THERE’S SOMETHING BUGGING ME about the way Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella finished yesterday's Build keynote.
After the demos, the big revelations and the inevitable giveaways to the assembled developers (Oh, those developers. They love those developers. It was said many times), Nadella explained that the company's aim is now "moving people from needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows".
It sounds familiar somehow. It'll come back to me.
2015 doesn’t seem to be the year of huge innovation, and so it goes that most of the big unveilings from the bum-numbing 140-minute smug-fest were about evolving what we knew, rather than throwing much newness at us.
The exception, of course, was the revelation that developers (Oh, how they love those developers) can make Windows Universal Apps packages out of just about anything: old Win32 apps, Android apps, iOS apps, bits of string, rubber bands, hairdryers.
Sorry, I'm confusing real life with MacGyver again. But, yes, perhaps the biggest thing to come out of the event is that Microsoft has not only acknowledged that its days of being the only game in town are long gone, but that the best way to recover from the slump is to embrace the fact and make its OS as compatible as possible.
It’s all very reminiscent of Ducard in Batman Begins. "To conquer fear, you must become fear," quoth he. To conquer Android, you must become Android, paraphraseth Microsoft.
And that makes a lot of sense. The subtle revelation that Candy Crush Saga for Windows Phone is actually a repackaged iOS version, to see whether anyone would notice, was one of my favourite bits of the day.
That Nadella line, though. Where have I heard it before? It’ll come back to me.
The theme of "lets all work together ... but use Microsoft products to do it" prevailed throughout the keynote. Each characteristically cringe-worthy presentation touched on it.
There's Docker support for Azure which, we're told, allows developers (Oh, those lovely developers) to take the best of Windows and Linux and put them together in a big cloud of loveliness.
Plus there's more elasticity in Azure for scalability and that graph API that makes it a cinch to deal with complex analytics and draw business insights.
And let's not forget the new cross-platform Visual Studio Code editor, which allows you to write for Windows ... in Linux! What a time to be alive. And it's free into the bargain. The fact that it got a ripple of applause shows that this new, groovy, embracing Microsoft is yet to bed in as a mindset.
Nadella was actually involved in some of the demos this year, standing over the presenter as they doubtless prayed that nothing would go wrong (it did) so you could almost smell the boss-coffee-breath wafting from the stage and breathing down your neck.
Alas, Nadella is many things, but a showman he is not. He actually comes across more as a ringmaster for a shopping channel with his occasional loaded questions: “You got all that juice out of one bag of oranges, Brad?”
Meanwhile, the usual suspects were all there. Perfectly coiffured Joe Belfoire seemingly donating his hair to Windows Holographic fellow Alex Kipman, who didn’t really add that much that we didn’t already know but got to parade around the stage lording it over his toys like a cross between J F Sebastian, P T Barnum and Christof from The Truman Show.
We’ll probably learn a lot more about Holographic today, though, as the developers (Oh, developers! Such love!) are going hands on with it.
No. Still not come back to me.
So what else did we learn? We learned that Project Spartan is going to be called Windows Edge. The first thing we got to see was Microsoft’s stock price dropping in real time on the customised home page. But that’s surely a coincidence because there was nothing bad about the keynote. Just something unsettling.
That’s it. It’s come back to me. In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston Smith is strapped to the table and O’Brien asks him: “What are your feelings towards Big Brother?”
"I hate him" replies Smith.
"You must love him. It is not enough to obey him. You must love him," replies O’Brien.
And that’s just it. Windows 10 looks awesome. The technology on offer yesterday was brilliant and the openness welcome. But I was left with the feeling that this new spirit of co-operation and openness is just a ruse. Nadella's final remarks betrayed him as a child catcher with a handful of candy (crush).
'Choose us! Love us! We love you, developers! We want our market dominance back! We will assimilate and crush all opposition! And then we will take over the world. The world!' (evil cackle) he seemed to say.
Things look a lot rosier for Microsoft and its developers (Oh, developers! Oh, love!), but beware of Hyderabadians bearing gifts. µ
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