The annual Microsoft Build developer conference is underway, so here’s everything you need to know about the event, including all the latest news and highlights from day one and two of the event.
Every year, Microsoft hosts a convention for developers who work with the company’s services – like Windows or Azure, for example. This year’s conference runs from May 10 to May 12, 2017 and, during the Microsoft Build 2017 keynotes, we usually expect to hear big news on both the software and hardware from.
That didn’t really happen on day one, despite the presentation taking nearly three hours, but the company followed up on Thursday with a raft of consumer-focused news.
Microsoft Build 2017 day two highlights
Microsoft finally gave us a look at the next major Windows 10 Update, the Fall Creators Update. It will arrive, as the name suggests, this autumn and will be a free download. The company previewed around five major new features, as well as the new Fluent Design style, which looks like its answer to Google’s Material Design, Here’s what we know so far about the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.
Windows 10 S just got a big boost. Apple is releasing iTunes on the Windows Store. That means laptop buyers opting for Microsoft’s scaled back, locked down operating system will still be able to sync iPhones and utilise Apple Music.
There was plenty of talk about virtual, mixed and augmented reality. Microsoft announced the Mixed Reality headsets from Acer and HP are up for pre-order in the US and Canada from today. Acer’s model is $299, while the HP headset is $329. There’s also a pair of brand new, $100 touch controllers similar to the Oculus Touch.
Microsoft is calling them Windows Mixed Reality Controllers and you can see demonstrated below
Microsoft Build 2017 day one highlights
- Windows 10 now has 500 million active machines, which is way short of its initial target of 1 billion users by FY 2018. However, it’s still pretty good going. Can Windows 10 S boost these numbers further?
- The new Cortana Skills Kit will enable third-party developers to create new skills for Microsoft’s forthcoming smart speakers, Windows 10 PCs and the Cortana mobile app. Craftily, Microsoft is enabling devs to convert their existing Alexa Skills for the Windows platform.
- Speaking of smart home speakers, we got another look at the Cortana-based Harman Kardon Invoke speaker and its capabilities in the home. Users will be able to hear their forthcoming meetings, hotel and flight bookings and traffic updates. Using third-party skills they’ll know if they need to leave earlier to fill up the car and will be able to book time off work and set an out of office. No news yet on the price or release date.
- Intel and HP are getting in on the smart speaker game and have committed to building their own Cortana-based devices.
- There was a lot of talk of Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure. The company has announced new Azure applications for iOS and Android and a new Azure Cloud Shell, which will make it easier for developers to log into their systems.
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- Microsoft has released the completed version of its development platform Visual Studio for all Mac users. Previously it was only available in preview.
- Developers can now start publishing their apps for Teams; Microsoft’s big effort to take on Slack. Those apps will be available through the Office Store.
- PowerPoint can now translate slideshows in real time.
- In a touching segment, Microsoft introduced a wearable device that helped Emma, a Parkinson’s sufferer from the UK, to steadily handwrite. The vibrating device was able to distract Emma’s brain from attempting to control the tremor and enabled her to write her name and draw shapes. Check it out in the video below.
Microsoft Build 2017 – What time does the day two keynote start?
With the day one keynote now behind us, we’re hoping that the second Build 2017 keynote (Thursday May 11) features some more consumer-facing announcements.
The day two keynote starts at 8.30am (PDT), which is the local time in Seattle, Washington, where the US-based event is being held.
That means that in the UK, you’ll be able to tune in from 4.30pm on May 11, while readers on the US east coast can follow the action from 11.30am EDT.
Microsoft Build 2017 Keynote Live Stream – How to watch online
The good news is that Microsoft will be streaming the entire opening keynote for free online. You’ll be able to watch it here:
Microsoft Build 2017 Keynote – What to expect
Here’s an idea of what we’re still expecting from Microsoft during Build 2017. Note that Microsoft hasn’t confirmed its announcements in advance, so the details below are a healthy mix of rumours and educated guesswork.
Windows 10 Updates and more
Build is for developers, so it’s a dead cert that Microsoft will talk about Windows 10, its flagship operating system.
Expected to be high on the agenda is Redstone 3, the codename for the next major Windows 10 update. This new version is expected to go live later this year, and so it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to wax lyrical on any upcoming changes.
Perhaps the biggest change is Project Neon, the internal name for a design revamp that is expected to introduce a cleaner and more compelling look to Windows 10.
We’ve also heard – courtesy of Qualcomm – that Windows 10 will soon support ARM-based mobile chips. This means we could see Windows apps running on very cheap machines and mobile devices.
Microsoft also recently announced Windows 10 S, a new lightweight version of Windows that’s debuted on the Surface Laptop, as well as a range of third-party machines. You can count on Microsoft making some mention of the new software at Build 2017.
Related: Windows 10 S vs Chrome OS
It’s also likely that Microsoft will talk about Cortana. That’s Microsoft’s custom-built digital assistant – Clippy on steroids, if you will – which is integrated directly into Windows 10. You can talk to Cortana using your voice, or simply use her through the normal Windows 10 GUI too.
Microsoft is under plenty of pressure to get AI right, with growing competition from Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and the Google Assistant.
That explains why Microsoft recently partnered with audio firm Harman Kardon to develop the Invoke speaker – an Amazon Echo rival with Cortana built-in. Microsoft will almost certainly talk about the Invoke speaker at Build, and could even reveal future plans for Cortana on third-party devices.
New Surface Devices? Probably not
There’s been no shortage of speculation about the Surface Pro 5, and whether or not the long-awaited laptop hybrid will be announced at Build 2017.
Unfortunately, it seems certain that Microsoft won’t be unveiling the Surface Pro 5 any time soon. Speaking to CNet, Panos Panay, CVP for Surface Computing at Microsoft, confirmed that “there’s no such thing as a Pro 5” right now.
“When it’s meaningful and the change is right, we’ll put [the next generation Surface Pro] on market,” Panay explained.
He continued: “Meaningful change isn’t necessarily a hardware change, which is what a lot of people look for. They’re like, ‘where’s the latest processor?’ That’s not what I mean. I’m looking for an experiential change that makes a huge difference in product line.”
Panay added that the Surface Pro 4 is a product that “is going to by competitive for five years”, and that “you’ll see that same meaningful impact when Pro 5, or Pro Next, hits the market”.
That’s a big blow to Surface fans however, many of whom will have been waiting since the 2015 Surface Pro 4 launch for news of a successor.
HoloLens and Windows Holographic
Microsoft takes every chance it can get to talk up HoloLens and the Windows Holographic platform, so there’s no reason why Build 2017 should be any different.
We’re not expected any proper news about the HoloLens augmented reality headset, but we’ll probably see some demonstrations of how people are using the device around the world.
Plenty of developers have their hands on a HoloLens headset, so there’s a good chance Microsoft will have some awesome projects to showcase during the Build keynote.
And plenty more too
If you’ve ever tuned into a Build keynote, you’ll know that they’re really ruddy long. As such, we’ll be buckling up for a long series of announcements and updates across the entire Microsoft software and hardware portfolio.
Likely candidates for a Build 2017 mention include Xbox, Azure cloud computing, and the Bing Bots platform – if only briefly.
Related: Best laptops
What would you like to see from Microsoft Build 2017? Let us know in the comments.