Microsoft Build 2019: All the announcements that matter

Most tech companies hold developer conferences, and Microsoft is no exception.

Every year, Microsoft spends a couple days trying to bring developers and software engineers into its fold with a developer conference called Build. While at the conference, the company typically also announces updates for its services and platforms – whether that be Windows 10, Office 365, or the Azure cloud computing platform. Here all the major updates announced at Build 2019.

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What is Microsoft Build?

Build is Microsoft’s annual developer conference. It typically lasts about four days, and starts in May. The first day is live-streamed and features the most consumer-facing announcements, while the other days are for developers and feature training sessions that can also be viewed online.

When is Build 2019?

Build 2019 is happening from 6 May to 8 May in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center. In other words, the conference is scheduled to occur at the same time as Google’s I/O developer conference, which starts 7 May.

Can you still watch Build 2019 online?

Yes – see above. The opening keynote started around 8:30 am PT on 6 May. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the stage, followed by other Microsoft executives, each whom outlined new updates and the future of Microsoft’s products. You can also watch the livestream from here.

Microsoft might also post session videos on this Microsoft site.

What happened at Build 2019?

During its keynote, Microsoft made the following announcements:

Minecraft AR game for your phone

Microsoft teased what looks like a new Minecraft game for mobile devices. In a video at the end of the Build 2019 keynote, we could see Minecraft in augmented reality on a phone. In the video, Minecraft’s creative director, Saxs Persson, left his phone on an outdoor bench, and another person picked it up and could see Minecraft running in AR. This suggests Microsoft is developing a new game.

Details are slim, however. Microsoft isn’t anything yet about its plans for Minecraft AR. The teaser noted that more information will be available on 17 May, the 10-year anniversary of Minecraft. Hopefully we’ll learn all about it then.

Cortana goes conversational

Cortana seems to have fallen far behind Google Assistant and Alexa, so Microsoft is transforming Cortana into more of a skill and exploring ways businesses could use its digital assistant. At Build 2019, we’re getting a glimpse of that future.

The new AI can now better understand context and meaning when it’s, say, adding an event to your calendar or scheduling an appointment for you. The updated Cortana is more conversational and being marketed toward businesses, as evident by the numerous demonstrations showing workers arranging meetings or shifting their schedules around. Microsoft hopes businesses will use its AI for both employees and customers.

Chromium-based Edge browser

Microsoft shared some more details about its upcoming Chromium-based Edge browser. Here are the highlights:

Support for MacOS

Mac users who want an alternative to Chrome and Safari will be happy hear a MacOS version of the new Chromium Edge is in the works. Users can already check out Canary and Developer builds for the new version of Edge on Windows 10, which were made available in April. This had left us wondering when Mac users would get their chance to toy with the new Chromium-based browser.

The Verge said it “will be available very soon, and Mac users should be able to access both the Canary and Dev builds of Edge just like Windows.”

IE mode

IE Mode is designed to help businesses transition from Internet Explorer to the new Edge browser. IE mode integrates IE directly into Edge through tab, so businesses and workplaces can use legacy apps, even after they switch over.

Privacy controls

Protecting our privacy on the web has become a big part of the tech world, and the new Edge browser is doing its part to make users feel like they have control over what they share online. Edge will include three new privacy settings: Unrestricted, Balanced and Strict. Based on the one you choose, Edge will adjust how third parties can track you. With Strict, they’ll have limited visibility into your web habits, for instance.

Balanced will be the default version for users and see trackers from sites you haven’t visited be blocked. This means users should only see ads from sites they’ve visited. The unrestricted mode will allow the trackers from sites you’ve never visited, so you’ll see more personal based ads.

Collections

Microsoft revealed a productivity feature, called Collections, which will let you collect tabs from the web, organize, share, and export them into Office products. If you’re shopping for a new VR headset, you can aggregate information – reviews and prices – from various websites, then export that data into a Word document, etc. Collections is meant to help power users on the web stay organised.

The new feature functions similarly to a Notepad, which allows users to store information they find online. Demos showed users drag and dropping pictures from websites right into the Collections sidebar on the Edge browser. The images and any text were automatically linked to the original website where the user found them. The information could then be easily shared or exported.

Microsoft Ideas

When writing, you’ve probably noticed the red or green squiggly lines under parts of what you’ve written. No lines, and that means it’s good, right? Well, actually, it’s totally possible to write a grammatically accurate sentence that completely misses the point you we’re trying to make. Ideas is here to solve that problem, by using AI to suggest changes that will fill your writing with more clarity.

It’s the next step in Spell Check. Instead of just noticing a misspelling or a missed period or a missing verb, you’ll get recommendations in Office that help you improve your writing, making it more concise and clear. In addition to the recommendation feature, Ideas can also help you when you’re just reading. It’s capable of giving you estimated reading times, grabbing key points from a text, or explaining acronyms.

This should be available for Office apps in preview form sometime around June, and general users by autumn time.

Fluid Framework for creating and collaborating

This one isn’t for consumers, but it’s worth noting: Microsoft made a Fluid Framework developer platform. It will let developers build more shared and interactive services and apps on the web. It includes support for co-authoring, for instance, enabling multi-person collaboration on the web.

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Want to know more?

Stay tuned to Pocket-lint’s Microsoft hub for what’s next at Build 2019.

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