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Microsoft Build 2017: what to expect from this week’s conference

Microsoft Build 2017: what to expect from this week’s conference

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Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Microsoft is hosting its annual Build developers conference in Seattle this year. The first keynote kicks off on Wednesday, and Microsoft is expected to detail its future plans for Windows, Cortana, bots, and Office. We’re not expecting to see any more surprise Surface hardware at Build, and the focus will largely be on Microsoft’s methods to attract developers to its platforms.

For all of the details on what to expect, we've put together a full preview of the event below. The event kicks off Wednesday, May 10th at 11AM ET / 8AM PT.

Next Windows 10 update with UI changes

Microsoft has committed to shipping its next major Windows 10 update in September, so we should start hearing a lot more about it at Build this year. Codenamed Redstone 3, the next update will include features like pinning contacts to the task bar and a new power throttling option. Microsoft is also expected to detail its “Project Neon” effort to refresh the user interface of Windows 10. Most of the UI changes will be relatively minor, with a renewed focus on blur in apps and OS features.

Alongside the UI changes to Windows 10, we’re also hoping to hear more about the company’s plans for Windows 10 on ARM chips. The software maker originally revealed last year that it will bring Windows desktop apps to mobile ARM processors, but we’re waiting for more information on when devices will appear in the market. Qualcomm says the first laptops running Windows with ARM chipsets won’t arrive until Q4 later this year, but we still expect Microsoft to detail what type of Windows 10 will power these machines.

Microsoft recently revealed Windows 10 S, with a plan to get more desktop apps into the Windows Store. It’s likely the company will discuss this effort at Build, and it will also need to explain to developers how its Universal Windows Apps still fit into its goals with Windows 10.

Cortana speakers and skills

Microsoft officially unveiled Harman Kardon’s Cortana speaker this week, and we’re expecting to hear more about the company’s plans to take on Amazon’s Echo devices. Cortana-powered speakers are the next area of focus for Microsoft’s Cortana efforts, and we’ll likely see devices from a number of manufacturers in the coming months.

Microsoft is also building a Cortana skills set for developers to build apps that work directly with Cortana, and we’re expecting to see some examples of potential integrations for these upcoming devices. Amazon is pushing aggressively with its Echo Look and new Echo Show devices, and Microsoft’s response will need a lot of developer support.

Microsoft and Bing bots

Microsoft focused on AI and bots at Build last year, and it’s likely to expand on both of these topics again this year. Microsoft is planning to allow developers to add bots to the company's Bing search results to let you to chat with restaurants and other retailers. This should bring Microsoft’s bots feature outside of Skype and onto the web in a bigger way, and we’re expecting to hear more about its overall bots plan, too.

Microsoft Office

While Microsoft is bringing a full desktop version of Office to the Windows Store, we haven’t heard much about the future of Microsoft Office yet. Office always features at Build in some form, and we’re expecting to hear more about the company’s efforts with add-ins and apps that build on top of Office 365.

Microsoft Edge web apps

Microsoft is expected to detail the future of Microsoft Edge at Build. While the company supports third-party extensions, the Windows Store isn’t full of them yet. We’re hoping to see its extensions support broaden for developers, and hear more about its plans for web apps.

Mixed Reality

Microsoft’s PC partners are planning to ship mixed reality headsets later this year for use with Windows 10. We’ve seen a number of demos with Acer’s headset recently, and we’re expecting to hear more at Build about specific apps and features that work with these new headsets. Expect to see an onstage demonstration of mixed reality, alongside some examples of HoloLens. Microsoft loves to show how HoloLens is being used, but we’re not expecting any major announcements for its own headset plans.

No new Surface hardware

We’re not expecting Microsoft to unveil any new Surface hardware at Build. Microsoft is planning an event in Shanghai on May 23rd, and the company will launch new hardware there. Microsoft is expected to unveil a refreshed Surface Pro 4 device that will likely be branded simply as “Surface Pro” with better battery life and Intel’s latest Kaby Lake processors.