Microsoft Build 2018: What to expect and how to watch

Microsoft's early-May Build developer conference is coming into further focus, as the company reveals more (but still not all) of the sessions it's planning for the three-day event.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

There are still plenty of unknowns, but more information on what Microsoft execs will highlight at Build is now available.

On April 25, Microsoft posted titles and abstracts of hundreds of its sessions for its three-day Build 2018 developer conference, which kicks off on May 7. (To see the expanded session list, registered users must log into the Build web site.) In late March, Microsoft posted a couple dozen of the Build 2018 sessions, with a focus on IoT, blockchain, and data science.

While every attendee has her/his own areas of focus, I found a few of the items now listed to be of interest.

Read also: Build 2018: Livestream, start time, what to expect (CNET)

Day 1 starts with a 2.5-hour "vision" keynote anchored by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, followed immediately by another 1.5-hour technology keynote on the intelligent cloud and edge, headlined by Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie.

There will be a kick-off keynote on Day 2, after all, with Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore presenting on "Microsoft 365 Application Development." The fact this is focused on Microsoft 365 -- Microsoft's bundle of Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security -- and not specifically Windows reflects Microsoft's most recent reorg, which resulted in Belfiore taking on a new role in the organization responsible for Microsoft 365.

Even though Microsoft's latest reorg cleaved the Windows and Devices Group in two, there are still 97 sessions on the still-incomplete Build session list that mention Windows. Microsoft's recently introduced MSIX application-packaging initiative also is covered by multiple sessions, as is the Windows 10 XAML framework and Progressive Web Apps, which Microsoft will be supporting with its Windows 10 Redstone 4 release.

Microsoft officials have said previously to expect Build to focus heavily on AI, IoT, and new experimental areas like quantum computing. There are lots of sessions dedicated to Microsoft's various database platforms, several mentioning bots (including "Enterprise Calling and Meetings Bots for Microsoft Teams"), and some dedicated to mixed/augmented reality.

The Microsoft Graph sessions look interesting, including one focusing on building mobile apps using the Microsoft Graph API (application programming interface) and Xamarin, and another on how to build security apps using the Graph API. The Microsoft Graph API, for those looking for a refresher, is is centralized API meant to help surface more contextual information in order to make apps smarter and stickier.

Microsoft is planning to live stream some Build sessions and make many of the others available publicly on demand. However, sessions that are labeled as "Sneak Peeks" are focused on Microsoft getting feedback from attendees and likely won't be made available to watch by those not in attendance.

The "UI platform for AR/VR/MR devices" session on May 8 is a sneak peek, and notes that Microsoft is "considering changes to the UWP platform to make it easy to build immersive experiences for AR/VR/MR devices," including the creation of AR on 2D devices. There's an "Open source and backward compatibility for the Windows 10 XAML framework" on May 8 that's also labeled "sneak peek," which indicates that Microsoft is considering releasing parts of the Windows 10 XAML/Fluent UI framework as open source. And the "Bringing cloud powered UI to Windows 10 XAML applications" session on May 9 is also a sneak peek, covering how ReactNative fits into the Microsoft developer story.

The (in)famous Raymond Chen is one of the presenters in a May 9 session on "Developing for Sets on Windows 10," which could be of potential interest to any/all Windows 10 developers. Also, on May 9, the "Fluent Design System Inside of Microsoft: Office" session is going to detail how Windows and Office are working together to bring "Office's productivity expertise to the Fluent design language."

Read also: What's new in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update

A big theme for Microsoft at Build this year will be convincing developers they need to understand so as to incorporate AI technologies in their apps. There are several sessions at Build focused on this topic, including the May 9 breakouts on "10 Things Developers Need to Know About Building Intelligent Apps," and the "Conversational AI: Best Practices for Building Bots," which will offer guidance for using the Bot Builder v4 software development kit, cognitive services, and more.

Build 2018 is happening May 7 to May 9 in downtown Seattle. It overlaps with the Google I/O 2018 developer conference.

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