Microsoft readies Python, Java support for its bot-building framework

Microsoft may be ready to rev up (again) its conversation as a service strategy, with new additions to its bot-framework toolset.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Two years ago at its Build developer conference, Microsoft made a big push for its bot development tools and the idea of "conversation as a service." Since then, things have gone a bit quiet.

Credit: Microsoft

But it seems like Microsoft is ready to ramp up its bot-building tools and messaging in the coming few months.

Microsoft is working on v4 of its Bot Builder software development kit and has open sourced that SDK, as noted by Gary Pretty, Technical Strategist at Mando and Microsoft AI Most Valuable Professional (MVP). And both Python and Java support are coming to this version of the SDK, alongside existing C#, .NET and JavaScript options. (The Python and Java GitHub pages are not yet live, as Pretty notes.)

For those needing a quick refresher, the core of Microsoft's bot work is the Microsoft Bot Framework. The Framework consists of three pieces: The Bot Builder SDK; the Bot Connector for registering, connecting, publishing and managing bots.

Developers can build bots via the Microsoft Bot Framework that work in text/SMS, Office 365 mail, Teams, Skype, Slack, GroupMe, Telegram, and the web, among other platforms. Microsoft also has an Azure Bot Service, built on top of Azure Functions which is Microsoft's serverless compute service, which allows bots to scale on demand. Microsoft made the Azure Bot Service generally available in December 2017.

Some developers, including Pretty, also have been contributing to a couple of new bridges on GitHub that are meant to allow programmers to use the Microsoft Bot Framework SDK to connect to the Alexa and Google Home assistants.

While Microsoft and Amazon are still promising that they will be making available the ability to access Alexa on Cortana and Cortana on Alexa, the Bot Framework bridges to the Alexa and Google Home assistants are potentially more interesting from a long-term strategy point of view to those vested in the Microsoft bot ecosystem.

Microsoft and Amazon had been aiming to enable their digital assistants to interoperate before the end of 2017, but that didn't happen. Officials haven't provided an updated timeframe as to when this will happen, but the deal seemingly is still in the cards.

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