The biggest tech companies hold annual developer conferences, and Microsoft's is around the corner.
Every year Microsoft spends a few days trying to bring developers and software engineers into its fold with a developer conference called Build. While at the conference, the company typically also announces updates for its services and platforms - whether that be Windows 10, Office 365, or the Azure cloud computing platform. Here all the major updates Microsoft announced at Build 2018.
- Microsoft unveils the Surface Laptop, a Windows 10 S device
- Microsoft will now release major Windows 10 updates twice a year
- Windows 10 S is a streamlined version of Windows for education
What is Build 2018?
Build is Microsoft's developer conference. This year's conference - Build 2018 - is from 7 May to 9 May, which is the same week Google plans to hold its own developer conference. Anyway, last year's show started off a little different, as Microsoft used its Day One main keynote to focus on developers. Normally, it'd be all about updates to consumer products like Windows 10 and Surface devices.
But Microsoft got all that out of the way. The keynote primarily ranged from Microsoft’s artificial intelligence efforts to talk about its growing Windows 10 user base. Thrilling stuff, right? Yeah. Well, thankfully, Microsoft wrapped up its Day Two keynote with news that’s more exciting to consumers. It revealed new details concerning Windows 10, its mixed reality efforts, and more.
So, expect a similar agenda for this year's conference. If you want to attend in the flesh, Microsoft's Build 2018 registration will open 15 February. Once it opens, developers will be able to go to the Build developer site to register. The full conference pass is going for $2,495.
- Check out Microsoft's Build 2018 website here
Can you watch Build 2018 online?
Yes. Microsoft will live-stream its Build 2018 keynote speeches. However, those videos are not yet available for us to embed here. So, in the meantime, you can watch last year's main keynotes from "Day One" and "Day Two" at the annual developer conference.
Here's last year's Day One keynote:
Here's last year's Day Two keynote:
To stream videos from the entire conference, go to this Microsoft site.
Build 2018: What to expect?
Windows 10 numbers
Last year, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 was officially running on 500 million "monthly active devices." That metric includes not only Windows 10 installed on PCs, tablets, and phones, but also on Xbox One consoles, HoloLens, and Surface Hub devices. Remember, though: at the Build 2015, Microsoft claimed Windows 10 would be installed on one billion devices by summer 2018.
Office 365 and Microsoft Graph
Microsoft revealed last year that commercial Office 365 is running on 100 million monthly active devices, whereas as of October 2016, there were 85 million commercial users, meaning 15 million joined in a year. While talking about Office 365, Microsoft also mentioned it added new functionality to Microsoft Graph, an API that gives developers access to tools and data from Office 365 services.
Microsoft Graph is the basis of many applications built on top of Office’s services. It helps those apps understand more about the data we have in our systems. Previously, Graph could only provide user and activity data, but, currently, developers can leverage device data as well. Microsoft has also added a series of new core capabilities into Graph, including Delta queries and custom data.
We expect to hear more about both these efforts at Build 2018.
More Cortana devices and skills
In an effort to trump rivals, Microsoft may announce it has signed new partnerships. Last year, it had signed with HP and Intel to bring more Cortana-powered devices to market. Microsoft said HP was planning to integrate Cortana into devices, while Intel would focus on reference platforms. Microsoft also launched a Cortana Skills Kit. ZDNet thinks we'll hear more about Cortana this year.
Since the company has given developers the ability to create skills - or even port existing Amazon Alexa skills - over to Microsoft's platform, many expected Cortana would drastically improve. Although it's supposedly being used across 141 million monthly active devices, it appears to be lagging far behind Amazon's Alexa platform and Google's Assistant platform. Nevertheless, expect to hear more soon.
Last year, Microsoft haunched its Visual Studio coding platform for the Mac. It allows developers to code apps using Microsoft's development environment on Apple's MacOS platform. They can sync across both Windows and Mac devices and build native mobile apps for iOS, macOS, Android, and the web. We may learn more about Visual Studio at Build 2018, but you never know.
Windows 10 Spring Update
Microsoft already revealed it will update Windows 10 twice a year - in the spring and in the autumn - with new features and noteworthy upgrades. The last major update, which arrived last autumm, was the Fall Creators Update. While at Build 2017, Microsoft confirmed the autumn update would be called the Fall Creators Update, and that it'll bring Windows experiences to iOS and Android devices.
So, maybe now we'll hear about the next update, due this spring.
Story Remix was part of the Fall Creators Update. It's a pretty big deal, so we'll explain it a bit in full here. It's basically a successor to, or even a replacement for, Windows Movie Maker, an app that let you create videos on a Windows XP or Windows 7 machine. It works in the cloud and lets you pull in images and video from iOS, Android, or Windows devices. So, it provides a true multi-platform experience.
You can start making a video with Story Remix on an iPhone, but if you want to finish creating it on a Windows 10 PC, you can do that too. The app also supports 3D models and lets you pin objects in scenes. It therefore combines Microsoft's Remix 3D and Paint 3D technologies and borrows from Snapchat's AR effects. It also lets you add soundtracks, including ones from Microsoft's Groove music service.
Anyway, Microsoft may announce an update to Story Remix or an entirely new app for the upcoming spring update. Either way, we expect the company to focus on key new features in the software upgrade.
VR headsets and motion controllers
After rebranding its augmented reality system to Windows 10 Mixed Reality, Microsoft has expanding the ecosystem with motion controllers to interact with experiences. Different manufacturers, including Acer and HP, have made their own Mixed Reality headsets that run Microsoft's software. these similar to devices available for other VR headsets, but they don't require room configuration.
You can read more about them from here. Last year, Microsoft opened preorders for the first Windows Mixed Reality development kits from HP and Acer. Maybe this year it will announce even more kits as well as updates to the platform altogether.
iTunes in the Windows Store
Apple said it was releasing a version of iTunes in Microsoft’s digital store by the end of 2017, but that has yet to happen. Remember, Microsoft’s new Windows 10 S operating system can only run apps available in the store. So, we expect to hear an update on this at Build.
Last year, Microsoft made a watch that helps people with Parkinson’s disease write more legibly. Called the Emma Watch, it sends vibrations to the brain and and can control hand tremors. Symptom of Parkinson's are shaking and loss of motor control. The disease is incurable and affects more than 10 million people. The watch prototype, but it demonstrates how wearables could aid people with conditions.
The watch was actually named after Emma Lawton, a graphic designer with Parkinson’s. She's a friend of Microsoft Research innovation director Haiyan Zhang, who created the watch just for her. He loaded it with tiny motors that rhythmically vibrate to distract Lawton’s brain and calm her muscle movements. This makes it easier for to write, a necessary thing for a graphic designer.
We haven't heard much about this watch since, so maybe Build 2018 will resurface the project.