Build 2016: Microsoft impresses developers with change – open source, bots and universality

Microsoft's ongoing conference, Build 2016, was supposed to be big. The reason being, a lot of us have been expecting steps beyond Windows 10. And of course, there’s been HoloLens which has been around as a proof of concept. Then there was the world of Universal Windows applications. All said and done, Microsoft presented all this and more and packaged it with style, to much applause and delight from the developer community.


Microsoft's ongoing conference, Build 2016, was supposed to be big. The reason being, a lot of us have been expecting steps beyond Windows 10. And of course, there’s been HoloLens which has been around as a proof of concept. Then there was the world of Universal Windows applications. All said and done, Microsoft presented all this and more and packaged it with style, to much applause and delight from the developer community.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his team delivered a keynote that easily overshot a bit both in time and by a long way in terms of information! A few minutes past 9PM India time, Nadella stepped on stage to begin the keynote for Build 2016. He didn't spend too much time in the usual number throwing. The key highlight, though, was that Windows 10 has been the fastest growing edition of Windows ever. Currently, it's used by 270 million users worldwide.

Setting the initial tone for Build, Nadella said that Microsoft wants to make things so developers can make things happen. He also highlighted the influence of technology on life, and how there was a mainstream debate around technology today – which is welcome. During the course of the keynote, he handed over the presentation to Terry Myerson and Kevin Gallo, among others, who continued to impress the developer community with announcements one after the other.

https://twitter.com/nashpd/status/715204513720770560

Windows 10 Anniversary update

The latest operating system by Microsoft was supposed to be on the lines of SaaS, where incremental updates are constantly pushed to the end customer. However, for Build 2016, a lot of key updates were held to create a larger, richer 'Anniversary update'.

In addition, there is the Windows 10 Anniversary SDK. According to Kevin Gallo, Director of Program Management for the Windows Developer Platform team for Windows 10, this new Windows 10 Anniversary SDK brings a vast list of features and creates whole new possibilities for the developer community.

The SDK offers new ways to 'connect to, communicate with, and manage multiple devices and apps.' It also enables Cortana extensibility, besides offering a new Action Center in the Cloud.

With the new SDK, developers can now run applications in the background without the need for two separate processes in Windows 10.

Universal Windows Platform now allows developers to build an ecosystem based on their application. For instance, Microsoft Edge does this with its own extensions.

With Action Center in the Cloud, developers can engage with their app users across all devices. So if you dismiss a notification on one device, it is dismissed everywhere. The Anniversary Update is expected to arrive this summer.

Gallo handed it back to Terry Myerson, who came on stage to talk on Windows 10 in more detail.

Single biometric for Windows, Apps and Websites

The good old biometric security feature that was implemented with Windows 10 at launch has now gone a step further. With the anniversary update for Windows 10, users can now use the same biometrics feature you use to unlock your computer to automatically sign in to websites. Think about it as Touch ID or the fingerprint scanners available on iOS or Android devices. The Anniversary update for Windows 10 would enable you to have single sign-in using your thumbprint.

Windows Ink

In addition to signing into services using biometrics, Microsoft demoed Windows Ink, which is a new way to implement writing devices such as a stylus and the Surface Pen, to implement writing and scribbling on interfaces. This is aligned to the same philosophy of creating interfaces that interact with users in the way they would naturally expect them to. So while language comes naturally to some users, scribbling and jotting with pen on paper could come naturally to others. Either way, Microsoft wants to integrate these methods into its interface.

One operating system, multiple platforms

We've probably said it over and over again. But Windows 10 is built as one operating system that works across devices. What this means is that the same operating system would interface with a user across PC, tablet, mobile, gaming console and virtual reality. The one challenge this presents is that the earlier Win32 applications (as older Windows applications are popularly referred to) could possibly have to be redeveloped to cater to the new platform. In effect, that's a whole new code base. But then, Microsoft presented Project Centennial.

Project Centennial is also known as the all-new Desktop App Converter. Developers could now just pass their earlier code base for the older Win32 apps and games, and the Desktop App Converter will align them with the Modern interface and UWP guidelines that Windows 10 implements. In addition, it provides apps with full access to UWP APIs that include Cortana, Live Tiles and notifications.

Windows embraces open source

The Bash shell just arrived for Windows. And it's a result of a collaboration with Canonical and Ubuntu. More than ever, Microsoft is opening up to open source command-line tools such as Bash shell.

https://twitter.com/nashpd/status/715210413848158209

Soon, developers would be able to download the Bash shell from the Windows Store. So irrespective of whether developers prefer using a GUI or command line, they'd feel right at home while developing on Microsoft's platforms.

Windows also embraces other platforms!

A natural result of the acquisition of Xamarin, now makes it possible to develop, emulate and target other mobile platforms such as Android and iOS from within Visual Studio.

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In addition, an open source Windows Bridge for iOS enables the use of Objective-C code within Visual Studio.

Gaming

The first day of Build 2016 couldn't be complete without the mention of Gaming. After announcing Universal Windows Platform and that Xbox One would also come under its fold, Microsoft stated that the Xbox One was getting an update that would enable it to become a dev unit.

https://twitter.com/nashpd/status/715216019048964096

Effectively, users could use retail devices as dev units without the need to switch between test beds and real devices. This means an Xbox owner can develop apps on the Xbox.

Not man vs machine, it's "man with machine"

That's Satya Nadella's vision of the future of technology.

https://twitter.com/nashpd/status/715221630637584384

Technology, as Nadella puts it, has to adapt to the ways mankind operates. Technology ought to adapt to our language, our mannerisms, our attitude. It has be personal. The result of the philosophy of man with machine was the emergence of bots as the star.

Bots

Who knew bots would get cool all over again? Remember the days of IRC? There were bots around earlier as well! At Build 2016, bots were clearly the highlight. Picture this, the next time you order pizzas, you don't need to get on a long, boring call trying to explain the pizza, its topping, crust, and then delivery address and tons of to and fro within the conversation. The learnings from Skype translate and Cortana would be available to developers who could create 'experts' that applications such as Skype could tap into.

https://twitter.com/nashpd/status/715226134774808576

With a whole new take on bots, Microsoft envisions a world where programs, or bots, could interface with language in the same way you and I speak to each other. Microsoft just announced a whole new framework for bots. To know more, you could head over to click on this link.

https://twitter.com/nashpd/status/715232203802718209

We're talking conversations here, not boring drop down menus and other such drab UI elements. As Nadella puts it, languages are the new UI. The best way to interface.

Build 2016: Microsoft impresses developers with change – open source, bots and universality

The new buzzword around is conversations, after all.

Disclosure: The author is attending Build 2016 at the invitation of Microsoft. Travel and accommodation has been arranged by Microsoft.