Microsoft is a company that usually seems to get more “Meh” reactions rather than the interest of Apple and Google but in the last year or so with new CEO Satya Nadella they have being going through an image reinvention. Whether or not you like them Windows 10 is going to be important and many other properties from Office to Xbox and Bing matter to a great many people.
Build is Microsoft’s annual developer conference and it kicked off yesterday with a three hour long Keynote.
In three hours they covered a lot of ground and much of it was complicated and opaque.
So with all the edges filed off what was announced that matters to you as a user, student or developer?
A new way to notate music via handwriting recognition in Windows 10. Write on the screen with a pen and it can interpret musical notes and convert them to regular sheet music and played interactively.
Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform is now made up of over one million separate services spread over the world. They pushed the fact they now support Docker – a service that lets you ‘containerised’ apps to run without dependencies wherever they are. These are big and significant things if you are involved in cloud computing but they won’t directly affect end users in the near term.
Visual Studio has launched a new version called Visual Studio Code which will cover a huge number of languages including C#, has GIT and Azure integration and will be available on the Mac, Ubuntu and PC Windows. Potentially even better – its free and available today!
Office 2016 was previewed showing off an plugin system that allowed cross platform usage – activate the plugin in Windows and then its available in Android or iOS. This also integrates with Outlook – so email and calendars – and was shown off with an Uber plugin automatically ordering a car to get you to a meeting. If this is as good and simple as it looks this is potentially very interesting and reminds me a little of the Google Now ‘brain behind the scenes that tries to help you’.
Windows 10 was of course a central theme. Microsoft emphasised that Windows 10 will be one system with one store from the basic IOT Windows on a Raspberry Pi up to PCs, Xbox One and HoloLens. They reiterated the cost – free for a personal upgrade – and showed a lot of flashing screenshots concentrating on the well over a billion Windows users. They announced the Windows Store for Business aimed at enterprise users.
There had been rumors that Android apps would be able to run on Windows 10 and this turns out to be nearly right. A huge chunk of code from Android and iOS apps will be able to used for Windows 10 apps. It will not quite be as simple as running the app through a filter but it will not be that much more complicated. If developers take it up it should mean a much larger number of apps running natively on Windows 10. Windows 10 will have a new browser in it which has been called by the code name Project Spartan and its full name was revealed – Project Edge.
Next Microsoft showed off a new system called Continuum. This allows you to plug a phone in to a screen and bluetooth keyboard and mouse and treat it as if it was a full PC. This is because the code on a PC is basically the same as a Windows Phone – a phone can be a PC. The possibilities are obvious, in particular in mobile first countries and for generations.
Windows HoloLens was a little further revealed. The software that will underpin it is called Windows Holographic. The hardware has progressed in the last few months from a huge developer unit to a small unit that is actually wearable and usable. Microsoft brought in doctors and architects who have been using the HoloLens and the demonstration was very impressive.
For a developer yesterday’s keynote was very interesting – the extra features on Azure and Visual Studio will catch their attention and are well worth watching and digesting. For the average user there was far less of interest immediately. Holo Lens and Continuum were very interesting but both are still in development and have no clear launch dates or schedules. Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated piece of news was however not mentioned – we still do not know when Windows 10 will launch.