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At the last Microsoft’s Build 2019 developer conference, a range of new features and tools made their way to the front stage and shared a firm focus on innovation.

Unsurprisingly, many of the new developments centred around the Azure cloud platform, aimed at helping developers to build artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, mixed reality and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. These include:

  • Azure Machine Learning – there are new features for this cloud-based platform to help developers more easily make high-quality models and take a no-code approach to model creation and deployment using a new visual machine-learning interface
  • New additions to Azure IoT Central – an IoT software-as-a-service solution that include better rules processing and customs rules with services like Azure Functions or Azure Stream Analytics
  • IoT Plug and Play – a new, open modelling language to connect IoT devices to the cloud seamlessly without developers having to write a single line of embedded code
  • Azure Blockchain Service – this comes in the form of a publicly available preview and is intended to simplify the creation, management and governance of consortium blockchain networks.

There was also a bundle of new features for Microsoft’s flagship web browser, Microsoft Edge, now built using the open source Chromium engine. Microsoft is contributing back to the open source community and is committed to creating a truly cross-platform browser, targeting ARM 64, Android, iOS and Mac, as well as supported Windows platforms. Microsoft already claims to have made more than 300 Chromium open source contributions.

And whilst on the subject of open source, let’s not forget significant development in this area, such as:

  • KEDA – the open-sourced project was jointly developed by Microsoft and Red Hat  and supports the deployment of serverless, event-driven containers on Kubernetes. It can be used in any Kubernetes environment, such as Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Red Hat OpenShift
  • React Native for Windows – this new open-source project for React Native developers will enable them to target any Windows 10 device, including PCs, tablets, Xbox, mixed reality devices and more. The project is being developed on GitHub and is available for developers to test
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL 2) – a new architecture for Windows Subsystem for Linux. Microsoft will also be shipping a fully open-source Linux kernel with Windows specially tuned for WSL 2 to improve the performance of Windows Subsystem on Linux
  • ML.NET – the open-sourced version 1.0 of ML.NET is now available, enabling developers to create models that use machine-learning tasks.  

Other announcements of interest included:

  • Fluid Framework – a new development platform and document model that allows seamless editing and collaboration between different applications. It can translate text, fetch content, suggest edits and perform compliance checks. The company will launch the software developer kit and the first experiences powered by the Fluid Framework later this year on Microsoft Word, Teams, and Outlook
  • AI and Microsoft Office – new updates for Microsoft 365 include Ideas in Word, that uses AI for grammar and style checks in Word. This feature uses natural language processing (NLP) technology and machine learning to suggest improvements in human-written documents
  • Enhanced conversations with Cortana – Microsoft plans to make conversations with its Cortana virtual assistant more natural. Examples include how Cortana will be able to respond to conversations and organise meetings and reminders proactively.

In his keynote address, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO said that “Microsoft is committed to providing developers with trusted tools and platforms spanning every layer of the modern technology stack to build magical experiences that create new opportunity for everyone”. The wide range of new products and innovative features announced at the event certainly reinforces this view.

Matt Barclay

Solutions Architect

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