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Windows 10 devs get an amazing array of new tools

Woody Leonhard | March 30, 2016
From Windows Ink to Cortana to HoloLens, the Microsoft Build conference unveiled a ton of stuff for developers, but time frames remain fuzzy

HoloLens shipped to developers. There's still a lot of hope for the future of HoloLens -- even some functioning source code you can download on GitHub -- but commercial reality is still down the road.

Xamarin is already out, integrated into Visual Studio 2015 Update 2. Xamarin makes it easy to share code among Windows, iOS, and Android apps, while still letting developers customize for each platform.

Finally, I was most impressed with the demo of Bash -- the Ubuntu Linux shell/command processor -- running in native mode under Windows 10. It's not a VM, not wrapped around an emulator, but native, running in the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Hey, it only took Microsoft 25 years to get with the system. Scott Hanselman has the technical details on his blog. My colleague Serdar Yegulalp explores why this is so freakin' amazing in a Tech Watch post.

That's what we know -- or at least expect -- will happen in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. For developers, it's a considerable accomplishment. As Myerson puts it:

The Universal Windows Platform... brings together the openness that is part of Windows' history, as well as everything that you expect from a modern application platform -- like robust install, uninstall, and seamless updates. Our goal is for Windows to be the best platform for all developers -- making Windows their home and getting the best return on their investment in their code.

That's only the part we expect in July or so.

Microsoft announced the Cortana Intelligence Suite shortly after the keynote ended. The new smarts in Cortana can tap into data that Microsoft has accumulated and massaged. The Intelligence Suite is "powered by cutting-edge research into big data, machine learning, perception, analytics, and intelligent bots. Built on Microsoft Azure, these capabilities can be used by developers and businesses to create intelligent end-to-end solutions, including new apps that learn about our world and bots and agents that interact with people in personalized, intelligent ways."

Both during and after the keynote, we saw amazing demonstrations of how this newly evolved Cortana can intelligently parse speech and analyze real-time photographs to aid the visually impaired. There are two powerful parts of the Intelligence Suite:

  • Microsoft Cognitive Services is a collection of intelligence APIs that allows systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret our needs using natural methods of communication.
  • Microsoft Bot Framework can be used by developers -- programming in any language -- to build intelligent bots that enable customers to chat using natural language on a variety of platforms, including text/SMS, Office 365, Skype, Slack, the Web, and more.

Both the Cognitive Service and the Bot Framework are "in preview." Whether they'll appear in 2017 or later is anybody's guess. Preliminary versions of the Skype Bot API and Skype Bot SDK are available. The previews only work with messaging for now, but expect voice and video in the future.


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