Microsoft just wrapped up its Build developer conference, and the unifying theme was clear: Windows and Cortana everywhere. Whether it's linking Windows to all your other devices or letting developers code for various platforms from their PCs, Microsoft is making a bigger effort to get its hooks in all aspects of our tech lives.
CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the first keynote by outlining the company's vision for the future of computing, which will incorporate devices from laptops and smartphones to cars, forklifts, thermostats and robots.
Although the first day served up more news for developers than consumers, Microsoft offered a taste of which services could be coming soon. For instance, the just-released Cortana Skills Kit public preview will let creators build more functions for the voice assistant that span your personal and professional life.
But the meat of the event's announcements came on the second day, when Microsoft showed off new features coming to Windows 10 in its Fall Creators Update. Tools like Clipboard, You Can Pick Up Where You Left Off and OneDrive Files on Demand let you easily carry your content from one device to the next, whether it's a phone or a computer. Meanwhile, Timeline keeps a history of everything you've ever pulled up across all your gadgets (even iOS and Android) and organizes it in chronological order. It's like a browser history, but for all of your tech. It's all part of Microsoft's refined focus, which is less about the device you use than the data you're sharing.
To make this multidevice universe work, developers will need a convenient platform to code on, and Build 2017 also provided exciting news about that. In addition to unveiling a Fluent Design framework to simplify coding for all manner of gadgets (headsets, phones or speakers), Microsoft also released a Project Rome SDK for iOS (previously available on Android) for developers to create apps that can work across devices running those operating systems. All these tools tap into the Microsoft Graph, which is a database of information about each user that programmers can employ to learn more about your preferences, identity and other devices you use. This might sound creepy, but you will have control over who gets access to your data, and it's essential to the convenient cross-device experience Microsoft is trying to create.
Microsoft also unveiled mixed reality controllers for its headsets, as well as pricing and availability for the first of the dev kits. There was also a fun new app called Story Remix, which uses AI to generate home movies from your photos and videos. It also lets you add engaging and realistic special effects that can quickly add personality to your videos.
Microsoft's desire to play nice with other operating systems is no secret, but the announcements at Build 2017 point toward more-ambitious plans. Whether it's through Cortana-enabled devices, Windows tweaked for various gadgets or multiplatform access to the Graph, it's clear that Microsoft is laying the groundwork to slide into all aspects of your life. The company's past endeavors have either petered out or have yet to gain traction, though, so it still remains to be seen if this year's updates will make a real difference.
Click here to catch up on the latest news from Microsoft Build 2017.