Microsoft has held its annual Build developer conference, the Build 2016, last week in San Francisco. Cloud and related innovations, improvements and services took center stage at this year’s summit.
On the first day of the three-day event started on March 30, Microsoft announced improvements to Cortana and previews of new cloud services and toolkits designed to understand the physical world and create intelligent bots.
“As an industry, we are on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.
“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.”
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Windows and Devices Group announced the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which will deliver new innovations for consumers and developers for the Universal Windows Platform.
Myerson explained that the latest update allows users to interact with their Windows 10 devices as naturally as people interact with the world around them using a pen, presence and voice.
The technology giant also announced and demonstrated two additions to Cortana Intelligence Suite, formerly known as the Cortana Analytics Suite.
The first, Microsoft Cognitive Services, is a collection of intelligence APIs that allows systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret our needs using natural methods of communication.
The second, the Microsoft Bot Framework, can be used by developers — programming in any language — to build intelligent bots that enable customers to chat using natural language on a wide variety of platforms including text/SMS, Office 365, Skype, Slack, the Web and more.
Microsoft also released the Skype Bot Platform, which includes the SDK, API and Workflows all in the new Skype Bot Portal. With this platform, Microsoft said developers can build bots that leverage Skype’s multiple forms of communication, including text, voice, video and 3-D interactive characters.
Customers can get started with Skype Bots by downloading the latest Skype apps for Windows, Android and iOS. Developers can start building Skype Bots using the Skype Bot Platform and reach Skype users.
On the second day, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group, and Qi Lu, executive vice president of the Applications and Services Group, demonstrated how Microsoft Azure services and the Office platform can empower developers to leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, emerging cloud development models and the Internet of Things (IoT) to build their intelligent apps.
Microsoft also announced new free development tools to help every developer easily scale their apps for every platform and reach the largest possible number of customers.
Guthrie announced on Thursday that Microsoft is helping developers more easily build native cross-platform mobile applications by including Xamarin’s capabilities in Visual Studio Community and also making Xamarin Studio for OS X free as a community edition.
In addition, Visual Studio Enterprise subscribers will now have access to Xamarin’s advanced enterprise capabilities at no additional cost. The company also announced a commitment to open source the Xamarin SDK, including its runtime, libraries and command line tools, as part of the .NET Foundation in the coming months.
Guthrie also announced several new Azure services designed to help developers address today’s operational realities and take advantage of tomorrow’s emerging trends, such as IoT and microservices. These new capabilities are designed to make Azure the best platform to build the next intelligent app — on Linux or Windows using any language.
Microsoft’s Lu, along with Office partners Starbucks, MDLIVE and Zendesk showcased how developers can use the Office platform to create new business opportunity and closer customer connections.
Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger showed how Starbucks is developing an Outlook add-in that allows people to send gift cards within Outlook and schedule meetings at nearby Starbucks locations.
“We’re always looking for new ways to engage with our customers outside our stores,” said Martin-Flickinger.
“Our work with Office is opening up new opportunities for us to connect with our customers and save them time when they want to combine coffee with meetings. Building on the Office platform is reaching our customers right on their desktop or device and extending the Starbucks Experience to them in new and compelling ways.”
Lu also shared how conversational interaction will evolve in the future and how developers can immediately start building apps that engage users in meaningful conversations.
Microsoft said the new Skype for Business App SDK and Skype Web SDK announced Thursday allows companies to integrate Skype calls directly within their Web or device offering.
The company also showed off new functionality that lets developers build apps and place them directly into Word, Excel and PowerPoint ribbons.
Finally, the developer portal for Office 365 Connectors is now available for developers to write and publish their own connectors.
Connectors deliver relevant content, such as updates on financial records or helpdesk logs, from popular apps and services directly into Office 365 Groups conversations.
The developer portal is launching with connectors such as Asana, Salesforce, Trello, Twitter, UserVoice, Zendesk and many more.