The second keynote of Build 2017 didn't disappoint when it came to big announcements, and there were even a few surprises that took everyone in attendance and watching by surprise.
Whether another update coming soon for Windows 10, new features, cross-platform collaborations, a Mixed Reality accessory and a whole new design language, Microsoft gave us plenty to digest as it put a bow on Build.
Read on for the biggest highlights of Day 2, and jump to the next page to catch up on everything that happened on Day 1.
Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
Microsoft is releasing another update to its Windows 10 operating system later this year, and it's appropriately called the Fall Creators Update.
Within the update are several new features, some of which we'll dive into in just a little bit. Much of the update centers around a new design language, a unified and responsive experience for users, new applications, and letting users work quickly and seamlessly from any device, whether Windows, iOS and Android.
A big part of the Fall Creators Update is a new design language for developers, called the Fluent Design System. It will allow for responsive, unified apps, experiences and interactions within Windows 10. Developers can create "more expressive and engaging apps" with it, Microsoft says, and one of its most important features is that it creates a harmonious experience across devices and platforms.
In other words, no more using an app that looks and responds a certain way on one device only to find it's completely different on another device – a jarring experience, to say the least.
Fluent Design also aims to improve input diversity, letting users interact with their machines using touch, pen, voice, gestures and even eye control.
The simplest way to think of Fluent Design is that it will allow for harmonious and responsive cross-device experiences, which should be a boon for developers and users alike.
Fall Creators Update features and the Microsoft Graph
If you can't tell by a now, a major focus for Microsoft is improving the Windows experience not only across devices, but across platforms.
To that end, it introduced Microsoft Graph. Using the cloud to connect devices and experiences, Microsoft built the Graph API to allow for seamless moving between Windows, iOS and Android. Basically, Microsoft wants the competing platforms to play nicely with each other in addition to improving the experience on Windows machines.
Several new features, coming with the Fall Creators Update, are part of the Microsoft Graph picture. Here are the ones Microsoft highlighted today:
The new Timeline feature will let users retrace their steps to whatever they were doing last, such as recently accessed files, apps and websites they want to pull up again without starting from scratch. A visual timeline lets users see what they've done and select where they want to go. Think of it like macOS' Time Machine, but for hopping back to whatever was last on your desktop.
Along the same lines is the Pick Up Were You Left Off feature (Microsoft may want to shorten the name). With Cortana, users can move activities across Windows, iOS and Android devices, such as starting a doc on a Windows PC and picking it up on an Android phone.
Clipboard elicited a buzz from the Build crowd when announced. It lets users copy text from one device and paste it onto a phone, no matter who that phone is made by. Microsoft gave the example of copying the name of a business you're researching from a PC and pasting it into Google Maps on a Samsung Galaxy S8, to give you an idea.
Last but not least is OneDrive Files on Demand, a feature that lets you access any file you have stored in the cloud without downloading it. This will be great for saving space on your devices as well as collaborative projects. All changes made in the cloud will appear the next time you pull up a file. OneDrive Files on Demand will head to preview versions of Windows 10 in early summer.
Windows Story Remix
Microsoft announced a brand-new app made for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, called Windows Story Remix.
This a creative app lets users edit their photos and videos, adding everything from filters to music to 3D augmented reality objects.
Story Remix can stitch together footage from different sources to create one video, and can intelligently identify people in an image or clip. The aim is to help users create shareable moments, tapping into the creative tools provided by Microsoft and others as well as AI and the Microsoft Graph.
iTunes is coming to the Windows Store
If you need to re-read that, we understand. No one in the Build crowd seemed to anticipate that iTunes is coming to Microsoft's digital marketplace, but as Terry Myerson revealed on stage, it's indeed true.
Apple's iTunes will arrive later this year, giving Windows users access to all it has to offer, including Apple Music.
While PC owners could already download iTunes from Apple directly, this marks the first time the service will be available right in the Windows Store.
This is a huge get for Microsoft's marketplace as it's notorious for having poor app selection. It's also a sign of Microsoft's embrace of competing platforms and services, a big change of course for the company.
Microsoft's Mixed Reality motion controllers
The one bit of new hardware Microsoft unveiled at Build are its own Mixed Reality motion controllers, designed for the suite of Windows Mixed Reality headsets on the way from various partners.
Instead, Microsoft's controllers rely on sensors inside the Mixed Reality headsets to track motion and pick up commands, meaning not only is there no extra installation, but you don't have to pay for any sensors.
What's more, this could make the whole system more portable as you don't need sensors set up anyone's house in order to use them.
The best bit of news is how affordable the controllers appear to be: though we don't know how much they cost on their own, Acer's Mixed Reality headset is getting bundled with the controllers for just $399, going on sale this holiday. That's significantly cheaper than what you'll find from Oculus or HTC.
Developers can pre-order Windows Mixed Reality headsets starting today
Microsoft is certainly moving the mixed reality ball forward, and its hardware partners are right along side.
It was revealed today that the developers in the US and Canada can pre-order Acer and HP's Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition headsets starting today from the Microsoft Store, and the devices will be delivered later this summer. Acer's headset is priced at $299 while HP's design is $329.
Though a shame you can't buy these headsets yet, it does mean developers get a chance to start working on Mixed Reality applications and other content before the headsets become available to consumers. This is how Oculus Rift released, and it's a smart play by Microsoft.
Turn to Page 2 for all the Day 1 highlights!
Read on for all the highlights from Day 1 of Build 2017!
It’s that time of the year again, the time when Microsoft sets aside a few days to celebrate its ardent community of web developers and software engineers. While also announcing a few updates for its various services and platforms including , Office 365 and the Azure cloud computing platform.
The Build conference, as it’s called, took place in Seattle, Washington this year and – in an unexpected twist – the company’s day one keynote was all about the devs.
Build 2017 has been a bit of a shakeup in comparison to previous years where the first day was largely dedicated to consumer technology such as updates to Windows 10 and the Surface devices.
Given that Redmond covered much of that turf in the May 2 #MicrosoftEDU event, it makes sense to kick off Build on the more technically-focused developer side of the fence. Discussions ranged from Microsoft’s efforts in improving artificial intelligence to reflecting on its increasingly growing base of Windows 10 users.
500 million and somehow still counting
The keynote started off with a bang. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella could have dropped the mic when he said that Windows 10 now has 500 million monthly active devices, having grown 25% since last September when the count was 400 million. Although it’s quite the achievement, especially with Windows 10 no longer a free upgrade, it’s a far cry from the one billion Windows 10 users Microsoft hopes to reel in by 2019.
Data on data on data on data
Nadella also disclosed that commercial Office 365 now inhabits 100 million monthly active devices. Back in October of last year, Microsoft confirmed 85 million commercial users, meaning 15 million have since joined the likes of Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite.
Previously, Graph could only provide user and activity data, but now developers can take advantage of device data as well. Not only that, but Microsoft has also implemented a series of new core capabilities into Graph such as ‘Delta queries’ and ‘custom data’.
New Insights APIs are on the way as well, at least in their unfinished preview form, designed for developers to collect better data on how users and documents interconnect. Developers, for instance, will be able to use these APIs to gather intel on the most widely shared documents on OneDrive.
Programming made simple, now for macOS
Though it’s been in preview for quite a few months now, Visual Studio is now available to everyone with a Mac. Unlike Microsoft’s programming environment of old, Visual Studio for Mac derives heavily from the cross-platform IDE from Xamarin, which the company acquired last March.
For this reason, developers will be able to use Visual Studio for Mac to create apps for mobile, Windows and Mac directly from one Apple-branded computer.
You get an AI! You get an AI! Everyone gets an AI!
The other metrics Microsoft shared with us were of the company’s Cortana virtual assistant being being used across 141 million monthly active devices. But the bigger news here was that the company wants to go way bigger with artificial intelligence (AI) than it has already with Cortana. In fact, the company says it wants to bring AI to all of its products and services including , Windows, Bing and Office just to name a few.
Of course, making a statement this bold is easy. Proof of concept is a much tougher egg to crack. That said, Microsoft explained its ideas quite vividly.
In one example, the company showed AI protecting a workspace by verbally cautioning employees of incidents such as spills.
Alternatively, AI was used to assist workers in finding equipment and communicating more efficiently with teammates. In the future, AI could also be used to track motion for, say, virtual reality gaming and hopefully not a Kinect 3.0.
That’s not where Microsoft’s AI efforts end, however, as the company also revealed the Cortana Skills Kit which we expect to be used in conjunction with the still-unannounced speaker said to be made by Harman Kardon.
Using this kit, developers will be able to create their own skills for Cortana (currently for use on Windows 10, Android and iOS) to compete with Amazon’s Alexa. Of course, the Cortana Skills Kit will also come in handy for HP and Intel to create their own hardware powered by Microsoft’s virtual assistant.
A data chamber that’s out of this world
Though Azure is widely known as Microsoft’s platform for cloud computing, it’s also the name of an international database that’s an industry-first in that it exhibits “horizontal scale with guaranteed uptime, throughput, consistency and millisecond latency at the 99th percentile.”
The Azure database, according to Microsoft, was constructed from the ground up to power “planet-scale cloud services.” It even draws its data from the aforementioned Microsoft Graph. Microsoft hopes that the Azure Cosmos database will set the standard for global databases by manifesting the same version of itself everywhere simultaneously, with no regional differences hindering its functionality.
Here are all our predictions leading up to Build 2017!
Moved temporarily a few months back and physically a few hundred miles north compared to last year, Microsoft’s Build 2017 developer conference is nearly underway.
With the first keynote set to start on May 10 at 8am PT (11am ET / 4pm BST / 1am May 11 AEST) from Seattle, Washington, Microsoft has plenty to chat about this year despite holding a major media event just last week to tout and the .
The most notable topics we expect to see detailed are Redstone 3, the codename for Microsoft’s next major Windows 10 update, , Microsoft’s visual makeover-in-progress for the operating system (OS), Cortana and even more mixed reality advancements.
With that, here is everything we can bank on seeing during the Build 2017 keynotes starting May 10.
Redstone 3 gets unearthed
Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program members are, technically, already testing out Redstone 3 as you read this. We know this because features that were originally slated for Redstone 2, i.e. the Creators Update, but missed the deadline are now in testing through the latest Insider Preview build of Windows 10 (as of this writing): Build 16188.
Chief among those features left on the Creators Update cutting room floor is My People, a feature that brings your favorite contacts directly into the Windows 10 taskbar for easier file sharing and messaging. Expect to see more of this discussed on stage this week.
Other major expected features to be detailed are PDF editing features in Microsoft Edge (already in the latest Insider Preview build), Power Throttling to reduce apps’ power draw on laptops and tablet PCs and further improvements to more transparent automated OS updates.
We also wouldn’t be surprised to see Redstone 3 get its official name and, at the very least, a release window (if not a hard date) since Microsoft has promised two major updates annually.
Cortana branches out
That Harman Kardon unveiled its Invoke speaker powered by Microsoft’s Cortana just days before Build 2017 is no coincidence. With the long-rumored rival to Amazon Echo and Google Home now out in the open, expect Microsoft to spend some considerable time on this initiative.
In fact, controls for Cortana-powered speakers were already found within the earliest Insider Preview builds for Redstone 3. On that note, expect to hear a lot more about how far the Amazon Alexa-like Cortana Skills and device software developer kits have come since their announcement last year.
However, we find it hard to believe that Microsoft will sit on these tools until Redstone 3 becomes a fancy-named update that hits every Windows 10 device. After all, don’t expect Amazon and Google – or even the rumored Apple Siri Speaker – to slow down over the next five months.
Project Neon … or Aero Glass 2.0
Microsoft’s fateful fall update should see the oft-teased visual overhaul to the Windows 10 interface known currently as Project Neon.
In short, the new visuals bring back a lot of the translucent design elements found in the Aero Glass design ID that started in Windows Vista and were found throughout Windows 7 before being dropped for Windows 8.
Furthermore, Project Neon markedly changes how Windows 10 animations in transitioning between apps look and feel. That said, early previews have stated that Neon is aiming for a simple aesthetic, so we’ll see how Microsoft achieves that balance with new animations in the mix.
Mixed reality gets a huge push
Unless Microsoft plans to give them a spotlight during its May 23 Surface event, Build 2017 would be the place to show even more of its partners’ head-mounted displays (HMDs).
Having already shown off Acer’s HMD at length during the Taiwanese firm’s annual New York hardware showcase, it’d be surprising not to see already-teased partners like Lenovo, Dell and HP not take the chance to get the word out regarding their Windows 10 Holographic devices.
Bonus round: maybe we’ll finally hear about price regarding any of Microsoft’s partners’ HMD devices. It’s a crucial point going into the holiday season, especially when it’s highly unlikely that either HTC or Facebook have 2017 hardware that can match that $299 starting price.
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