In just one day, hundreds of talented developers will descend upon San Francisco, California to take part in Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference.
MobileSyrup will be in the Bay Area to bring you the latest news and announcements from the event. However, for those watching the conference from home, Microsoft will stream both Day one and Day two keynotes on the Build Website. You’ll also be able to catch all the action here on MobileSyrup.
In the meantime, here’s what we expect the historic tech company to talk about during the conference.
When Microsoft first unveiled Windows 10 to the world, a high-level executive told longtime tech journalist Paul Thurrott the company’s ambition was to get the operating system on one billion devices within two to three years.
According to the most recent stats Microsoft made available to the public, in less than a year since release Windows 10 has been installed on more than 200-million devices. At Build 2016, Microsoft will likely provide an update on the growth of its latest operating system. More importantly, Microsoft is expected to detail several features aimed at attracting new users to the platform.
In a tweet that has since been deleted, Rich Turner, a senior product manager on the Windows team, said Microsoft plans to unveil several new Windows 10 features that will make people “freak out.” Another high-level Microsoft employee later sent out (and likewise subsequently deleted) a tweet that said those same new features would “change everything.”
A bit hyperbole perhaps, but, based on the developer sessions it has planned for this year’s Build, what is clear is Microsoft has been listening to user feedback is planning feature additions accordingly. One of the sessions slated to go down this week is titled “What’s New for Tiles and Toast Notifications.” It’s expected Microsoft will detail one those “change everything” features here.
“Notifications are an essential tool for engaging with your customers on Windows. We are building on the foundation of Action Center to give developers greatly increased flexibility in Adaptive Toasts,” reads the session’s description. “We will introduce a powerful API that enables a new class of apps to plug into the Notification pipeline and provide innovative experiences for users. Live Tiles are evolving with two highly-requested surprises that you won’t want to miss.”
Based on the final two sentences of that description, many are speculating Microsoft will announce interactive Live Tiles for Windows 10. If true, an addition like this will allow those with a Windows 10 device to do a lot more with the operating system’s signature interface design element.
Of course, new features will only do so much to solve Windows 10’s most significant issue: a dearth of compelling apps from third-party developers. For a long time now, Microsoft has positioned Universal Apps — programs that can run across the entirety of the company’s devices, including its Xbox One game console, using a single runtime — as the solution to that problem.
For the most part, we haven’t seen a developers rushing to create these applications. Indeed, when Microsoft first presented the concept of universal apps to both consumers and developers, the company showcased WeChat, a mobile chat app popular in China, running on a PC. It also showed off a Xbox USA Today app. Neither of those apps can be downloaded today by consumers.
Part of the issue is that Microsoft has yet to provide some of the tools it promised to help developers bring their apps over from other platforms like iOS and Android. Moreover, the Xbox One, despite having been moved over to a Windows 10 base this past fall, has yet to see any universal apps.
All of that could — and likely will — change at this year’s Build. Not only are Universal Apps expected to come to the Xbox One this summer. One of the sessions Microsoft has planned for the conference will see the company show developers how to move their apps to the seventh generation game console. Likewise, Microsoft has a similar session planned for its HoloLens augmented reality headset. For the latter, the workshops couldn’t be timed better; HoloLens development kits started shipping to app creators just this week.
Windows 10 Mobile
On the mobile front, Microsoft is not expected to announce new devices at Build 2016. Despite the swagger with which Panos Panay unveiled the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL at the company’s Windows 10 Mobile event last October, Microsoft hasn’t seen sales of its smartphones increase; in fact, Lumia sales actually declined by 57 percent year-over-year during the company’s most recent quarter.
However, that’s not to say there won’t be any mobile announcements.
As has been the case for a number of years now, the majority of Microsoft’s marquee apps and services are available on more popular platforms like Android and iOS. According to The Verge’s Tom Warren, Microsoft could announce significant enhancements to Cortana, the company’s personal assistant, particularly as to how the app functions on iOS and Android.
Moreover, in the past year the company acquired several popular cross-platform apps, including SwiftKey, Sunrise and Wunderlist. We haven’t seen significant updates to those apps since they were acquired by Microsoft. At Build, however, the company could show off how those apps will integrate into the company’s wider Office ecosystem.
Last but not least, this could be the Microsoft event where we finally see actual apps and games running on HoloLens, instead of the impressive — but somewhat misleading — tech demos we’ve seen in the past. As I said earlier, some developers will soon have access to the augmented reality headset, and it’s at Build where these individuals will likely come up with some of the first apps to ship on the platform.
Anything in particular you’re looking for Microsoft to announce? Tell us in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Microsoft.