It’s day three of Build 2018 and the biggest announcements are probably behind us. It hasn’t been the most exciting conference, but the overall theme has been Microsoft’s newfound openness.
“This morning I got up, and I was reading the news, and I hear Bill Gates is talking about stock,” opened CEO Satya Nadella. “And he’s talking about the Apple stock, and I said ‘wow’. In the thirty years that at least I’ve known Bill, I’ve never seen him talk about stock. But today must be a new day for sure, when you hear Bill Gates talk about Apple stock. So, that’s the new Microsoft for you.”
The company then jumped into a series of announcements about cross-platform capabilities, the most significant being Your Phone.
Microsoft’s new app will let users on iOS and Android view and interact with content from their phone on their PC. It will sync automatically without using the cloud, delivering messages, notifications, photos, and more. The feature is rolling out to Insiders this week, bringing with it a new wave of convenience and productivity.
Cortana and Alexa, Coming ‘Soon’
Microsoft and Amazon also lifted the veil on the long-awaited Cortana-Alexa integration. In the first live demo, Microsoft’s Megan Saunders and Amazon’s Tom Taylor put the feature through its paces.
It works how you’d expect. You can say “Alexa, open Cortana,” before invoking any of the digital assistant’s functionality. Cortana has similar features, which is perhaps more exciting. With a command, users will be able to gain access to Alexa’s set of 40,000 third-party skills.
The demonstration included adding milk to a shopping list via Alexa, before invoking Cortana, viewing a schedule, and sending an email. It also detailed the Alexa functionality via Cortana, where she made some quips about light rings. Unfortunately, there’s still no release date, despite missing the initial deadline.
Open to Developers
However, Build is a developer conference, and Microsoft made it clear that it’s making things better in that regard. One of the biggest reveals was a new Store policy that will net developers up to 95% of app sale revenue.
If a customer is referred by the developer, Microsoft will take a 5% cut, and up to 15% if users find the app via in-store collections and the like. It’s a stark contrast to Google and Apple, who take around 30% of all sales.
It also catered to developers with the release of Android emulator support in Hyper-V. It’s something users have wanted for a while and works side-by-side with Docker, VMs, and the HoloLens emulator.
Kinect Is Back
One of the most surprising Build 2018 reveals was the next-generation of Kinect. Microsoft axed the depth-sensing camera from its Xbox some time ago, and many assumed it was dead.
Instead, Kinect will get a new life in combination with Azure. Developers will be able to utilize it, as well as the Speech Devices SDK, to create robust AI experiences. It will also power the next-generation of HoloLens, with a resolution of 1024×1024 and incredibly low power consumption. Microsoft is finally moving on from Kinect in Xbox and using it in new and exciting ways.
Windows 10 Sets
Last but not least, Microsoft revealed more details about Windows 10 Sets. We’d seen Sets in Insider builds previously, but the elaboration made the company’s plans for the feature clear, as well as how it will change the workflow.
The basic aim of Sets is to bridge the gap between what you’re doing in your browser and in apps. It’s essentially a universal tab system, adding them to every application, but also allowing different apps to sit beside one another.
One example Microsoft gave was pairing a document you’re writing with research. If you don’t have a second monitor this can be difficult, requiring you to switch via the taskbar or lose half your screen. With Sets, you’ll be able to group them together into a single interface.
You’ll be able to do similar things with any app on Windows, grouping apps together in relevant ways to aid productivity. It’s all powered by Edge, which acts as a hub for frequently used apps, files, and web pages.