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#MSBuild2017 News and Announcements

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Thousands of developers gather in Seattle as Microsoft Build unveils new products and an ambitious vision for the future of technology.

We're seeing a paradigm change in user experience Share on X

The opening keynotes of this morning’s conference – from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Executive Vice Presidents Scott Guthrie and Harry Shum – outlined the company’s vision for becoming the world’s largest productivity platform. With over 500 million Windows 10 monthly active devices, and 90% of Fortune 500 companies already using the Microsoft Cloud, their combined platforms offer developers like those in the audience “over a billion opportunities to reach and connect with Microsoft customers. You can, for example, achieve single sign-on across 12 million organizations, dramatically reducing friction, yet this fantastic opportunity comes with tremendous responsibility,” said Nadella. “The future of technology will be determined by the choices we make as developers.”

The future of technology will be determined by developers' choices Share on X

He then showed the audience a poignant video which told the story of how Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, invented and programmed a wearable that helped designer Emma Lawton manage the hand tremors caused by her advancing Parkinson’s disease. It ends with the moment when Lawton – wearing the Emma, the watch-like device that was named after her – managers to write her name and draw straight lines again for the first time in many months. As they cry openly, it was difficult not to join in, and as both women joined Nadella onstage they received the morning’s biggest round of applause.

Although the rest of the demos and testimonials weren’t quite as emotional as that, the common theme that ran through all of them was one of highlighting how all these high-level technologies actually translate into real-world problem solving for businesses, individuals, and society as a whole. The tone it set for the conference was one of grounded and confident optimism for the future that developers can build with them, and, that takes shape in the idea of the Microsoft Graph.

We're moving towards an intelligent cloud with an intelligent edge Share on X

What underpins this expansion of the Microsoft Graph is the idea that we’re moving from a mobile-first and cloud-first world towards an integrated intelligent cloud with an intelligent edge. This intelligent cloud will ultimately enable us to search the real world in the same way as we do the digital one, by building in contextual awareness that combines insights from devices and the world of work.


“This is a fundamental change in the paradigm of the apps that we are building,” says Nadella. And because this new type of user experience that is emerging will span all our devices, it will need new platform capabilities such as Azure IoT Edge, which seamlessly extends cloud computing to a range of edge devices.

Artificial Intelligence is also a big piece of that vision, and Microsoft’s ambition is to use AI to augment the capabilities of every developer, organization, platform and person to achieve more, “amplifying human ingenuity with intelligent technology.”

It is ultimately up to us whether the future we build with technology becomes an utopia or a dystopia Share on X

Ultimately, as Nadella concludes, it is up to us whether the future we build with technology is utopian or dystopian. He told the audience he was an unapologetic technology optimist, yet also keenly aware of the unintended consequences that often come from adopting new technologies. In other words, we need to guard against an Orwellian 1984 scenario while embracing the fact that we’re very much living in a Brave New World.



Here are some of the main announcements and news from Microsoft Build 2017


  • Azure Cosmos DB – Touted as the industry’s first globally distributed multi-model database services built from the ground up to power planet-scale cloud services and data-intensive applications — from IoT to AI to mobile — it promises greater fault tolerance and support for all data types, delivering millisecond latency at the 99th percentile
  • Visual Studio 2017 for Mac enables developers to work seamlessly across Windows and Mac environments with full support for mobile, web and cloud workloads, and previews of Docker tools, Azure Functions and Xamarin.IoT support.
  • Customizable cognitive services such as Bing Custom Search, Custom Vision Service, Custom Decision Service and Video Indexes now join a roster of 29 services available to developers, each with unique customization options that enable customization of intelligence capabilities such as vision, speech, language, knowledge and search into apps and bot experiences.
  • Cognitive Services Labs were also launched, enabling developers to experiment with new services, such as a Gesture API, which, although still in early stages, offers some exciting possibilities for developing Mixed Reality applications for devices such as the HoloLens, which are already operated partially through gestures
  • Cortana Partnerships were signed with HP on devices and Intel on reference platforms to deliver Cortana-enabled devices. Additionally, the Cortana skills kit is now in public preview (Currently S. only), where developers can build skills for Cortana by creating a bot and publishing it to the new Cortana channel of the Bot Framework across Windows 10, Android, iOS and the new Cortana-powered Harman Kardon Invoke speaker.
  • MySQL and PostgreSQL-managed services that join Azure SQL Database to give developers expanded choice and flexibility on a service platform to deliver more availability and scalability, with minimal downtime, plus data retention and recovery.
  • Database migration services, which will allow Oracle and SQL Server customers to more easily move their data and quickly modernize their apps..
  • Windows Server Containers support in Azure Service Fabric, with Visual Studio tooling, and a preview of the ability to use Docker Compose support for Service Fabric to deploy containerized apps to Service Fabric — enabling developers to deliver mission-critical, scalable apps and services.
  • DocuSign supports a rapidly growing customer base of 300,000 companies and more than 200 million users across 188 countries. The company today announced Microsoft Azure is its preferred cloud for global expansion, starting in Canada. DocuSign uses Azure SQL Database to process much larger volumes of digital transactions.
  • Microsoft Graph APIs available to developers, including APIs from SharePoint and Planner. The Microsoft Graph gives developers access to Office 365 data and intelligence and helps connect between people, conversations, projects, schedules, processes and content. These insights help developers build smarter apps and enable smarter ways to work.
  • Presentation Translator, which leverages Microsoft’s Translation APIs, was featured, allowing real-time translation to multiple languages during any presentation.
  • Adaptive cards supported by the Microsoft Bot Framework, developers can write cards once that work across multiple apps and platforms. Using the Bot Framework, developers can also now publish to new channels including Bing, Cortana and Skype for Business, and implement Microsoft’s payment request API for checkout in their bots.
  • Azure Batch AI Training is a new Azure offering currently only available in private preview, that will allow developers and data scientists to configure an environment with parameters and run their models against multiple CPUs and GPUs, and eventually field-programmable gate arrays.
  • Tact – the sales experience platform that turns any connected device into a AI-powered virtual sales assistant was demoed in anticipation of its release later this year, showing how multiple Microsoft products such as Dynamics 365, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Cortana Skills, Microsoft Graph and Sentiment Analysis, will be integrated into it.

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Alice Bonasio is a VR and Digital Transformation Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.