Microsoft’s annual Build conference starts today in San Francisco. We’ll run through the schedule and give you all the information you need on how to watch and catch up on the sessions.
With 300 million active Windows 10 devices, Microsoft is having something of a resurgence. Since its launch of Windows 10 last year, the firm has rarely been out of the headlines, either for controversial Windows 10 updates or for exciting Hololens developments.
Build is its developer conference, so don’t expect wild product announcements. This conference is all about the new tweaks and features of various Microsoft products, with developers coming face-to-face with those who made the platform on which they rely.
To that end, the titles and blurbs for most of the sessions at Build 2016 don’t sound particularly exciting to the average user, but those interested in getting hints about the future of the software and services they use every day have plenty to look forward to.
Related: What is Hololens?
How to watch the Build live stream
Build's opening keynote and biggest sessions will be live streamed from this page on Microsoft's website. Other video content will be available to catch up on later on. It starts at 16:30 UK time.
Last year Microsoft was riding on a wave of excitement about Windows 10, which was just months away, and had also just announced HoloLens. Things have settled somewhat since then, so whether the company is able to top that this year remains to be seen. Expect plenty of numbers and an overview of both Microsoft’s consumer and business successes over the past 12 months.
Windows 10 tweaks
Expect to see a few changes to how Windows 10 handles some of its more front-facing features. First: Live Tiles. Live Tiles are the square icons you’ll find in the Start menu, changing as they receive new data such as news, weather and email. In the session scheduled for 1 April at 12:30 local time, Microsoft promises some changes that should excite developers and users alike.
Watch: Trusted explains what's new in Windows 10
“Live Tiles are evolving with two highly requested surprises that you won't want to miss,” it says. Highly-requested surprises sounds like an oxymoron, but I’m excited anyway. There isn't much to go on here, so I can only really use my imagination on this one. Perhaps Live Tiles will make the jump to the desktop in a similar way to the Gadgets that were introduced in Windows Vista. One to watch if you have room on your screens. You'd be an April Fool to miss it.
From the same session, it looks like Windows 10 will also be receiving an update to how notifications are handled.
Related: 15 Windows 10 tips and tricks
“We are building on the foundation of Action Center to give developers greatly increased flexibility in Adaptive Toasts,” says the blurb.
Notifications tend to stack up off the edge of the screen and if you don’t look at Action Center frequently, it becomes a bit of a mess. It will be interesting to see if – and how – Microsoft intends to solve this and whether notifications will get built-in actions, such as quick replies and other one-click actions.
Also, look out for the session on Wednesday all about the future of Microsoft Edge. According to the latest NetMarketShare statistics, the browser has only 3% of the market, putting it behind all the other major browsers. This session will talk about its first year, as well as the improvements you can expect to see in 2016. This will be both front-end and back-end stuff, so web users and developers can expect something to chew over.
Games – Xbox and Windows 10
Microsoft changed how it treats games when it started to meld Windows 10 and Xbox One together, with titles available "exclusively" to both platforms and available to buy on the Windows Store as well as in the Xbox Store. Not only that, you can stream games from your Xbox to your Windows 10 PC.
Microsoft has various sessions on the topic of game development, but the session scheduled for 17:00 local time on Wednesday, entitled "The Future of Game Development on Windows", looks to offer the best, over-arching view of Microsoft’s strategy. Expect numbers and hints of things to come.
Windows 10 Insiders
A little left-field, but this session on Wednesday caught my eye. While its title of "Inside the Windows Insider Progra" is rather, well, uninspiring, the blurb looks promising for anyone who’s enjoying early access to new Windows features via the Insider Program.
Expect the presenters to cover “some of the history, provide a peek inside the day-to-day operations, and share some thoughts on how it will evolve in the future.”
With Microsoft’s HoloLens headset shipping to developers tomorrow, the kit will feature heavily this year. There are various sessions this year, including one that, frankly, sounds awesome. Called "Holoflight: Visualizing Flight Data in 3D’, I hope it’s as cool as it sounds.
I’d also expect HoloLens to mentioned in the keynote session, no doubt featuring inspiring backing music and life-changing ways in which the headset has been used so far.