Microsoft ended the first day of its Build 2016 on a high note, with a clutch of major announcements and a few surprises. The major focus though was clearly on bots, as was evident in the four-hour conference on the opening day.
If you missed it, here’s what was on the agenda. Build 2016 concludes on April 1.
The buzz was all about bots and how Microsoft sees intelligent chatbots as the next step in computing. The small artificial intelligence (AI) bots will respond to verbal cues and offer assistance in making everyday life easier.
Microsoft gave a demonstration of the new technology using a chatbot to order a pizza, where a user simply spoke to the bot. Though simple enough, the demonstration is a glimpse into the future; bots can be programmed to replace traditional web interface with normal conversations.
The Redmond-based giant clearly wants to be at the helm of this technology, and announced a Microsoft Bot framework, a toolkit for developers and companies to create their own AI chatbots.
We’re just hoping they don’t turn out to be as ignorant as its earlier chatbot Tay that spewed out racist and sexist comments. “We want to build technology so it gets the best of humanity, not the worst,” Nadella said.
Windows 10 sets record
In its keynote address, Microsoft announced that 270 million computers are now running on Windows 10 in the eight months since it launched, making it the fastest adoption rate of a new Windows operating system. We’ll take this with a pinch of salt as Microsoft has been accused of forcing the upgrade on its users. But at it’s still an enviable number.
The Anniversary update
Windows chief Terry Myerson said that the next update – Windows 10 Redstone – will be arriving this summer for all Windows 10 users for free. Dubbed as the anniversary update, there will be one for the Xbox One too, bringing Windows 10 apps and Cortana to the console. With this, there will be a unified ecosystem of Windows universal apps on Xbox One and Windows 10. It also comes with an improved stylus support and more integration across apps using tools like Cortana and Bing.
Bash Shell coming to Windows 10
This is something for developers to rejoice about: Microsoft announced that the anniversary update will bring the command language Bash Shell (Bourne Again SHell) to Windows 10. With this, developers will be able to write bash scripts on Windows, meaning more freedom for users to tweak how Windows works for them. This also means one can manipulate Microsoft apps to include their preferences instead of using third party apps. More shells are expected to be brought over to Windows in the future.
Developer Mode for Xbox One
A new ‘Dev Mode’ (short for developer mode) was also announced for the Xbox One with the forthcoming update. This means that any Xbox One console can soon be used as a developer’s kit to create software for the platform. Users can also switch between to the standard consumer mode with an application called ‘Dev Home’. A preview of the Dev mode is available, starting today.
At //build, Phil Spencer just announced Xbox Dev Mode for Xbox One. Now anyone can start creating on Xbox One!— ID@Xbox (@ID_Xbox) March 30, 2016
Xbox One will also come with universal apps and the much-awaited background music playback feature in the anniversary update.
HoloLens development kits go out
Preorders for HoloLens developer kits opened last month for $3,000 (approximately Rs 1,99,000) in the US and Canada, and the first phase of the headset’s pre-orders are finally being dispatched, starting today. Microsoft even gave a demo of the first HoloLens app, the Galaxy Explorer.
Cortana to get more craftier
New features will be added to its personal digital assistant Cortana, with deeper integration into Outlook and third party apps. Cortana will also get the ability to reply to text messages from an Android device on a Windows PC and perform smart tasks. Also expect a Skype integration to offer assistance during calls or while using the chat interface.