As the masses fought for front rows seats, desperate for prime viewing of Satya Nadella, a series of video reels played on the big screen.
Typical of large conferences, an over the top ensemble of case studies and vendor marketing rhetoric followed, before the opening address of the day.
“Hi, I’m Cortana.”
Not the Microsoft CEO, rather the intelligent personal assistant kicking off the Microsoft Australia Developer Event in Sydney.
And Nadella didn’t waste any time hammering home his point; “as I think of Microsoft, the source of inspiration has always been talking to developers”.
On the day that Google also issued its own rallying cry to developers - through unveiling a set of enhancements to its existing suite of cloud machine learning capabilities - Microsoft hit back in equal measure.
In addressing over 1,000 Australian developers, a stone’s throw away from Google headquarters in Sydney, Nadella’s message was clear; artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing.
“Digital technology is great, and through our products we want to truly push the envelope, but it’s really about what others do with that technology,” he said.
“How do they go on to build on top of our platforms? That is core to our mission.”
Through creating platforms for others to create technology, Nadella said there’s “no better place to start than with developers”, emphasising the vendor’s closer alignment to independent software vendors (ISVs).
“It remains at the heart of who we are as a company,” he added. “Developers in Australia are now contributing to a broad spectrum across every industry and vertical.
“Everyone is becoming more and more digital and in some sense every company - whether you’re a retailer or in healthcare - is becoming a digital business.
“That’s the opportunity for developers. Every developer has both the opportunity and responsibility to be able to create digital technology that creates surplus in our societies and economies.”
Amidst the jam-packed crowd of checkered shirts, jeans and sneakers, Nadella proceeded to lure developers through a cloud platform built on the foundations of AI and machine learning.
“Our goal as a company is to provide the tools and platforms for developers that can have a profound impact across all industries,” he explained.
“The world view we have is cloud and mobile first. But we have a distinctive view of what we mean by mobility. It’s not about the mobility of any single device, it’s the mobility of the human experience across all of the computing in our lives.
“We’re going to have more computing, not less, as each year passes by. And that’s what the cloud enables. The cloud is the control play that gives you that mobility across all of your computing. That’s why both are happening together.”
In a bid to fend off unwanted interest from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, IBM and others, the vendor outlined intelligent cloud services that deliver bot and intelligence capability, designed to allow developers to build any application for any experience.
Backed by the public preview of a new Azure Bot services, Redmond is attempting to enable developers to build, deploy and manage bots on the Azure cloud.
Likewise, Azure's high performance virtual machine, N-Series, will be available in early December to run “compute intensive” workloads in the cloud, such as AI research, complex rendering and neural network training.
Rise of the ISV
Through a brochure of locally sourced examples - such as the Department of Human Services (DHS), Cricket Australia, and Webjet - Nadella sent an indirect message to the wider partner community.
As outlined by ARN, the vendor is deliberately shifting focus to ISVs, seen as the channel capable of productising intellectual property (IP) and developing unique solutions through the cloud.
In short, the more applications that run on a platform, the more value it offers to customers.
Driven by a need for industry specific expertise, Microsoft is encouraging developers to build tailored solutions to serve vertical or niche requirements.
“Microsoft has realised other players such as Salesforce that recognise the value of developers in both current and future revenue streams,” ChannelEyes CEO, Jay McBain, told ARN.
“And the change is showing. If you look back five years ago, Microsoft had a lot of wind against their sails, but if you look at them today they have a lot of wind behind them.”
Currently, around one third of Azure revenue comes from classic ISVs, with plans in place to widen the net in terms of attracting new development talent to the Microsoft ecosystem.
“They have made a remarkable late move which is something they have done for 30 years,” McBain added.
“They have created success and leadership in the market despite pivoting late. I thought this would be a pivot too far and would have damaged Microsoft the most given the rise of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
“I thought they’d be left out but now Microsoft is very much a central part of this new conversation.”
Upon closing his own conversation with Australian application builders, Nadella said developers were in the “vanguard” in terms of leveraging Microsoft’s AI, machine learning and cloud computing solutions.
For Nadella, developers are the key players in terms of driving such digital transformation through every sector.
“We are at this point in our industry when new computing platforms can empower profound transformations,” he concluded.
“It is for each of us collectively to imagine the future, build it and create it.”