Microsoft is determined to prove that Windows is about more than just desktops, laptops, and tablets. At least, that’s been the theme of this year’s Build conference, which has focused on topics like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and improving Windows across platforms.
Here’s a look at a few of the biggest announcements from Microsoft’s annual developer’s conference.
Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
Microsoft’s next major Windows update will be coming later this year. Called the Creators Update, the refresh will bring a new design, features that make it easier to work across various devices, and other additions.
The design change, known as the Microsoft Fluent Design System, will focus on emphasizing elements like light, motion, depth, and texture within Windows. For example, app icons or calendar appoints may appear to pop out from the screen depending on what you’re doing.
Microsoft is also trying to make its Cortana virtual assistant more useful on non-Windows devices. If you have Cortana installed on your iPhone or Android device, it will ask if you’d like to keep working on your task on your mobile device. The feature is similar to Apple’s Handoff capability for iOS and Mac devices.
The company is adding a few other productivity-focused abilities, including a new Timeline feature that displays recent projects in chronological order and a universal Clipboard.
Microsoft this week doubled down on its commitment to virtual and mixed reality as the next big computing platform.
To that end, the company is introducing a new motion controller designed to work with mixed reality apps. The new remote will track movement in users’ field of view using the sensors inside the headset. Acer, which will be among the first companies to ship a Windows-powered mixed reality headset, will offer a bundle that includes the headgear as well as the controllers for $399 this holiday season. Microsoft says its other partners will begin selling the controllers around that time as well.
Microsoft announced this week that it’s launching its Cortana Skills Kit in public preview, meaning app developers will be able to create new “skills” — or voice apps —for the platform. Programmers will also be able to convert them from the Amazon Alexa platform, or from Microsoft’s Bot framework.
Microsoft also provided a closer look at how Cortana will work in cars and speakers, such as the recently announced Invoke player from Harman Kardon. The company showed how Cortana could pull up events and reminders in the car. It will also alter its responses based on the type of device in use. If users receive a text message while driving, for example, Cortana might suggest that she remind them about it when they arrive at their destination.
More Windows Store Apps
Because Windows 10 S users are limited to using only the apps available in the Windows Store, increasing that selection is more important than ever for Microsoft. The company announced this week that iTunes, Autodesk, and SAP Digital Boardroom will be coming to the Windows Store later this year. Such moves are crucial if Microsoft wants Windows 10 S to catch on.
More AI in Apps
Microsoft demonstrated a link between its Translator app and PowerPoint, enabling presenters to speak in one language while the software generated captions for viewers in another. The company wants to encourage such practical uses for artificial intelligence within apps by expanding the amount of tools it offers to developers. The company announced that it now offers 29 “Cognitive Services,” which give developers access to tools that can recognize gestures, translate text, and customize data to recognize images, among other capabilities.