AppFest Sydney, Day 1

There must be something special about an event that compels me to wake up at 3:45 AM.

I asked myself this question more than once as I made my way through the dewy confines of a Melbourne morning to Tullamarine Airport. Yet, a quick flight to Sydney and a short taxi ride afterward, I found myself bleary-eyed at the footsteps of University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The University of New South Wales (Sydney)

The University of New South Wales (Sydney)

I was here to attend a developer event called AppFest - an event organized by the Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team at Microsoft Australia. Its purpose was to provide a venue for developers to meet, discuss, and hack against a wide range of Microsoft technologies and products, including Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Windows Azure.

The calm before the storm

The calm before the storm

My purpose for being here was simple; to hear more about Microsoft's latest offerings, to discuss them with fellow attendees, and to demonstrate the tools we have at Telerik to assist developers targeting the Microsoft stack.

My (new) Surface RT device, sitting very nicely on a tray table.

My (new) Surface RT device, sitting very nicely on a tray table.

A side benefit of this trip was to test-drive my new Surface RT device in a real world setting; onboard an airplane. To push the matter further, I decided to book myself in the worst seat on the plane: the last row on a Boeing 737-800 (on Virgin Australia). Anyway, my overall experience was pretty awesome. The form factor of the Surface RT is perfectly suited for a standard airline seat. Everything from the angle of the screen to the surface area covered on the tray table was perfect. In fact, I cranked out a number of paragraphs of this article on the flight over to Sydney without a hitch. Other features like the ambient light sensor worked very well when the cabin lights were dimmed. Overall, I came away with the feeling that this little device is deserving of a lot more of my attention.

Get excited, dammit!

Get excited, dammit!

The idea of an AppFest isn't new. These sorts of events have been around for a long time - with names like hack-a-thon and code camp. Their purpose is to spark a developer's natural tendency, which is building software. Developers come in all different metaphorical shapes and sizes. However, the one thing that we are share is the feeling we get from the creative process. That is why events like these are awesome; they kick-start the "I want to build epic shit" engine dwelling inside the developers who attend them.

AppFest featured two concurrent tracks - one for developers and one for designers. Leading the developer track - which I attended - was Nick Hodge, a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft Australia.

Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) showing off his "Metro-ness"

Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) showing off his "Metro-ness"

Nick spent the first hour providing a high-level technical overview of Windows 8, showcasing a number of sample applications and the code that underpins them. Next, he walked us through a number of aspects of Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform. One of the more interesting aspects of Nick's presentation was his overview of Windows Azure Mobile Services. Essentially, it provides the ability to automatically generate CRUD operations for mobile applications against a SQL Azure-based database. It supports Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, and iOS (quite surprisingly). Note to self: Spend more time checking out Windows Azure Mobile Services.

Before lunch, Nick spent some time walking the audience through the process of managing your applications for the Windows Store. This, of course, is a critically important aspect of developing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) running the show. Photo attribution: Code Red Paul (Flickr)

Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) running the show. Photo attribution: Code Red Paul (Flickr)

After lunch, Nick gave me an opportunity to demonstrate RadControls for Windows 8, along with a couple of Windows 8 apps - AppMock, and Tasks. (All of these are available in the Windows Store.) If you haven't seen these yet then I would strongly encourage you to check them out. Afterward, I shared some information about our newly announced Virtual Accelerator for Windows 8. This program gives you the opportunity to receive $30,000 in funding, a week in Hong Kong to attend a mentor-led boot camp, and three months in virtual acceleration program.

Telerik Virtual Accelerator for Windows 8

Telerik Virtual Accelerator for Windows 8

During the afternoon, Nick switched gears by turning attention to the Windows Phone platform. I'll admit that I was surprised by some of the things that Nick shared. It's been a long time since I've used a Windows Phone device and I was impressed by all the improvements that have gone into Windows Phone 8. Even though end user adoption isn't great, the platform is certainly capable.

Overall, I had a blast at the AppFest. Microsoft Australia did an excellent job organizing the first day of this event. My thanks goes to Lachlan Hardy and Nick Hodge of Microsoft Australia for having me at the event. Unfortunately, I cannot attend the remaining days over the weekend. However, if today is was any measure then the attendees are in for a wild weekend of technical awesomeness.