(Pocket-lint) - Most tech companies hold developer conferences, and Microsoft is no exception.

Every year, Microsoft spends a couple days trying to bring developers and software engineers into its fold with a developer conference called Build. During the multi-day event, the company typically announces updates for its services and platforms - whether that be Windows 10, Office 365, or the Azure cloud computing platform. But 2020 isn't a typical year.

The pandemic has forced Microsoft to change this year's conference. Build 2020 is entirely online, and it's free to anyone who registers. 

What is Microsoft Build?

Build is Microsoft's annual developer conference. It typically lasts about four days and starts in May. The first day is live-streamed and features the most consumer-facing announcements, while the other days are for developers and feature training sessions that can also be viewed online. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Build 2020 will be much different.

This year's Build is a free, virtual-only event over two days -- and it's all about developers, with a few things interesting for businesses.

When is Build 2020?

Build 2020 started Tuesday 19 May. It ends Wednesday 20 May 2020. It began at 8am PT (11am ET/4pm UK time) and will last for 48 hours. Typically, developers need to pay a $2,395 entry fee to attend Build. But, now, they can view all the content available free of charge.

Can you watch Build 2020 online?

You can watch the day one keynote and developer sessions from Microsoft's Build 2020 site here. All 604 sessions will be streamed on Microsoft’s site. You can create a schedule to attend the session in your own time zone right here. You’ll need to register here first. Some of the developer sessions are live; others, prerecorded. Microsoft has released a full session list here.

Microsoft is also live-streaming the entire two-day conference via Twitch (see the embed above or go here).

What happened at Build 2020?

Here's everything major from the day one keynote:


Microsoft Teams

The Teams collaboration platform has surpassed 75 million daily active users, Microsoft has said.

Microsoft also unveiled a number of new changes to Teams, including a new integration between Teams and Microsoft's Bookings app. A "single scheduling experience" will enable users to manage multiple locations and departments and host everything from "candidate interviews and student office hours to financial consultations", said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365.

Microsoft is rolling out new Network Device Interface support, so users can achieve "professional broadcast capabilities" within Teams, as well as Skype TX interoperability, enabling.1:1 calls for newscasts to get connection quality management and caller queuing.

Finally, better chatbot creation, management, and customisable templates are coming. There will be templates for specific industries, such as banking and hospitals. And each of these will offer "pre-defined channels, apps, and guidance".

Microsoft Lists

Microsoft is creating a new app for businesses that use Microsoft 365. It's called Microsoft Lists. Note that it's different from To Do, Microsoft’s lists app for consumers. Microsoft Lists will work across Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and Outlook. They'll have templates for quick lists, colour formatting, and the ability to create alerts. Lists can also track issues, assets, routines, contacts, and inventory for companies.

Microsoft has made aa web and mobile app for Microsoft Lists, and it's fully integrated into Microsoft Teams.


Project Reunion

Microsoft announced Project Reunion, an attempt to simplify Windows apps. 

As you may know, there are two types of Windows apps at present: traditional Win32 desktop apps you install from anywhere; and Windows Store apps - known as UWP or Universal Windows Platform apps. This can be confusing. But now Microsoft is unifying the Windows platform, allowing for seamless integration across both Win32 and UWP apps using Project Reunion.

Microsoft wants to "make it easier to build great apps that work across all the Windows 10 versions and devices people use".

It plans to do this by bringing together the processes that developers use to build these apps (APIs) and put them on a common platform whatever they're coded with, and existing apps will be able to be migrated. That means devs can create apps for the latest version of Windows 10 without worrying too much if it'll work on older versions because Microsoft will ensure compatibility. 


Project Cortex

Launched as a private preview in November, Project Cortex is the first new service to join Microsoft 365 since Teams. 

Project Cortex uses AI to automatically classify all of an organization's content into topics. It forms a network of knowledge for your organisation’s data that can be easily accessed by employees for intelligence and productivity purposes.

Now, Microsoft is announcing general availability for Project Cortex starting in "early summer".

Want to know more?

Stay tuned to Pocket-lint's Microsoft hub for what's next at Build 2020.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.