SEATTLE—Much of the news coming out of this year's Microsoft Build developer conference has already been announced, including Windows 10 updates, the next HoloLens 2, and specific new capabilities for Azure, artificial intelligence, mixed reality, cloud and data services, and the Internet of Things.
So, what did CEO Satya Nadella reveal at his Build 2019 keynote? While the presentation was mostly about vision, there were some specific product and feature announcements, including new features for the next generation of the Edge web browser, and two election-related technologies.
"As computing becomes embedded in every aspect of our lives, the choices developers make will define the world we live in," Nadella said. "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."
Also announced were some in-the-weeds developer tools and services, including Kubernetes Event-driven Autoscaling, Azure Policy for AKS, and Hyperscale (Citus) option in Azure Database for PostgreSQL.
Almost a year after it acquired GitHub, Microsoft announced it was open-sourcing language compilers and simulators for Q#, the company's programming language for the nascent world of quantum computing. Quantum moves away from traditional binary computing and uses concepts such as Qubits and superposition. It holds the promise of radically faster processing, but is not yet at a practical stage, requiring subzero cooling and no disturbances.
As the 2020 race heats up, Microsoft announced two election-related technologies: ElectionGuard and Microsoft 365 for Campaigns.
ElectionGuard is a free, open-source software development kit, developed with Galois, which "provides security and public verifiability for elections, as well as guidance and tools to build more accessible voting systems." The code will be made available on GitHub, and Microsoft has already partnered with several election technology vendors.
Microsoft 365 for Campaigns is a version of Microsoft 365 for Business targeting campaigns and political parties. As a reminder, Microsoft 365 is a subscription version of Office 365 and Windows plus security for businesses. It will be available this June "at a low price" and use AccountGuard threat detection and nation-state attack notification. Specialized wizards will let users create security-hardened systems from the start.
New Edge Browser Features
Microsoft has abandoned development of its own web rendering engine for Edge and moved to the Google Chromium browser foundation code. After the move, Firefox will offer the only major alternative browser engine in the supposedly open-standards-compliant web.
Microsoft spins the move as streamlining web development, reducing fragmentation, and improving site compatibility for end users. At Build, the company unveiled three capabilities that will appear in upcoming versions of Edge: IE mode, new privacy tools, and Collections.
IE mode will be a relief to users of legacy corporate web-based software. It puts IE in a tab on Edge, so people don't have to run two browsers. You'd be surprised at how much business code still requires IE—I've seen several examples in practice in recent weeks.
The new privacy tools will offer three levels—Unrestricted, Balanced, and Strict—which adjust the degree of tracking websites and third parties can perform as you browse.
Collections, according to Microsoft, will allow you to "collect, organize, share and export content more efficiently and with Office integration."
Also known as bots, intelligent agents, according to Nadella, will let people interact conversationally with every organization, each of which will have its own intelligent agent that talks to other agents. To that end, the company has added a Semantic Machines team and is making the technology available in its Microsoft Bot Framework and Azure Bot Service offerings.
Fluid Framework and Microsoft Graph Data Connect
Fluid Framework is a new web-based collaboration platform. It will integrate productivity tools, web content, and intelligent agents with "speeds not yet achieved in the industry." Fluid will be available as a software development kit later this year, and Microsoft will use it in some of its own products during the same time period.
Microsoft Graph data connect will allow developers to hook into the Microsoft Graph—the mass of data harvested from an organization's use of Office 365 and Windows. According to the company, "Microsoft Graph data connect is a service that helps organizations bring together productivity data from the Microsoft Graph with their own business data securely and at scale using Azure Data Factory."
The data connect feature will be available in Workplace Analytics and as a standalone SKU for independent software vendors (ISVs).
More Partner Opportunities
Microsoft claims that "3,000 ISVs running on Azure have generated over $5 billion in revenue in the past 12 months," and now the company is opening its co-selling program to Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, and Power Platform customers. AppSource and Azure Marketplace lets ISVs access a reseller channel for customers in over 141 countries.
Look for more Build 2019 coverage in PCMag from the show floor this week, where we plan to hunt down all the most exciting new technology developments.