Microsoft's Build 2019 developer conference had a heavy dose of cloud, artificial intelligence and Internet of things as well as strategic points for Windows developers.
Build is touted as a developer event and it is to some degree. But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also uses the conference to outline a bit of vision. Microsoft's big vision today revolves around cloud and Office 365, which is a part of the software buffet known as Microsoft 365.
Build 2019 kicks off as Microsoft just reported strong earnings, commercial cloud momentum, and hybrid cloud strength. Here's everything that unfolded at Build 2019 by topic.
Microsoft Azure has been the lead dog for recent conferences from the software giant and Build 2019 won't be much different. In fact, Microsoft jumped the gun a bit ahead of Build 2019 with an announcement that it is making generally available the previously announced hardware-accelerated models running on its field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that are available in Azure. Microsoft's Project BrainWave -- its project to use FPGAs to provide fast AI processing in Azure -- entered preview.
Those additions are followups to a series of announcements made last year at Build.
The argument from Microsoft is that Azure can be an artificial intelligence and Internet of things engine. These tools can be the building blocks for new productivity experiences.
Of course, developers have a lot of options for AI and IoT -- it's not like AWS and Google are ignoring those technologies. So look for Microsoft to go all visionary to some degree in its core productivity market.
Oppenheimer analyst Timothy Horan summed up the consensus view on Wall Street.
We view Microsoft as the best stock for hybrid cloud exposure, which we consider an important tool for enterprises undergoing business transformations by giving them the flexibility to adopt public cloud on their own terms (timing/breadth, etc.). Microsoft is investing heavily in AI/IoT, which we view as important drivers of cloud demand over the next decade.
Must read: Build 2019
The front end of Microsoft's AI talks may revolve around bots. Based on recent coverage by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft may even be a smidge obsessed with bots.
As part of its Build announcements this year, Microsoft also is adding ONNX Runtime support for NVIDIA TensorRT and Intel nGraph for high-speed inferencing on NVIDIA and Intel processors. Microsoft is adding new features to its Azure Machine Learning Service to help developers more easily make high-quality models and to take a no-code approach to model creation and deployment using a new visual machine-learning interface.
Microsoft is adding a new category of Cognitive Services it's calling "Decision" to its stable of AI application programming interfaces which developers can add to their applications. The Decision category includes the previously announced Anomaly Detector API; "Personalizer" (which looks to be a rebranded version of the current Project Custom Decision cognitive service API); and Content Moderator.
Simply put, Microsoft is likely to put a new spin on its conversational AI strategy. Cortana will be more business focused and the back-end services revolve around insights and decision support. Microsoft's conversational AI approach will revolve around being an enabler. Microsoft wants to help you build custom bots and assistants.
In addition, Microsoft is adding new cognitive services. The pitch is that Microsoft will give developers as suite of AI services that they can use for applications.
Must read: AI
Windows and developers tools that can be used today
Mary Jo Foley landed a few interviews that shed light on Microsoft's plans for Windows apps as well as its people centric computing strategy. There's also some guidance on how the Microsoft Graph will play into development plans. Consider:
- Piecing together Microsoft's 'people-centric' computing strategy
- Here's Microsoft's new plan to keep Cortana alive and differentiated
- New Windows 10 20H1 test build brings Microsoft Search to File Explorer
- Microsoft wants to close the UWP, Win32 divide with 'Windows Apps'
- Microsoft Build 2019 Postmortem: Bring on the graph, but hold the glitz
- Windows 10 says Hello to no passwords with FIDO2 certification
- Programming language tools: Windows gets versatile new open-source terminal
- Windows 10 is getting a Microsoft-built Linux kernel
And it makes sense that Microsoft devotes some time to Windows developers. The one shocker of Microsoft's most recent quarterly report is how good the Windows business performed. (See: Microsoft Q3 FY19: Windows has a surprisingly strong quarter)
Windows is downplayed, but many Microsoft developers deal with creating applications for it every day. It is worth watching how Windows is tied into AI services, cognitive tools as well as mixed reality with HoloLens 2. The roadmap out of Build 2019 is relatively clear. Now it's more about execution.