The latest effort to gain an edge in the cloud wars involves courting coders and creating a large following among this influential group of software professionals. This was demonstrated during recent technology mega shows including Microsoft Build and IBM Think.  The cloud platform giants emphasized new developer coding tools with AI capabilities and made a show of highlighting the winners of their respective coding competitions.

Like most technology providers, Microsoft and IBM opted to hold their annual developer conferences (Microsoft Build and IBM Think) online, with Microsoft providing free access to all coders for the first time.  The power of the coder was a core theme during these conferences, particularly in light of innovative apps being created by software developers in a Covid-19 era.

Coding at the cloud forefront

New developer tools introduced during last week’s Microsoft Build conference include the ability to set up chats and voice calls inside Visual Studio Code editor for easier collaboration during the app development process.  Updates were made to Azure Machine Learning cloud service, including more ‘responsible’ analytics with improved interpretability and data privacy.

Microsoft used the Build platform to promote its 17-year-old coding contest aimed at student developers, announcing the winners during the conference.  Called ‘Microsoft Imagine Cup,’ the coding campaign challenges young developers to help solve global issues through unique and innovative approaches.  This year’s winners were Team Hollo from Hong Kong, which built a mental health companion web app via Azure analytics and AI services.  It aims to provide easier access to mental health services for younger generations.

Rapid growth in developer numbers

IBM’s two-year-old ‘Call for Code Global Challenge’ campaign was initially launched in 2018 seeking innovative applications to address climate change.  The program was expanded recently to include Covid-19, which spurred a massive response, including 1,000 developer registrations in a single day soon after being announced.  Presently, the program includes 300,000 developers across 168 countries.

In partnership with United Nations Human Rights and The Linux Foundation, IBM put out the call for global brainstorming among developers, first responders, data scientists, and others.  Unlike past challenges, in light of the fast-moving coronavirus, IBM pressed participants to act quickly and submit initial applications in a matter of weeks, just in time for this month’s IBM Think conference, while continuing to source further ideas throughout the year.

Covid-19 features heavily in app developments

Winners of IBM’s most recent campaign were:

  • Are You Well – a comprehensive medical assistance system which leverages IBM Watson to provide a self-help rating system of Covid-19 symptoms, created by a team from Altran in India.
  • CovidImpact – an app that aims to reduce the financial impact of Covid-19 on small businesses, created by a global team within the University of British Columbia, leveraging IBM’s Watson Tone Analyzer linguistic analysis and IBM ILOG CPLEX rules engine for decision making.
  • Safe Queue – a community-driven app intended to replace physical lines at shopping centers which threaten people’s social distancing safety, using GPS location data leveraging IBM Cloud Foundry and Cloudant, created by a developer in Los Angeles.

 

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