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Top 10 Highlights from Microsoft Build 2016 Developer Conference

Build is Microsoft’s premium annual conference targeted at developers where the company brings in new innovations and drives the developers towards technology adoptions and building quality apps for the Windows Ecosystem. This is pretty much similar to what Google does at IO and Apple at WWDC.

This year, the build was not just about unveiling new technologies; but rather, bringing in more open source tools, options for cross platform implementations, Intelligence services and most importantly, technologies that touches lives.

Let’s look at the top 10 highlights from this year’s build.


Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will receive a new, free update this summer, called Anniversary Update. This “upgrade” will be rolled out to all the PCs, tablets, smartphones, the Xbox One console, Microsoft HoloLens, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This update is expected this number, while we don’t have an exact date, it should be sometime in July. We will see a lot of new features being added to the Windows 10 as a part of this update.

1. Running Bash on Windows 10

Few years ago, if someone said, you could run linux commands on Windows, it would’ve been a joke and laughed off. Today, it isn’t. We now have a functional bash console built right inside Windows 10. Microsoft has partnered with Canonical to bring in Ubuntu user-space and bash shell, and run it natively in a windows 10 cmd.exe console. Its pretty simple as opening up the cmd window and type bash to start the shell. Once you start, you can run your fav set of commands, be it apt, ssh, grep, awk, sed etc.


If you’re thinking, its just a VM or a container running on Windows 10. Right? You’re wrong. This isn’t a virtual machine at all. There’s no Linux kernel booting in a VM under a hypervisor. It’s just the Ubuntu user space; native Ubuntu binaries running directly in Windows.


This is indeed a super cool feature and I can’t wait to try this when it arrives as a part of the anniversary update. I will do a separate post to explain when I get my hands on it.

2. Windows Ink

When Windows 10 was introduced, there were a lot of suggestions given to Microsoft on how the new OS should be more friendly to Touch and Pen inputs. At build, the company introduced Windows Ink, which brings in more features and options for users who love using the pen. Windows Ink offers cool tools like an eraser, various pen tips, and a virtual ruler which can be used to draw straight lines right on the screen. Its not just on OneNote but on variety of other applications like PowerPoint.


In Maps, you can draw a line directly onto the screen and the app will help determine the distance and that’s cool. With Windows Ink, you can even delete words, whole paragraphs of text in Word or even highlight text.

While this feature is already provided in Microsoft apps like Microsoft Edge browser, Office, and Maps, developers will be able to inject this tool within their apps by adding few lines of code. When you do that, end-users will have the ability to jot notes and annotate directly onto the app screen.

3. Cortana

Cortana will receive a big upgrade in terms of Intelligence, the Cortana Intelligence Suite. Cortana will be made available on the lock screen so that users can ask for without unlocking the device.


Cortana will also provide suggestions throughout the day based on your actions and stored information. With support for Windows INK, it can set actions from your hand written notes as well.


Cortana will also have the ability to track where users have been and provide relevant information at any time based on that location or event. Cortana will also be added to Skype, located in the upper-right-hand corner of the app. Later as a part of the upgrade, Cortana will also arrive for XBox One.

4. Conversation as a Platform

Satya unveiled the conversation as a platform strategy that involves in releasing bots that takes a great mile in machine learning and converse between the apps and users. The new framework allows developers to build an independent chatbot. Microsoft is planning to transform Cortana from a helpful personal assistant into a fully fledged chatbot which does more than just assist.


The Microsoft Bot Framework will help companies build their bots that can be deployed across a wide variety of services. On stage, we saw a simple demonstration of how a simple Domino’s bot can process pizza orders on its own. This is probably the first step and the company confirmed that, these bots wont be just compatible with Skype and Cortana but to all third-party services like Slack, Telegram, and even SMS.

More then platform gets leveraged, we could see some great implementations in the coming year. The framework is already available on Github and has guidelines on how can one start with it. Microsoft also made the Skype BOTs SDK available for developers and Skype would also work with HoloLens.

Around the same lines, Microsoft also introduced the Cognitive Services. These are Intelligence services with around 22 APIs which are available for free to developers. The demo was pretty neat. All you had to do was to click a picture or upload a picture; and the new vision API will be able to recognize the objects in the image. Taking it a step further, it not only just identifies the elements but also figures out the relationship and uses natural language to create a description of what you’re seeing in the image.

At first, the implementations really didn’t strike my mind. But when, I saw this below video of a visually challenged developer, I started connecting the dots.

5. HoloLens

HoloLens was unveiled at Build last year. There has been a lot of press and discussions online about this. This year, Microsoft announced the HoloLens availability to the developers and touched upon the opportunities it can bring in.There was also a fantastic demo on how HoloLens can be used in the field of Medical education. It was fantastic and the opportunities it brings in onto the table is pretty amazing.


NASA has also been using HoloLens to build applications to support engineers responsible for the design and assembly of the space craft. Astronauts and scientists are now using the Mars tool onSight in mission operations which helps in exploring mars. They also had an experience zone at Build where the attendees of the build were the first one to experience Mars outside NASA. They call it Destination mars. The Destination Mars exhibit is going to be open for public at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in summer 2016.

6. Xamarin for all

Microsoft acquired Xamarin last month. A tool that over 1 million developers use to write iOS, Android, and Windows apps. The combination of Xamarin, Visual Studio and Azure provides a complete mobile app dev solution that provides everything one needs to develop, test, deliver mobile apps for every device.

At build, Microsoft announced that Xamarin will be free for developers using Visual Studio Enterprise, Professional, as well as Visual Studio Community Edition.

This is huge step towards bringing in better cross platform solutions and Microsoft has delivered with making Xamarin avaiable for all. By making it free with Visual Studio, Microsoft is removing a huge barrier for Visual Studio/C#-using developers interested in making native apps for iOS and Android. Xamarin Studio for OS X is going to be available free as a community edition. Microsoft is also open-sourcing the Xamarin runtime to the .NET Foundation.

As Scott Guthrie’s said, “.NET is now fully open-source.”

7. Action Center on the Cloud

The Action Center will have abilities to control devices and apps over the cloud. For example, a user can dismiss a notification on their phone and it will also be dismissed on the PC as well. Developers will even see new tools for the Windows Store and Dev Center, and new ways to connect devices, and manage communications between them.

8. Updates to the Edge Browser

As a part of the update, Windows Hello platform will be open to the Edge browser, so that the websites can leverage this framework for better security. Today, Windows 10 devices use Windows Hello to log into the computer with Iris or FingerPrint recognition reducing the need of passwords and PINs. The Edge browser extensions is also expected to arrive soon via a new Microsoft Edge Store; very similar to the Google Chrome Web store.

9. Universal Apps

At last year’s event, Microsoft said, with Windows 10, It is converging Windows into one core and one developer platform, which the company calls one Windows core and the universal app platform respectively.


This year, there were emphasis on how companies like Facebook, Twitter, Uber and others in the industry are taking efforts in bringing in the UWA. We also saw a Desktop App Converter, which helps you convert your legacy Win32 and. Net apps to modern apps with Tile Support. This works pretty neat. You can also now just double-click to install a universal Windows app.


10. Real-Time Data for IoT and Mobility Apps

Solving the Cross-platform development is just one part of the next-generation app development puzzle. Microsoft also introduced several other offerings designed to help developers build more intelligent and predictive apps for the growing Internet of Things. The new Azure Functions, for example, unveiled as a preview, will help developers better manage on-demand and event-driven tasks for mobile, big data, Web and IoT applications. The new Azure IoT Starter Kits will enable anyone with Windows or Linux experience, including students and hobbyists, to quickly and inexpensively build prototypes for the Internet of Things.

Let me know what did you like the most at Build this year. Thank you!

General Microsoft

Basic Tier of Compute Instance, Scheduler, Autoscale and other Announcements

Microsoft Azure was an important area of focus in this year’s Build. Along with the brand new Azure Preview Portal, Microsoft also announced the general availability of the Web Sites Basic tier along with enhancements to the Web Sites Standard tier, Active Directory Premium, Scheduler, RA-GRS, Dynamic Routing Gateways and Point-to-Site, AutoScale, and Visual Studio Online. In addition, Azure Automation public preview was announced and Azure Backup pricing was reduced.

A new Basic tier of compute instances offers similar CPU and memory configurations as the Standard tier of instances, but these instances cost up to 26.67 percent less. The Basic tier doesn’t provide load-balancing and automatic scaling features, as the Standard tier does. Instances in the Basic tier are best suited for applications such as single-instance production workloads, development workloads, test servers, and batch processing, where those features might not be required. Visit the Virtual Machines Pricing Details here.

Azure Web Sites Basic tier now generally available (GA); Web Sites Basic tier, a new entry-level tier, provides support for small, medium, and large virtual machine (VM) sizes and enables you to scale up to three VM instances. The Basic tier includes 10 GB of storage and supports custom domains. SSL is available at standard rates. Advanced features like AutoScale, Backup, web jobs, and staging slots require customers to subscribe to the Standard tier. Web Sites customers using the Standard tier will now receive even more value. At no additional cost, customers can now upload and use five SNI and one IP SSL certificates with 50 GB of storage. Plus, Standard tier customers will now receive all the new advanced capabilities, including live debugging, Backup, and site slots. Standard tier instances support up to 500 websites; scale up to 10 VM instances; and offer AutoScale, which dynamically adds or removes VM instances based on actual customer traffic. Visit the Web Sites Pricing Details website here.

Azure Active Directory Premium, the Microsoft identity and access management solution for the cloud, provides synchronization with on-premises directories, single sign-on to hundreds of SaaS applications, machine learning–based security and usage reports, alerting, and Multi-Factor Authentication. Azure Active Directory Premium also empowers end users with self-service password reset, delegated group management, and a customizable environment for launching enterprise and consumer applications. It includes entitlement to Forefront Identity Manager Server and Client Access Licenses. Azure Active Directory Premium will be available for purchase through the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement volume licensing program. For more information, visit the Azure Identity and Access Management website.

All current subscribers of the Azure Active Directory Premium preview have until July 1, 2014 to decide whether they want to purchase the service. Until then, they can use all capabilities, free of charge.

Using Scheduler, you can invoke actions—such as calling HTTP/S endpoints or posting a message to a storage queue—on any schedule. With Scheduler, you create jobs in the cloud that reliably call services both inside and outside of Azure, and then run those jobs on demand, on a regularly recurring schedule, or on a designated future date. Scheduler is backed by a 99.9 percent SLA. For pricing details, visit the Scheduler website.

The new read-access service is now available as another option for geographically replicated storage accounts. As with other options, the stored content is replicated to a secondary location, but now you can have read access to the secondary location in case of a major disaster in the primary location. The secondary location is in the same region but is hundreds of miles from the primary location. To use this service, go to the Azure Management Portal, where you can enable Read-Access Geographically Redundant Storage (RA-GRS) for your storage account. You can also do this through the Azure Service Management API. Once the account is enabled, you will get the endpoint name for your secondary endpoint. You can send read requests to that secondary endpoint to read your data. In addition, you can query the endpoint to find out the replication lag for your account. Visit the Storage Pricing Details website here.

If you choose not to continue using the RA-GRS service at the new prices, you can use the Azure Management Portal to disable RA-GRS for your storage account.

Last year, Microsoft announced a feature called Dynamic Routing Gateway and Point-to-Site VPN, which supports route-based VPNs and allows you to connect individual computers to a virtual network in Azure. That feature is now generally available. The Dynamic Routing VPN Gateway in a virtual network will now have the same SLA as the Static Routing VPN Gateway. The Dynamic Routing VPN Gateway will continue to be free until May 1, 2014. Starting May 2, 2014, it will be charged at the general availability price.

In Azure, you can configure your application to automatically scale up or down to accommodate current demand, and use auto-scaling rules to minimize costs. AutoScale is now generally available for Virtual Machines, Cloud Services, Web Sites, and Mobile Services. For more information about how to use AutoScale, visit How to scale an application and How to scale web sites.

Visual Studio Online, the cloud solution that enables development teams to plan, build, and ship software across a variety of platforms is now available with a financially backed SLA. It will guide you through setting up an environment for you or your team that includes everything from hosted Git repositories and project-tracking tools, to continuous integration and deployment to Azure—all without having to install or configure a single server. For more information, visit the Visual Studio Online website.

Azure Automation allows you to automate processes for your infrastructure and application lifecycle by enabling integration, orchestration, and automation of tasks using Runbooks built on Windows PowerShell Workflow. With Automation, you can author Windows PowerShell Runbooks that integrate into other Azure services, as well as external systems you use to deliver your end to end tasks that simplify cloud management. For more information on Azure Automation, visit the Automation webpage.

There is no charge for Azure Automation during preview, and the general availability date has not yet been determined.

Effective April 1, 2014, customers will see lower prices for Backup. Backup helps you protect important server data off-site with automated backup to Azure. Now you can benefit from simple, reliable off-site data protection at a lower cost. For more information, visit the Azure Backup website.

That’s a quick wrap-up on the announcements made today w.r.t Microsoft Azure at Build Conference.

Source: Microsoft Azure Email Announcements