than at yesterday’s AI PC event, where new Surface hardware and “Copilot+ PCs” were launched.

Unless CEO Satya Nadella has a little more to pull out of the bag – perhaps an official sighting of a version of Windows with more AI skills than the vaguely creepy Recall feature and the ability to answer more than the question “How do I switch the software off?” out? Second pilot?” – there simply isn’t much to interest developers who haven’t already invested heavily in AI.

For the sake of in-person attendees, we hope there is more than just AI, AI, and more AI.

The 2024 Build event could be decisive for Microsoft. While Windows may still be a very profitable segment for the company, the direction developers want to take is clear: Copilot and AI. Ideally with a generous portion of Azure in the mix.

The advent of generative AI is changing the way developers work. A 2023 piece in Forbes questioned whether there is a place for coding education. The answer is nuanced. Yes, but not as previously understood, and certainly not as described in previous Build and PDC events. While previous meetups were used by Microsoft to show developers how to dig into the bowels of Windows, the advent of low-code platforms and now Copilot and AI everywhere means it is seemingly looking at developers as another conduit for the AI ​​vision from the company.

Not all developers will agree with that view.

In the company’s Big Book Of News, shared before the conference, Windows was mentioned less than ten times. AI appeared more than 150 times. While this is an unscientific example, it does make it clear which way Microsoft thinks the wind is blowing.

Microsoft’s obsession with AI and Copilot may please investors, but the company is dependent on developers. A collective shrug at what should be the company’s premier developer event could translate into something that will worry those same investors for years to come. ®

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