Microsoft may not be the leading player in the consumer electronics world anymore, but the company is definitely making a lot of money. Last week, Microsoft became only the third company in history to close trading with a market cap of over $1 trillion. Since Satya Nadella became only the third CEO of the company in 2014, Microsoft has transformed itself into an enterprise software and cloud services provider. While it may not be a dominant force in consumer electronics, the company remains relevant thanks to Windows, which still powers more than three-fourths of all computers in the world.
Microsoft BUILD 2019 livestream
As we head into the developer conference season, Microsoft will take the stage a day before Google. With Facebook having shown its privacy-driven approach, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other executives outline their vision for the future at BUILD Conference being held from May 6 to May 8, 2019 at Washington Convention Center in Seattle. The Build 2019 will be livestreamed (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/build) and expect new announcements around Artificial Intelligence, cloud services, Augmented Reality, Windows 10, and possibly Quantum Computing. While in the past, Microsoft has used the event to make announcements via two keynotes, this year, the agenda has been changed and all newsworthy content is kept for the main “Vision Keynote” scheduled for 8:30AM Pacific Time (or 9:00PM IST) on May 6.
There are also two technical keynotes on May 6 aimed at developers, which could give more insights into Microsoft products. For the second straight year, Microsoft BUILD is clashing with Google I/O, which starts in California on May 7, 2019. Since Windows developers naturally tend to be Android developers as well, this should be a cause of concern, especially for those planning to attend both the developer conferences. However, here is what we expect to see Satya Nadella and co. at BUILD 2019:
Azure and Cloud Services
While the Microsoft of yesteryear would trumpet the words “Windows, Windows, Windows” at its developer conference, the prominent word now is cloud. Microsoft under Nadella has become a cloud company where every product is conceived as a service. From Windows to Office, everything is now delivered via Cloud and when comes to cloud, Microsoft’s Azure division has become the second major player after Amazon Web Services. At BUILD 2019, Microsoft executives will try to convince developers to build applications using its tools on top of Azure Stack, that makes it easier to build and deploy hybrid apps anywhere.
Azure is growing steadily in every quarter earnings and expect Microsoft to use the term “Intelligent Cloud, Intelligent Edge” as the metaphor to attract developers. With cloud services like AWS and Azure, developers have enhanced flexibility of building their applications without requiring huge investment into local servers. For developers, Microsoft will focus on containers, the hybrid cloud and ability to build without local servers. Ahead of the developer conference, Microsoft announced Azure Blockchain Service, updates to Azure SQL Database Edge and Azure Cognitive Services. At BUILD 2019, expect Microsoft to detail the new enhancements and changes coming to these platforms and how developers can take advantage of new features.
Microsoft Windows 10
Microsoft has just begun expanding the availability of Windows 10 April 2019 Update also known as Windows 10 version 1903 or 19H1 to wider range of users. The update brings a new light theme, an improved Start Menu, disintegration between search and Cortana and ability to pause updates. It also brings Windows Sandbox allowing users to easily run a virtualized version of Windows 10 in a window and is aimed at developers and software engineers to run and test features, settings without affecting main Windows 10 installation. At BUILD 2019, Microsoft might detail these changes and reveal some of the features that could be introduced with October Update or version 1909.
Windows may have become part of a larger suite of services but let’s not forget, that it still contributes a large chunk of revenue. Microsoft has revamped the company to bring the hardware and software teams together for an inclusive design language across Windows and Surface devices. At BUILD 2019, we could see that ideology come to the forefront for platforms that power desktop, HoloLens, Mixed Reality devices. There is a possibility that Microsoft will announce public release of Edge build on Chromium at the event.
AI and IoT
Artificial Intelligence is becoming the central piece of product design across tech companies and Microsoft, in some ways, has become a pioneer in areas like speech and text recognition. Nadella has repeatedly said that he sees Microsoft as an AI company and not just another software company. At BUILD 2019, we could see more focus of integration of AI features across its products like Windows. While Microsoft has already integrated AI into certain products, the focus could be on new AI tools being offered to developers to build their own AI programs and features.
One of the focus could be Cortana, which has lost the digital assistants race to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Microsoft could use the opportunity to introduce new integrations between Alexa and Cortana and show how Alexa could become more important assistant on Windows while Cortana builds connection in the background. Apart from AI, Microsoft is also expected to talk about its IoT initiatives especially for connecting sensors via programs and software development tools.
For large part of last decade, computing has remained the same with computers getting thinner and more powerful but not changing fundamentally. The next big wave of change could come in the form of Edge computing and Quantum computing. While Microsoft is driving the Edge computing narrative with its “Intelligent Cloud Intelligent Edge” slogan, we could see more breakthrough announcements in the field of Quantum Computing at BUILD 2019 tonight.
Quantum Computing diverges from classical computing where the individual bit holds a single binary of either 1 or 0, the quantum bit or qubit can hold both the values at the same time and stay in a state of superposition. Major tech companies like IBM, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are building Quantum computers using Quantum Physics. The technology could result in enhanced encryption which could make it impossible for hackers to break the encryption key. It could advance diagnosis of diseases and even accelerate development of cure. The big question around Quantum Computing is scalability and at BUILD 2019, Microsoft might show how much advancements it has made in the space.
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Microsoft’s inability to become a big player in mobile domain is well documented but the company has managed to pull out a big comeback. Its nearly $1 trillion market cap shows not only investor confidence but also ability to experiment and develop future computing platform. With that regard, Microsoft is working to build new form of computing, mainly edge computing and augmented reality. At MWC 2019, Microsoft launched HoloLens 2 and at BUILD, we might see developments to AR development platforms offered by the company.
Microsoft could also detail Project xCloud, which merges Xbox with Azure, to allow users to stream games from any device. The rival to Google Stadia, if announced with new features, could become an instant hit among developers in attendance. We might also see new announcements around GitHub, Visual Studio, .Net and other legacy platforms. For Microsoft, BUILD is the biggest event in the calendar year but it will have to establish itself as an industry player while Google, Apple and Facebook hog the limelight.