Build is Microsoft’s big annual developer conference to share their vision for technology and to empower everyone to be more productive. For developers on Microsoft stack, Build is the opportunity to see what’s next for app platforms and learn how to craft the next generation of computing experiences.
Progress has a big presence at Build - no dearth of love for Telerik and Kendo UI amonst attendees. Want to hang out with Progress crew, talk modern UI and grab some swag? Come see us on the Expo floor at Booth # E53. After a great Progress attendee party the evening before, we all huddled together to watch Build Day 1 Keynote. As expected, Cloud computing was the big focus - but innovations can take Artificial Intelligence to the edges and empower modern user experiences. It was a long keynote with a lot at stake for developers - consider this the TL;DR version, just a developer’s perspective on Build Day 1 announcements.
The World is a Computer
Satya Nadella opened the keynote on a reflective note - how technology impacts our lives. Just like the industrial revolution made its impact feel natural in our society, the digitalization of our lives makes computing ubiquitous. Technology is now weaved into the every fabric of our modern lives and software is a major driver of economies. While personal computing continues to evolve, the cloud provides global infrastrcuture, scale and intelligence. Computing is everywhere and this is a huge opportunity for developers to have an impact on the quality of human life.
Pillars of Strength
With great opportunity however, comes the need for responsibility. In our present socio-political environment, it was nice to see Satya double down on user trust - everyone who makes software, from giant tech corporations to indie developers, has to take responsibility on how to handle user data. There are three pillars that Microsoft wants to be accountable for - Privacy, Cybersecurity and Ethical AI. Privacy is a basic human right and all software developers should be cognizant our responsibilities. And as Artificial Intelligence evolves to bring computers ever more closer to human decision making, ethical questions are bound to arise. Perhaps just because we can, doesn’t mean we should - computing cannot lose the user’s trust.
Powerful Cloud AI
When you have almost limitless computing power, it is incredible how smart computing systems can get - case in point, cloud-powered AI. Azure AI continues to evolve with advancements in Vision detection, Speech and Language recognition - in fact, there are now 35+ cognitive services available under Azure Services. Machine Learning is much about Math - but the good news is, Azure can hide much of the computational complexities behind cloud services. Developers get to easily consume Azure AI services and make their apps more intelligent. Another big benefit of Azure Cognitive Services is customization - users get to train the AI algorithms with their own models and continue fine-tuning operational effectiveness.
Bot frameworks continue to evolve - in fact, Conversational AI is now a major Azure service. Developers get to impart intelligence to branded bots which automate chat workflows and easily push bots across multiple channels. Getting overwhelmed as to how you may add UI flare to your chatbot? No worries - we at Progress just announced Conversational UI - modern polished chatbot UI for Telerik and Kendo UI products across web/mobile/desktop. Hallelujah!
Intelligence does not need to be contained in cloud services only. What if you could train AI with your models and then bring the intelligence down to devices at hand? Now you can - thanks to the Intelligent Edge. Azure IoT Edge was one of the highlights at the Build keynote - and with the proliferation of IoT devices, this is a huge opportunity for developers. The machine learning that powers cloud services can be deployed to IoT devices for efficient decision making. Two revolutionary devices were showcased - a QualComm smart camera and a DJI drone. Both can be powered by Azure IoT and would have SDKs for developers - time to bring all the cloud intelligence and put it to real-world edge computing usage. With serverless Azure Functions and various automation connectors in Azure Logic apps, the edge devices can work hand-in-hand with cloud hubs for continuity of user experiences.
Azure is a vast cloud infrastructure and will continue to focus on several key areas - Developer tools, Containers and Services, Serverless architectures, IoT hubs, Data management and AI. Azure offers a lot of data storage choices - SQL DB, PostGreSQL, MySQL, Redis Cache and Cosmos DB. Cosmos DB, in particular, offers planetary scale globally available data across variety of formats and APIs - like MongoDB, SQL, Table storage, Gremlin Graph, Spark and Cassandra. You can clearly see how Azure is equipped to serve up the next-gen computational fabric for developers - intelligent and available everywhere. Developers get to manage data however they see fit and sprinkle AI over everything.
Mixed Reality Vision
User-computer interactions continue to evolve and the next frontier is upon us - the commoditization of Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality. Armed with the right hardware and software, AR has the potential to radically transform workflows across many industries - enterprise, education, healthcare, aviation, manufacturing and much more. Microsoft announced two new Mixed Reality services - MSFT Remote Assist to collaborate in real time to solve problems and MSFT Layout to aid in spatial design.
Do you see the potential of AR/MR, but feel a little wary to jump in? Afraid of the learning curve or concerned how to build complex UI? Fear no more - we at Progress, are here to help. We have a rich history of augmenting developer toolsets with rich performant UI - and we would not be sitting back in the AR/MR space. Today, we’re announcing an experimental effort to improve the developer experience in building AR apps with Unity and C#. And yes, with the modern polished Telerik UI you expect. You can give it a spin and tinker with all of the source code we’re making available. Start envisioning your AR/MR apps - the future is upon us.
Voice is the most natural way for humans to interact - no wonder, everybody is in the race to build the best digital voice assistants. Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, Google Home - these present solid choices for consumers and the services powering these voice assistants get ever more personal and intelligent. For developers, though, it is a tricky position - which one do you build for?
Well, now you don’t have to choose. The long standing love affair between Alexa and Cortana has been formalized. You can now have Cortana as a skill on Alexa devices and Alexa integration within Cortana - how cool! They can feed of each other intelligence and compliment their respective strengths. For developers, this means more flexibility - that Azure Function or Amazon Lambda can now power both Alexa and Cortana.
Computing is here to enrich the quality of human lives. Empathy actually makes good business sense - when we developers put love and care in our apps, it drives up user engagement. The Build Day 1 Keynote saw the announcement of AI for Accessibility - inclusive communication for people with disabilities.
Another humurous moment in the keynote showed the humane side of two presenters. When a simple microphone failure halted the keynote, a VP stood up to hold the microphone for the speaker. Humility and empathy - qualities all developers should take to heart.
There’s a lot more …
We developers often get caught up in our local problems - but the bigger Cloud and AI vision is important to keep in mind. Opportunities are abundant for developers to make a real difference. There’s obviously a lot more going on at Build - we did not even get into to all of the .NET platform announcements, tooling changes, DevOps and all the Visual Studio goodness. All that is coming up in another article. Till then, stay classy, developers, and keep dreaming. With Microsoft Build and Google I/O in the same week - there are tons of excitement and, as always, there’s never been a better time to be a developer.