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What to expect from Microsoft Build 2017

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Following the debut of its new Surface Laptop and the news that an as-yet-unannounced Surface product may be coming later this month on May 23rd, Microsoft has generated lots of buzz going into this year’s Build developer conference.

In particular, fans of the Redmond, Washington-based company are excited to see what software enhancements they can expect to pair with the company’s flashy new hardware. Among the expected topics: the next major Windows update due to arrive in September, voice AI Cortana and mixed reality.

The conference begins Wednesday, May 10th and runs until Friday, May 12th. Make sure to check out MobileSyrup for live coverage, and if you’re attending the event — download the company’s new MS Build 2017 app to craft your agenda.

Redstone 3 and Project Neon

Microsoft’s next major Windows update, codenamed Redstone 3, is set to touch down in September. Coming with the update is Project Neon, a redesign that debuts new translucency and blur effects, including transparent Live Tiles on the Start menu.

Some preview versions of apps featuring the new design language are already being tested by Windows Insiders, and leaks have also provided glimpses at the new look.

In addition, Redstone 3 is expected to bring with it My People (a communication tool initially meant for the Creators Update), Continuum improvements and  support for x86 app emulation on ARM devices.

According to Neowin‘s sources, Redstone 3 will also separate its Windows Edge browser from Windows 10 OS, meaning the browser can receive updates apart from the larger OS, which brings it closer inline with Google’s Chrome and, in turn, improves the prospects of its Chromebook competition (both the Surface Laptop and other Windows 10 S partner laptops).

Hello, Cortana

Harman/Kardon’s unreleased, Cortana-powered home speaker, Invoke, has been officially revealed previous to Microsoft Build, indicating that the AI and its new hardware may be a point of discussion during the conference.

The Invoke can control smart home devices, play music and receive/make calls through Microsoft-owned Skype. The device will incorporate many of the voice-activated assistant’s features such as telling jokes, identify songs, playing games and sending e-mails.

It’s not due to hit the market until later this year, but it’s likely that Microsoft plans to reveal its Cortana Skills Kit for third party integrations, or at least indicate when it’s coming.

Get ready to enter mixed reality

Microsoft has been talking a lot about its mixed reality initiatives lately, with one of the company’s top technical fellows, Alex Kipman, stating that mixed reality is the future and that “phones are already dead, people just haven’t realized.

So far, the company has sold thousands of its augmented reality HoloLens Development Edition headsets and is enabling Windows Mixed Reality inside the Windows 10 Creators Update rolling out now.

Microsoft mixed reality

Additionally, Microsoft announced that mixed reality content will come to its Xbox One and upcoming Project Scorpio consoles in 2018. Partners like Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo, are planning to introduce Windows Mixed Reality headsets that will work across Windows 10 PCs, Xbox One and Project Scorpio.

With all that action, there’s no doubt that the company will be focusing on mixed reality development efforts at its upcoming conference, and there may be some accompanying announcements.

Azure and “the edge”

Mary Jo Foley, eminent and long-standing Microsoft expert, says she thinks edge computing is going to play a large part in Build 2017. Edge computing refers to making data-processing power available at the edge of a network, not just in a centralized cloud.

Additionally, it’s a safe bet to assume there’ll be announcements and news surrounding the company’s Azure cloud platform, as the company’s latest earnings report showed strong performance in the area.

Windows 10 Mobile — or the lack of

Though Microsoft has made it clear that its mobile ambitions are not over, it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see a big mobile announcement at Build 2017, as the platform hasn’t seen much momentum lately. One report, however, notes that consumers may see the next Windows 10 Mobile update, known as ‘feature2.’

That update likely won’t include anything new or ground-breaking, just features that have already been floated, such as Continuum improvements and blue light reduction.

Universal Windows Platform

With the release of Windows 10 S, a version of Windows 10 that is restricted to the use of just Windows Store apps, the Universal Windows Platform is sure to play a large role at this year’s developer conference. The UWP platform was built to enable developers to build their apps to run across a wide variety of device types.

The company will probably announce new capabilities and tools for developers, and will also discuss its Desktop Bridge tool to convert existing apps to the platform.

Bots, they still exist

Bots, which were billed with top importance last year by Microsoft and other major tech companies (Facebook, in particular), haven’t seen the explosive growth that tech evangelists may have hoped for, but that doesn’t mean the tech giant is giving up on it. Following up on Microsoft’s 2016 debut of its bot framework and its acquisition of messaging app developer Wand, the company will likely have something to say about its 2017 strategy for bots.

Make sure to keep your eyes tuned to MobileSyrup for live coverage from Build 2017.

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