Microsoft is hosting its annual developer conference, Build 2018, at its home turf of Seattle. The first day was mostly about Microsoft’s vision for the future, and how it plans to empower developers using its creative tools to build apps and services. The company also demonstrated how it is looking beyond Windows and moving everything to cloud.
At the event, CEO Satya Nadella made an important remark as to how the company sees “the world as a computer”, and how it continues to embrace cross-platform computing and open source solutions. There were several key announcements during the keynote, including a $25 million investment to solve social problems via “AI for accessibility”.
Microsoft also confirmed that it has nearly 700 million Windows 10 and 135 million commercial Office 365 users across the world. It had hoped to reach 1 billion users within three years, but the adoption seems to have cooled since the initial demand for the new version. Microsoft, like other tech giants, also spoke about ethical use of AI and investments in key areas to protect privacy of its customers. Here are the top announcements from the first day of Build 2018.
At Build 2018, Nadella announced that Microsoft is bringing Windows 10's Timeline feature to iOS and Android. The feature aims to enable ubiquitous computing across platforms for Windows 10 users. With Timeline on Android and iOS, Windows users can look back at their apps, photos and videos used dating back as many as 30 days.
Microsoft also introduced a new app called Your Phone, which is aimed at turning your desktop into a second screen. The app mirrors some of the key functionalities of your smartphone like messaging and notifications on your computer. If you want to message from your Android phone then you can access your smartphone via the app, and send messages without the need to unlock the smartphone.
Microsoft announced Project Kinect for Azure, a new package of sensors, including a next generation depth camera with onboard compute for AI on the Edge. The service builds on Kinect's legacy, and is aimed to help developers working with ambient intelligence. It can support hand tracking, high fidelity spatial mapping to enable a new level of precision solutions.
At Build 2018, Microsoft showcased two new applications built around mixed reality. With Microsoft Remote Assist, customers can collaborate remotely with their team, while Firstline Workers can share what they see with anyone on their Microsoft Teams contact list. Microsoft Layout, on the other hand, can be used by teams to design spaces in context with mixed reality.
Microsoft also revealed a new meeting experience powered by Cortana and spacial camera. The prototype device was capable of identifying the participants and then translate, transcribe the contents of the meeting. It was also able to mark key points of the meeting like to-do list and reminders into a separate window. The feature is being pitched as the future of meeting experience in a corporate environment integrating Cortana, Microsoft ML, Mixed Reality and Surface Hub devices.
Microsoft finally revealed how Cortana and Alexa will integrate into a unified digital assistant platform. It showed how Cortana users can trigger Alexa to execute commands within Windows 10, while Alexa users can pull Cortana on Echo speakers to launch services. The feature is not yet publicly available, but it will integrate Microsoft and Amazon services.
Microsoft has announced a partnership with DJI and Qualcomm where the world's largest drone maker will bring its own SDK to Windows 10, and use Azure as its preferred cloud provider. Qualcomm, on the other hand, will bring a vision AI developer kit running Azure IoT Edge. This will use Azure ML and Qualcomm Vision Intelligence Platform and AI Engine.