For a few days this week, the legions of lanyard-wearing techies blanketing downtown Seattle at lunchtime won't all work for Amazon.com. Some are here to see Microsoft.
The most important technology show on Microsoft's calendar -- the Build developer expo -- comes to Seattle this week, drawing an expected 5,500 technologists to the city. It's the first time the event will be held in Microsoft's backyard since 2012.
Microsoft has changed a lot in that span.
The Redmond company spent much of the last decade courting Silicon Valley, an effort to get the people who develop consumer applications to bet on Windows, a tougher sell as the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook were winning the battle for consumer eyeballs on the web and in the smartphone market.
But in the last few years, Microsoft has refocused its efforts to be a builder of business technology, targeting in particular the fast-growing realm of cloud computing.
The concentration of cloud-computing expertise has been a driver of the Seattle-area's recent high-technology industry growth, with startups and giants like Google and Facebook setting up shop or expanding here to take advantage of the talent in the field.
"Seattle has grown a much fuller (technology) community in the last five, 10 years," said Alex Miller, who works with developers at online programming community Stack Overflow. "Previously Seattle may have been a little more corporate -- Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon. Now you've got a lot more variety in terms of the work that's being done."
Microsoft Build 2017
Microsoft is expected to announce new features and planned capabilities for a range of products at its Build show, which runs Wednesday through Friday [May 10-12] at the Washington State Convention Center.
The company uses the show to try to get the programmers who build software interested in developing applications for Microsoft products. The event typically features a parade of executives, and, behind the scenes, coding demonstrations explaining the ins and outs of making tools that play nicely with Microsoft's range of software.
"The thing that's been exciting the last couple years, it's really been a Microsoft renaissance," said Scott Guthrie [pictured above], executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise unit, and a longtime builder of developer software. "I think the energy level amongst developers about what we're building is really high. Hopefully we'll meet these expectations."
The previous four iterations of the trade show were held in San Francisco -- years that included largely failed efforts to entice application developers to Windows 8 and Windows' smartphone editions.
All About the Cloud
Outside observers expect the focus this year to land squarely on cloud computing, and the new applications it opens up, from "smart" chat bots to analytics tools that help companies make sense of piles of data.
The diversity of technology on display at the show has grown with Microsoft's emphasis on the cloud, Microsoft employees and partners say. During its PC-monopoly days, Microsoft could wait for developers to come to the company, and essentially demand they use Microsoft tools.
But in the wide-open world of cloud computing, Microsoft has embraced more technologies built outside its walls, including a range of open-source software and the once-dreaded Linux.
"It used to be an absolute Windows, .NET show," said Julia White, a Microsoft corporate vice president who oversees Azure marketing, referring to the Microsoft programming framework built in the early days of the modern web. "Now, it's a much more diverse crowd. Much more a reflection of broad technology than just Microsoft loyalists."
Peter Yared, chief technology officer of San Francisco-based software maker Sapho, called the way Microsoft deals with developers now "a complete flip in attitude."
Sapho's product, which enables employees to complete workplace tasks from a chat window or text message, links with Microsoft's Teams chat service. He plans to attend the conference in Seattle.
"It used to be, they'd come down here and say 'you have to implement Windows Phone,'" he said. "Now it's 'What can we add to Teams to get your customers to use it more?' "
As for this week, he said, "it's going to be cloud, cloud, cloud."
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