Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the company’s annual developer conference, Build, with a keynote address showcasing new technologies for developers, customers and partners.
From new collaboration and productivity services to AI capabilities in Microsoft 365 — an enterprise option including Office 365, Windows, security services and more — there was a lot the company unveiled. Nadella also outlined the company’s vision, as well as new developer opportunities in Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, Microsoft 365 and gaming.
To start, Nadella announced the general availability of Microsoft Graph data connect. Graph is a foundational part of Microsoft 365, providing comprehensive graphs on organizational activity and the relationships between people, information and activities.
The data connect service will help organizations bring Graph’s productivity data together with their own business data securely and at scale through Azure Data Factory.
Fluid Framework will “break down” the document as we know it
Microsoft also announced a new web-based platform and componentized document model for shared, interactive experiences called Fluid Framework. The company claims Fluid will “break down the barriers of the traditional document as we know it.”
Instead, Fluid will offer users a “free-flowing canvas” to work on. Capabilities include enabling the deconstruction and reconstruction of content — such as from the web or productivity apps — into modular components. This should allow people to create together more easily.
Additionally, Microsoft says Fluid will deliver high-performance, multiperson, co-authoring experiences at speeds that the industry has yet to achieve.
Finally, Fluid will create room for intelligent agents (more on this later) to work alongside humans to co-author, fetch content, provide photo suggestions, identify experts, translate data and more.
Microsoft says Fluid will be available to developers later this year in a software development kit (SDK). Further, the company expects to deliver the first Fluid-powered Microsoft 365 experiences later this year.
Making Edge on Chromium even better
Microsoft also took some time during its keynote to talk about the new Edge browser it’s building on Chromium. The company says its new features will address some “fundamental frustrations” of today’s browsers.
For one, Edge on Chromium is getting an ‘IE Mode,’ which integrates Internet Explorer directly into Edge, all inside a tab. This will let businesses run legacy Internet Explorer-based apps inside a modern browser.
On top of that, Edge is getting additional privacy tools, such as controls to let customers pick between three privacy levels: Unrestricted, Balanced and Strict. Depending on what users choose, Edge will adjust how third parties can track them across the web.
Edge will also get a ‘Collections’ feature to address customers’ information overload. Collections will let users collect, organize, share and export content efficiently. It also features Office integration.
Microsoft says these features and more will begin rolling out as the company approaches the broader launch of Edge on Chromium.
Powerful conversational interfaces through intelligent agents
Microsoft unveiled its vision for the future of intelligent agents at Build as well. The new approach the company is taking will focus on building powerful conversational interfaces from data and machine learning instead of from rules, intent and code.
Further, Microsoft envisions a future where every organization has an agent and the experience is natural, with agents supporting multiturn dialogue, spanning multiple domains and even working with other agents.
Intelligent agents will be integrated into existing conversational experiences, like Cortana, and be available to developers in both the Microsoft Bot Framework and Azure Bot Service.
New open source technologies
Microsoft revealed that it would open-source compilers and simulators from its Q# quantum programming language to encourage growth in the community of Q# developers and open new opportunities for partners and startups.
Additionally, the company brought its Azure Active Directory (AD) — the world’s most-used enterprise identity system — to GitHub. This enables GitHub enterprise customers to gain the benefits of Azure AD and synchronizes accounts across systems. In other words, developers can use their GitHub account to sign into Azure, so they can go from repository to deployment with one sign-in.
Tools to secure the election process
Microsoft also took some time to talk about tech companies’ responsibilities, such as supporting elections. For Microsoft, that means securing them.
As such, the company announced two tools to help improve election security. The first, called ElectionGuard, is a free, open source SDK created in partnership with Galois, a tech security company.
ElectionGuard provides security and public verifiability for elections. It can also provide guidance and tools to build more accessible voting systems.
Further, Microsoft wants developers around the world to build on and integrate ElectionGuard into new and existing voting systems. Accordingly, the new SDK will be available on GitHub starting this summer. Microsoft will also partner with leading election technology providers to pilot the service in preparation for future elections.
The second technology is Microsoft 365 for Campaigns. This service, which will be available in June, provides the high-end security capabilities of Microsoft 365 to political parties and campaigns. To start, it’ll be available for those in federal office in the U.S. Interested campaigns can learn more or sign up here.
Gaming and a teaser
To wrap up the keynote, Nadella took a moment to showcase the popularirty of its gaming platforms and talked about the company’s plans to put the gamer at the centre. Whether playing on console, mobile or PC, Microsoft’s tools are about the gamer.
Further, the company briefly teased an Minecraft-related event happening on May 17th. The teaser showed an AR interface on a mobile device full of Minecraft characters. We’ll likely learn more at the event later this month.