Microsoft is a company in transition. The decline of Windows along with the PC market, contrasted against changing business models and the growth of the cloud, makes this a very turbulent time for Microsoft.
However, the company keeps pushing forward and continues to innovate, and its 2016 Build conference broke down some of the big moves the company is making in the near future. Taking place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Build saw a host of Microsoft leaders take the stage to explain how things are changing at Microsoft and what the company will be focusing on.
Here are the five big moves that Microsoft made at Build 2016 that you need to know about.
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On the opening day of Build 2016, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed developers and explained the updates that the company was making to some of its core products with new AI features.
"As an industry, we are on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence," Nadella said. "At Microsoft, we call this Conversations as a Platform, and it builds on and extends the power of the Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Windows platforms to empower developers everywhere."
The first of these updates came with the The Cortana Intelligence Suite, a rebranding of the Cortana Analytics Suite. The first announcement Microsoft made was a preview of Microsoft Cognitive Services for the Cortana Intelligence Suite, which is a set of APIs that bring vision, speech, and other intelligence features to allows systems better understand natural human communication.
The second update announced on Wednesday was the Microsoft Bot Framework, which enables developers to build intelligent chat bots in any programming language for most major chat platforms.
SEE: Why Microsoft's 'Tay' AI bot went wrong (TechRepublic)
Microsoft also announced its Skype Bot Platform for developers to build their own bots for Skype. The Skype Bot Platform includes its own SDK and API, and it allows developers to build bots that take advantage of a variety of types of communication.
One of the big ticket announcements for developers during build was Microsoft announcing that Windows 10 would natively support Ubuntu and the Bash command. Microsoft's Kevin Gallo was adamant: "The Bash shell is coming to Windows. Yes, the real Bash is coming to Windows."
The company accomplished this by partnering with Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu. Bash will not run in a VM or container, but natively.
Microsoft has slowly been moving away from its anti-Linux stance to openly embracing the open source stalwart. In January, Windows quietly added the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to the Windows 10 build code. And, earlier in March, Windows announced SQL Server on Linux, continuing its open source love fest.
Ubuntu is already popular on Microsoft Azure, and making it easier to run on Windows might entice more developers to use Windows tools and platforms to write their code before pushing it to the cloud.
The Bash announcement was only a part (perhaps the biggest part) of Microsoft announcing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Microsoft's AI assistant, Cortana, is now accessible while your Windows 10 device is locked, and will provide proactive advice during the day.
Microsoft Hello, which offers fingerprint scanning and face unlock technology, is also coming to more Windows 10 devices with the update. Additionally, Microsoft Ink was also announced at Build. Ink allows users to "write" on their device with a stylus and create sticky notes or use it as a digital whiteboard.
In terms of Windows developers, Microsoft brought a host of new features as well, including a new desktop app converter, which allows developers to convert Win32 and .NET for use in the Windows App Store. Also, Windows recent acquisition of Xamarin will help .NET developers more easily share code across platforms.
HoloLens, Microsoft's augmented reality platform, didn't get much love from the main stage at Build, but there were some important updates that developers should be aware of. First off, The HoloLens developer kit began shipping Wednesday.
For those wanting to test project they've built for HoloLens, Microsoft released the HoloLens emulator, which will allow developers to test their holographic apps without the need of an actual HoloLens device. Interested parties can download it here.
The day two keynote for Build focused heavily on Microsoft's cloud platform, Azure. The big focus for Azure was the growing number of IoT tools that Microsoft is making available on the platform.
Azure Service Fabric, which was previously in preview, is now generally available to help users deploy and manage microservices. Additionally, it was announced that Microsoft will be releasing Azure IoT starter kits, and it was bringing Azure IoT Hub Device Management and the Azure IoT Gateway SDK into preview. Microsoft also announced the preview of Azure Functions, which allows more serverless compute options within Azure.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Microsoft is marketing itself heavily to developers with the ability to run Bash natively on Windows 10, new machine learning tools for Cortana and Skype, and a desktop app converter for Windows apps.
- Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 Anniversary Edition this summer with security updates through Microsoft Hello, updates to Cortana, and a new feature called Microsoft Ink.
- IoT seems to also be big on the agenda for Microsoft with many new tools and frameworks available in preview for developers to build IoT apps in Azure.
- Microsoft makes bots the cornerstone of its 'conversation as a platform' strategy (ZDNet)
- Microsoft plans to build ad blocker into its Microsoft Edge browser (ZDNet)
- Microsoft releases preview of new Azure 'serverless compute' service to take on AWS Lambda (ZDNet)
- Windows 10 will fail to spark PC recovery in 2016 as businesses push back upgrades (TechRepublic)
- Microsoft to end support for Windows 7 and 8 on new PC hardware (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.