New Relic Lead Software Engineer Bob Uva also contributed to this post.

Do you remember the days of the Microsoft PDC (Professional Developers Conference)? If not, you might recognize the event by the new name it was given in 2011, Microsoft BUILD. As the 2017 edition of that event starts today in Seattle, I wanted to look at what has changed in the Microsoft ecosystem since July 1992 when the company held the first PDC.

Over the years, Microsoft has released loads of tools for developers, including Visual Studio, Visual Studio for the Mac, and Visual Studio Code. It has pushed the language boundaries for development with C#, F#, VB.NET, TypeScript (a superset of JavaScript), and others. And Microsoft has continued to show its love for developers via great frameworks like .NET and .NET Core—and by open sourcing most of those frameworks.

So where is Microsoft headed? What is it trying to accomplish? I got some hints in the run-up to Build17.

microsoft developer day

Microsoft Developer Day

In my opinion, Microsoft has not always demonstrated strong insight into what its developers really need. Perhaps that came from a history of being closed source and tools driven, or perhaps something else was behind it. But for myself and several other New Relic engineers invited to the Microsoft Developer Day held before Build17, it quickly became clear that all that history is a thing of the past.

For the event, some 150 developers from various backgrounds piled into a room in Building 92 of Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., campus. We were given badges and numbers, and then greeted by a hundred or so Microsoft developers, project managers, VPs, and others as we walked into a big room equipped with two large screens. Then I heard the words that heralded the new age of Microsoft: “It’s going to be like speed dating for developers.”

Back to its roots

Microsoft was describing nothing short of an absolute renaissance of user-to-developer interaction. It seems Microsoft is on a new trajectory when it comes to developers. Apparently, it’s finally ready to return to its roots of building great tools for the developers who actually use them.

The plan for the day was simple: split us into two groups (the ominous number we were given signified which table we should sit at) and in a series of 20-minute increments, pairs of Microsoft employees responsible for individual products ranging from Visual Studio to Azure resources sat down and asked us questions.

You see, all the attendees had taken a survey weeks before. The organizers took that information and prepared questions and topics that were customized to each respondent!

Speed dating for developers

Sure, calling this event “speed dating for developers” was a bit of a joke. But after an enthusiastic Microsoft VP quickly jotted down an email address on my daily schedule and exclaimed, “I’d really like to continue this conversation!” I started to believe this is not the Microsoft from PDC years ago. This is something new and far more inviting.

If this is any indication of how things are going to go at Build17 this week, we are all in for an incredible time. Well done, Microsoft!

Stay tuned to the New Relic blog for more reports from Build17. And if you’re at the event this week and want to talk, hack, or play a round of Mario Kart on a Switch, please reach out to us on Twitter @nickfloyd & @bobuva.


Nick Floyd is a lead software engineer at New Relic. He works on the .NET Agent, Nuget packages, Azure solutions, and cloud-based services. He and his seven kids are often found contributing to open source, soldering boards, and building backyard ballistics all in the name of "nerd life." Author of Nerd Life Balance. View posts by .

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