Microsoft Build 2017 Preview: Windows, Cortana and More

Microsoft’s Build developer conference will take place from May 10 through May 12, which means it’s almost time for us to learn about the company’s vision for the future of Windows and computing.

A lot of the new information will be aimed at programmers and system administrators, but there are always a few major announcements that will affect you at the consumer level. In fact, this year, we’re even entertaining the possibility of new hardware. But the company is tight-lipped, so we mostly have to guess. Here’s what we’re expecting from Microsoft Build.

Bots and AI Last year’s Build conference focused on chatbots as the future. Microsoft demoed these bots in Skype and had Cortana sliding into chats between you, your friends and third-party services. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called this “conversations as a platform.” Last year’s chatbots showed us simple tasks, like reserving hotel rooms and finding our way around conferences.

There were also AI bots, like CaptionBot, which described images you uploaded with machine learning, but they were a bit half-baked. This year, I’m expecting to see AI and chatbots that are better at understanding what you want and that have more versatile uses.

Cortana Speaker and New Skills

Build usually isn’t a hardware show, but this year might be an exception. In December, an unexpected YouTube video popped up in Windows’ YouTube channel, showing off a speaker from Harman Kardon that uses Cortana as an assistant, similar to Alexa in Amazon Echo and Google Assistant in Google Home. The description said the speaker would be coming in 2017.

In April, MSPowerUser reported that the Cortana-powered speaker would be called “Harman Kardon Invoke” and would feature Skype integration to make calls as well as allowing you to use Cortana an assistant.

Late last year, Microsoft announced the Cortana Skill Kit to make Alexa skills available for Microsoft’s assistant. Because we expect to see Microsoft improve Cortana and give it a bigger role in Windows 10, it would be natural to see the assistant grow onto other platforms at Build and for developers to get the tools to make it happen.

Windows Neon and Redstone 3

Last year’s Build conference was where Microsoft announced the Windows Creators Update, so we’re assuming that this year we’ll get a peek at Redstone 3, the next big update, and Project Neon, a big change to Windows 10’s design language.

Build could also be where we get the first look at CShell, which may be a part of Redstone 3. That functionality would make it easier to scale Windows 10 acrossmobile, laptops, Xbox, HoloLens and beyond.

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Universal Windows Platform Games

Microsoft needs to talk more about its Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which lets you program one app that works across all Windows devices, including PCs, tablets, Xbox and HoloLens. The Microsoft Build app shows the schedule for developer talks, and while there are several for UWP, one specifically calls out gaming. Will Microsoft go to war with Valve and try to make the Windows Store the best place to get games? We’ll find out soon enough. Developers will also likely find out where the future of UWP is headed, especially if we’re not seeing a Windows Phone anytime soon.

We’ll Find Out Soon

Microsoft is holding its cards close to its chest, and there could be big surprises we haven't anticipated regarding HoloLens, Windows Mobile, Windows Holographic, Xbox or even Clippy. We’ll find out when we attend Microsoft Build in Seattle, so keep it locked to Laptop Mag and Tom’s Guide for the latest.

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty

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