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.
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.
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!