So, what did we get from Microsoft's Build conference?

A lot of news came out of Microsoft’s developers conference—some of it expected, some not

So, what did we get from Microsoft Build 2017?
IDGNS/Blair Hanley Frank

Microsoft is winding down its annual Build developers conference in Seattle, and a lot of news has come from the show. Some of it was expected; some of it was a surprise. And there were a few from out of left field. We speculated on what might make news and what would not, so let’s revisit the list and see how the predictions went.

Operating systems

As expected, Redstone 3 was discussed. It’s formally known as the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, a pretty blah name, and will be released in September. Microsoft gave a pretty deep dive on what to expect primarily with Project NEON, now known as the Microsoft Fluent Design System. 

Microsoft described Fluent as "an evolution of Metro," the new UI originally introduced with Windows 8 before being renamed the “Microsoft Design Language.” Microsoft said there are five key areas that Fluent Design will emphasize for its new visual experience: light, depth, motion, material and scale. It’s meant to offer more dynamic and animated interfaces with rich textures and dynamic layers. 

One thing Microsoft emphasized is that the Fluent Design System will not roll out all at once. It will come in at least four waves of gradual introduction over several updates. So, don’t expect Windows 10 to look radically different come this fall. 

Windows Server 2016 didn’t get much love, but Windows on ARM sure did. It’s expected to run on devices powered by a new, forthcoming processor from Qualcomm and run x86 Windows 10 and apps in emulation. Channel 9 released a full length video of the demo showing just how fast performance is. 

In another example of hell freezing over, Microsoft announced that Ubuntu is coming to the Windows Store for developers and that SUSE and Fedora are coming to the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Microsoft said it will simplify the process of development of Windows and Linux apps side by side in a virtual environment. This is the ultimate irony. After years of disappointment with the failure of Linux to gain traction as a client, Microsoft may be the one to spur the initiative. 

Microsoft Edge not being separated from the OS 

There were rumors that Microsoft would separate its Edge Web browser from the Windows 10 operating system so that new features could be added more quickly and Microsoft could make development of the browser more competitive with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. 

However, Microsoft officials told the Windows news site Neowin, which initially ran the story, it had no plans to separate the browser from the OS—but “never say never.” This, in my opinion, is a huge mistake on Microsoft’s part. Edge is not a competitive browser and needs to be updated more frequently than when Microsoft releases an OS update if it is to have any prayer of keeping up with Chrome and Mozilla. 

Universal Windows Platform

During the Day 2 keynote, Microsoft announced that .NET Standard 2.0 for UWP is coming later this year, which will allow developers to bring more apps to UWP. Microsoft also announced that XAML Standard is coming soon that will unify XAML for Xamarin Forms and UWP. This is definitely something only of interest to developers, but it’s important because Xamarin is an important part of Microsoft’s cross-platform strategy. 

Cortana 

During his keynote, Satya Nadella announced 500 million devices currently run Windows 10, a key milestone, but only 140 million people use Cortana. This begs the question of whether people are shunning Cortana or just not making use of it. You need a microphone to use it, and not everyone has one attached to their PC, especially desktop users. 

With all the stories of webcams being hacked and people being spied on, people are not using the cams and, in some cases, taping over the camera and microphone. The idea got a lot of traction when it was discovered Mark Zuckerberg tapes over his laptop webcam.

Whatever the reason, Cortana is not getting use that’s equal to Windows 10. No doubt Microsoft will want to address that. 

Microsoft Office 

There was a modest amount of news around Office. The biggest announcement is that the Fall Creators Update will introduce OneDrive Files On-Demand, which will let users access all of their files in the cloud without having to download them to their local device. Files can be seen in File Explorer and accessed on demand whenever they are needed. 

Three Office-related bits of news were announced. Beginning now, Microsoft Teams is open to all developers to publish apps through the Office Store onboarding and distribution process, and published apps will surface in a new discover apps experience. These features will be available in a preview shortly.

Microsoft also said it would introduce new capabilities for Teams developers to add tabs, bots and connectors, and a new feature, extensions, which will allow users to issue commands to bring information from an app or service directly into their team chat and avoid distracting context switches. Both will be in a forthcoming developer preview.

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