Microsoft's annual Build conference starts Tuesday, post-Windows 8 launch, post-Surface RT launch, and even a day after a big Windows Phone 8 event. You might think the crew in Redmond would have exhausted any shiny, new stuff by now.
Build is a developer's conference, so Microsoft will be hosting a host of sessions on how to develop applications across a range of Microsoft operating environments that keeps getting more numerous. There's Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, and even the Xbox 360 environment. Yet the company has also played very close to the chest about the agenda, not revealing anything about the technical sessions that will be the heart of Build.
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Still, there's a lot of stuff I'd like to see at Build. I'm not looking for shiny new toys, but hard information on what developers need to know, with some hints at how Microsoft sees its ecosystem of applications building. So here's my wish list, in no particular order.
Kinect for Windows
The Windows 8 touch interface integrates significant gesture recognition. But Kinect offers gestures without the need for touch (though you need a Kinect for Windows sensor). In addition to being a camera, Kinect also integrates depth information and has a microphone.
More than one user has complained to me that touch doesn't seem natural in a desktop PC environment, where you need to lean forward a bit and lift your hand off your mouse or keyboard to interact with your screen. Kinect, properly implemented, would still require you to lift your hands, but the gestures would be in your "user" space, without needing to break the plane between keyboard and display.
I'd love to hear and see what developers might be doing with Kinect for Windows.
Xbox updates for Smartglass integration
Smartglass, the Windows 8 app that enables two-way streaming and lets you interact with your Xbox 360 via a Windows 8 tablet or PC, is still more a promise than a reality. As it stands today, Smartglass is more a toy than a real application. It works well enough, but what it does is pretty limited. Yes, you can watch Xbox videos on your tablet, but not much else.
The promise of Smartglass will be when Xbox games can use a tablet or phone running Smartglass as a gaming accessory. Or when Smartglass on a tablet enables better integration between the PC and the console. I'm hoping we'll see some hints of what Smartglass will really do going forward.
Desktop app integration with Windows 8 apps
As it stands today, Windows 8 apps and traditional desktop applications might as well live on separate systems. Windows 8 apps have their own way of communicating with other apps through the contracts mechanism. Desktop apps use Windows APIs. Even Office 2013 runs only as a set of desktop applications.