Yesterday, Microsoft showed off what it’s been cooking up for Windows, Xbox One and even HoloLens at its annual developer conference, Build 2016, in the first of two major keynotes.
While the conference is largely aimed at the folks that make the apps you use every day, Microsoft is broadcasted the conference’s two major keynotes straight from the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif., so that fans (and devs who couldn’t make it) can see what’s next for Microsoft as it happened.
Watching the keynotes is almost painfully easy. Just head to Microsoft’s newfangled Build 2016 page, scroll down a bit and press that play button. You can even watch the two keynotes on demand from this page.
What happened on Day 2?
The second day of Build is typically very developer focused and following that tradition, Microsoft opened the floodgates to some very heady stuff, but interesting stuff. Here are the biggest announcements that matter to you from Day two of Microsoft’s Build 2016 conference.
The Azure cloud gets bigger
Microsoft cloud network named Azure has officially gone hyperscale with datacenters in 30 different regions. One of the latest data centers is being build on the east coast of the United States and it measures more than a mile long.
While these data centers mainly support businesses and enterprise solutions, Microsoft also uses its cloud computing network to power games like Crackdown 3 the brains behind Windows 10’s Cortana.
Free cross-platform app development tools
Microsoft is making good use of its recent Xamarin acquisition and now the software maker has just made its cross-platform app development tools available for all Visual Studio users. Beyond helping developers make more apps for every Windows user, the Xamarin tools also includes an Android and iOS simulator.
The idea is Microsoft wants more developers to start creating more mobile apps using the cross-platform program on Windows 10 in the hopes of more software being developed for the Windows platform.
BMW ups its app game
BMW also took to the stage to announce its new connected drive app, which takes learnings from virtual assistants including Siri, Cortana and Google Now.
The new BMW Connected app for the iPhone is powered by Microsoft’s Azure platform and it’s the company’s take on a always-on assistant – sort of like Kitt from Knight Rider. However, instead of giving tactical information with a snooty attitude, the BMW connected app manages your appointments and notifies you when you should leave, how the traffic looks and ways to avoid it.
Office users around the world
Microsoft announced there are 1.2 billion Office users worldwide and 60 million commercial users of Office 365. It’s a sharp uptick from years past and now there’s a new feature to send custom electronic gift cards. Microsoft demonstrated sending a Starbucks inside of a document. It’s the perfect blend of collaboration and coffee in a single meeting.
Hololens brings catalogs to real-life
Last but not least, Microsoft unveiled another use of Hololens’ augmented reality headset to make a product coming to life. We’ve all browsed through a catalog of circular in our lifetime and doing it with the Hololens can bring the product out of the page and into real life.
The Redmond-based company demonstrated this by rendering a front loader from a picture of the Caterpillar product catalog. The construction vehicle rose out of the page and became a full-sized 3D model complete with sound effects and animation.
While everyone might not be interested in construction equipment, there are plenty of way it could be used for more practical uses. For example, Hololens might be able to help you see if that new couch you’ve been eyeing will fit in your living room or how big a large-screen television will look from where you usually sit.
What happened on Day 1?
While there were a ton of interesting, exciting news that came out of the first Build keynote, a hefty chunk of it spoke directly to developers, not the average Joe (teehee). So, here’s what happened during Microsoft’s Build 2016 Day One keynote that matters to you.
The Anniversary Update
Also known as “Redstone” (though, Microsoft hasn’t confirmed that), this major update is slated to launch later this summer – hence the name – for not only Windows 10, but for Xbox One as well. The update brings a slew of new changes specific to certain devices.
For one, Windows Ink will provide existing apps enhanced controls and optimization when using a stylus, ideally Microsoft’s Surface Pen. On stage, enhanced Sticky Notes will recognize handwriting and offer contextual solutions, like creating a calendar event if a word like “tomorrow” is written.
Cortana will see major upgrades as well, such as contextual, automated functions based on what you’re currently doing within an app. Not to mention that the Anniversary Update will introduce her to Xbox One.
Xbox One goes Dev Mode
Microsoft’s Phil Spencer took the stage to talk up Xbox One Dev Mode, promised way back at the 2013 launch of the console and landing as part of the Anniversary Update.
This new mode allows any old, retail Xbox One unit to transform into a developer kit with the press of a button. While most of us lay folk won’t even bother with this feature, that’s not the point.
What this does is allows any developer out there to begin creating apps and even games for Xbox One without having to bug Microsoft for a developer kit. On top of this, Nickelodeon, Dailymotion, NASCAR and Hulu LLC announced plans to bring Windows 10 Universal Windows apps to Xbox One later this year.
HoloLens ships to devs, starts to revamp medicine
We already knew that HoloLens would ship to developers starting March 30, but Wednesday’s on-stage confirmation and heartfelt exchange between co-creators Alex Kipman and Kudo Tsunoda sealed the deal.
The developer kit box was shown off on stage as well, but more important was the demonstration put on by a group of Case Western University doctors. It showed off how 3D rendering and remote participation can enhance the learning experience for would-be doctors and nurses.
Bots, bots, bots
Despite the Tay debacle, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella carried on with evangelizing the firm’s mission to bring Bots – or intelligent agents that live within other apps and services – to the forefront of computing.
So much so, in fact, that Microsoft issued a Bot Framework for developers to easily create, manage and deploy said bots to various Windows apps. Furthermore, the company took it one step further with its Cognitive Services suite of tools that can further enhance bots with machine learning capabilities that Microsoft has developed over the years.
Skype already feels the bot craze
Speaking of which, Microsoft issued a series of bots (and support for third-party bots) to Skype that you can play around with right now. They include live audio/video to text translation, support for bots to communicate with you directly that Cortana can immediately handle and more.
Microsoft also teased that Skype is coming to HoloLens, with gesture drawing support and Cortana’s machine intelligence built in.
Stay tuned to this space through Build 2016 for the latest from Microsoft.