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Microsoft's BUILD agenda remains under wraps -- but here's a guess

Microsoft kicks off its sold-out BUILD Conference in Anaheim next week with…well, we’re not sure exactly with what. The company has been particularly stingy with details on the event, failing to provide an agenda or even official list of speakers. So the rumor mill has been working overtime, with conjecture about what might be in store (ARM-based tablet giveaways, anyone?)

This much we know: Windows 8 will be revealed in some form, along with further details on Windows Server 8 following this week’s Reviewer’s Workshop in Seattle. Some specifics have emerged about both products, especially the client OS; the Microsoft team’s Building Windows 8 blog has provided a starting point for conversation about new features and strategies that will affect developers and administrators alike. With that in mind, here are some topics we do expect to come up at BUILD.

Windows 8

Is Windows 8 a game-changer, or just another Microsoft tease? The week should provide some insight to that question, particularly if a public beta release is offered. Some themes to watch for:

Taking on the tablets
Microsoft aims to compete in the tablet market with Windows 8. The new, optional touch-centric interface (which builds upon the Metro UI seen on Windows Phone 7) will purportedly scale across all devices and platforms, from phones on up. Rumored support for low-power ARM-based processors is also based on a desire to meet tablet demand.

Apps battle brewing
Microsoft recently announced a focus on using HTML5 and Javascript for Windows 8 apps – and .NET and Silverlight pros are still waiting for answers about what this means for their business. (The RC version of Silverlight 5 was made available to developers on September 1). It will be interesting to see what products are included – and from whom – in the new Windows 8 app store.

Virtual reality
Microsoft confirmed that Hyper-V, previously limited to the server product, will come to Windows 8, along with VHDX, a new virtual hard drive format that allows for up to 16 TB of data. This brings up opportunities and questions alike for administrators, particularly those currently using VMware for virtualization. It could also bring MinWin, a stripped-down version of Windows, into the spotlight as an enabler for creating virtual appliances.

Feature overload
The Building Windows 8 blog has been fast and furious with updates relating to features in the new OS, including a ribbon-based Windows Explorer interface, ability to ISO and VHD file access, USB 3.0 support, and improved file management. These are not the sexiest offerings, so you can bet there will be additional reveals as the BUILD week goes on.

Windows Server 8

It’s inevitable that the server product would be stuck in the shadow of its client-facing sibling, but many BUILD attendees will be eager for information on Windows Server 8. Of the “100 or more new features” that were alluded to at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July, only a few have really been explored relating to Hyper-V Replica.

Sweet 16…or more?
As demonstrated at WPC 2011, admins will be able to manage 16 virtual processors per machine in this new version – which is apparently not the limit. But what is?

Replication revolution
With its asynchronous virtual replication feature, Replica offers the ability to specify replication targets and snapshot intervals. This could have major implications for reducing server loads and increasing scalability.

Cloudy outlook
Microsoft has touted its ‘private cloud’ solutions of late – with Hyper-V and System Center the products to make it happen. Expect this to be a consistent talking point throughout the week, prompting questions about application development as well as pricing and security risks.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Azure. Several evangelists of Microsoft’s public cloud platform have been confirmed as BUILD speakers, and the company recently released an Azure toolkit for the mobile Android platform.
  • Visual Studio 2012. What does the new version of Microsoft’s integrated development environment have in store?
  • Fill in the blank…

What are you looking forward to hearing about at BUILD? Has the lack of information heightened your anticipation or lowered your expectations? Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments section, and look for our coverage from the event next week.

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