SEATTLE—Day one of Build 2017, Microsoft's annual developer conference, will be of little interest to consumers; there were no new laptop, smartphone, virtual reality, or HoloLens announcements. But there was plenty for the developers who will build new apps and services used by businesses and consumers.
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One tidbit, however, is easy enough for laymen to appreciate: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Windows 10 usage has topped 500 million monthly active users. Commercials Office users have also topped 100 million, while Cortana has surpassed 141 million. And to drive home Microsoft's position in large enterprises, Nadella stated that 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies use the company's cloud services.
The rest of Build's Day One keynote focused on new developer tools and services, in particular Azure cloud services that developers could tap to create scalable, AI-powered intelligent apps and services. And not just developers working in the Windows Platform: executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group, Scott Guthrie, announced the general availability of Visual Studio for Mac, Microsoft's deeply powerful integrated development environment.
Database fans also had reasons to cheer: Guthrie announced not only Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL, and tools to painlessly port Sequel Server databased to Azure SQL Database, but also a completely new kind of database called Cosmos. Azure Cosmos, to be more accurate, is the first globally distributed, multi-model database service, according to Guthrie. Microsoft claims four 9s of uptime and millisecond latency for the cloud-hosted database.
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A few buzzwords recurred during the keynote: serverless, edge, and the Microsoft Graph. The first alludes to building apps that can process work in the client rather than relying on a server for everything. The second is tied to the first, and in fact at the show Microsoft announced a preview of Azure IoT Edge, which actually brings some cloud computing capabilities like to edge devices; that is, internet endpoints rather than servers.
Taking a page from Facebook's lexicon, the term Microsoft Graph refers to all the data gathered not only from users interacting with Azure services but devices and any sensors attached to them.
It wouldn't be a Microsoft conference without mention of Office, and though that productivity suite seems venerable by now, it's actually already benefitting from AI and the Microsoft Graph, whether users realize it or not. Word's suggestions of better writing techniques or PowerPoint's design template suggestions now benefit from AI technology.
More Excitement to Come on Day Two
If you're not a developer and none of that gets your juices flowing, stay patient: Day Two's speakers will touch on some of the hotter topics in consumer tech.
On Thursday, we'll hear from Terry Myerson, who heads up the Windows and Devices Group, which includes Surface, Xbox, and HoloLens. And two of Microsoft's most engaging personalities will also speak: Joe Belfiore, who heads up the PC, tablet, and phone efforts; and Alex Kipman, who first dazzled the world with the unveiling of the HoloLens mixed-reality headset.