What I Expect from Microsoft Build This Week

Posted on May 9, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Dev, iOS, Microsoft Consumer Services, Mobile, Office 365, Windows 10, Xbox One with 38 Comments

What I Expect from Microsoft Build This Week

Like many Microsoft-focused pundits and bloggers, I’m heading into this week’s Build 2017 conference with a sense of anticipation. But I think I can channel the concerns of many other enthusiasts when I say that what I would like to see at Build differs very sharply from what we will most likely be shown.

Which is to say, Microsoft is very clearly heading down a path that makes tons of sense for its future. But as it transforms into a cloud computing giant, Microsoft will also, over time, deemphasize the things I care the most about: Windows specifically, but personal computing in general.

Over the past several Build conferences, I have of course focused on those client-side technologies, and I will continue to do so for as long as I can. But looking to Build 2017, I can’t help but think that we’ve crossed some line. And that this show will focus overwhelmingly on the cloud.

Yes, we will no doubt be shown “Redstone 3,” the next major version of Windows 10, and Microsoft will most likely highlight the work its done to bring this OS to the ARM platform.

Because it can never stop beating a dead horse, mixed reality will be a central part of the client story, I bet, thanks to the pending release of Windows Mixed Reality.

I’m not sure I “expect” this, but one topic to be on the lookout for, especially in the keynotes, is progressive web apps, or PWAs. My opinion is that this, and not UWP, is the future of apps on Windows, and I am curious to see if Microsoft will announce or at least suggest this shift at the show.

Alternatively, Microsoft could (and probably will) make a painful last attempt at making UWP look successful. So I’m also on the lookout for any major new apps in the Store, and whether they are “pure” UWP apps or, more likely, more Centennial-contained apps.

There will be Office news, for sure. I have no idea what that might be, however. Surface? Doubtful, but I could see Microsoft quietly revving Surface Pro 4 at any time.

And that’s about it on the client.

On the developer end—Build is a developer show, after all—I’m curious to see any news about future Visual Studio products and versions, especially Code and Visual Studio for Mac, both of which are probably due for upgrades.

And on the cloud front, we already know that Microsoft will belatedly introduce its Cortana Skills SDK for developers at the show. There will be tons of Azure, and bots, and AI/machine learning, and lots of other nonsense I just don’t care much about.

So we’ll see what happens. But Build is a perfect microcosm for that thing I do all the time, which is to view everything Microsoft does under the lens of this ongoing transformation. And while some may resist this change—or deny it, as many blogs did for years with Windows phone—I’m simply resigned to it. This change is happening. It’s just a matter of time and pace.

See you in Seattle.


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Comments (38)

38 responses to “What I Expect from Microsoft Build This Week”

  1. Tony Barrett

    I wholeheartedly agree about VR/MR. It will be dead and buried in 3 years. People couldn't even be persuaded to wear 3D glasses to watch 3D movies at home! How companies expect consumers to spend hundreds of dollars on gimmicky headsets that offer no real benefit or incentive is beyond me.

    • jjaegers

      In reply to Tony Barrett: I completely disagree... I think if HoloLens were more affordable they would be all over the place.  MS did the right thing by skipping a rev of HoloLens... hopefully the next iteration they release will be smaller and more affordable.  If it is I can see tons of potential for it. 

    • Daniel Blois

      In reply to Tony Barrett:

      VR/ MR does offer benefits. Here are a few examples:

      1) A user can take a look at their room (In MR) and pull out different furniture in to their room to see how it will look (and move things around too)

      2) VR can be used to teach doctor's, automechanics or anyone else that work with their hands what to do

      3) Also MR, can be used for doctor's to give them more information as they are doing surgery

      4) Games can put obstacles within a person's environment

      3D glasses are in NO way comparable to VR/ MR. However, it will be a while before they become successful.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to Tony Barrett:

      If it is dead and buried in three years, then it will simply find a revival in five years. Whether it is plays, movies, television or video games people clearly enjoy and are willing to spend money on visual entertainment, storytelling and escapism. Some kind of direct neural interface may be the endpoint, but don't you think there will be one or more intermediate stages between then and now?

    • Jules Wombat

      In reply to Tony Barrett:

      Agreed, it should be obvious to everyone, that consumers are only prepared to wear headsets, or even light weight glasses for twenty minutes max. Similarly for professional users, it will have to be very lightweight at max of one hour use.

      VR and MR are just gimmicks, will never be mainstream.

    • Roger Ramjet

      In reply to Tony Barrett:

      I am dubious on VR/MR as well. I took an Occulus try at BestBuy, and it was impressive, but felt like a curio, that the user would be jaded by very soon. That said, I can see how it might be something for gaming.

      Still, there are a number of use cases where you see it makes a lot of sense: any type of visual productivity use. It could become extremely valuable there, this would not be a mass consumer use type thing, but because of the very high productivity payback, you could sell the right units like HoloLens for thousands $$ to tens, or hundreds of millions of workers. In the consumer space, they would be used to replace, not augment, screens as TV glasses do. So TVs, monitors, maybe even PCs, all could be gonzo, and it is in combining these, and therefore saving $$, in addition to whatever new experiences, that you could see large units sold.

  2. ponsaelius

    Microsoft seems to have no relevant consumer products other than Xbox. They have a music service that works best on Windowsphone, a platform they have killed without telling anyone. They have a video and tv service with no real TV box like Roku to use it properly. They have a virtual assistant that has its full feature set only available in the US.

    Microsoft is an enterprise company and pretty much nothing else.

  3. SvenJ

    Can somebody explain what a Progressive Web App is? I get this vision of something that runs in a browser, either in the chrome or in a separate window but powered by the browser underneath. I also get the sense it is connectivity dependent. If you don't have connectivity, either because it doesn't exist, or you don't want to pay for it, or it is marginal, you are out of luck. Are PWAs something else? (If that's close, I'm envisioning an EdgeBook vice a Chromebook).

    • jwillis84

      In reply to SvenJ:

      Looks like they are like PNG files, they cache and store state locally, like Google Gears did, as new features load or get used they cache incremental bits of Cloud Libaries locally.. to avoid the "dinosaur" effect. They are JiT - Just in Time, downloaded features.. to avoid downloading the "whole" app before executing.. instead they dynamically link with cached library objects from the cloud "Just-In-Time" at run time and cache thereafter.. so its like downloading a web browser page.. the first time you do something new.. it takes few extra seconds, but after that.. that "part" of the apps private library cache is already downloaded and so it runs at "real speed".. "cloud speed" is just a bit slower until its cached.

      If you restart the app its like a Java applet, most of it is already cached and any of its data that has previously been used.. of course anything that requires a network connection, or dynamic resource hosted "in the cloud" will be un-available.. but if its like an MVC working on a Spreadsheet and all of the Spreadsheet file was cached locally.. it will run just fine.

    • skane2600

      In reply to SvenJ:

      Google defines it as a web app that is Reliable, Fast, and Engaging. In other words, it's a glittering generality like "Things go better with Coke". It's not as if current web apps had the goal of being Buggy, Slow, and Boring.

      Getting beyond the hype, Google promotes a specific approach to achieving this triple goodness: https://developers.google.com/web/progressive-web-apps/

    • nbplopes

      In reply to SvenJ:

      Progressive apps started by being apps that run within a browser with the sophistication and performance found usually in native desktop applications. Wether the browser in smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop or whatever (gaming console?). As such is powered by javascript. They can run off line and online as desktops apps do too.

      I say started because the concept is still fluid. Running progressive apps is no longer confined to a web browser. They can be run natively by the underlying OS as all things around javascript and html evolve (NativeScript).

      In sum this means that Progressive App technology is not confined to one OS, framework or vendor. Of course you can opt to use Ionic, angular, meteor, react or whatever, but they run everywhere to the power of javascript either interpreted, compiled or a hybrid form.

      The beauty of it is that this initiave is powered by an open source community all over the world. Some big companies have also contributed greatly to the initiative in particular Google (Angular, NodeJs), Microsoft (Typescript), Facebook (React). This just to mention the big companies, but the initiative is fueled greatly by other parties that together make the open source community, developing tools and frameworks (Ionic, Angular, React, Meteor, ....), from fundamental things to supporting developers, as rpm, bower, gulp, backpack, yeoman, lint, typescript, to automated test frameworks, code editor, to JQuery, Sass, Less, even template frameworks such as Bootstrap ... That is the application technology stack is diverse.

      If you want, you can see Progressive Apps as the Internet answer to Microsoft UWP and vice versa. Just consider that Progressive Apps were here first.


      PS: Building progressive apps is not for developers who fear the command line. The awesome Visual Studio Code is built as a progressive app (Electron) and the integrated terminal feature is crucial to develop applications in it. Actually MS is embracing the command line again in their development tools, its great! Why because you can actually be more productive once you get the hang of it.

  4. chaad_losan

    You realize that Amazon just threw down the gauntlet with "echo show" just before build right? It says Microsoft is years behind us. And it appears that unless the second coming of embedded cortana devices suddenly shows up at build they are right.

    • skane2600

      In reply to chaad_losan:

      Echo and similar devices have proven popular but it's still too early to know if they have legs. The iPad was very popular early on, but now the demand for tablets has waned.

    • Roger Ramjet

      In reply to chaad_losan:

      I read elsewhere that the search engine inside Echo is actually, Bing. So more like Microsoft is with them rather than years behind them ;-)

      Also, I am not really impressed with the Echo Show, my sense is at this point, you would try to differentiate the product, not make it more similar to the gazillion devices that can already do video calling etc. Smart phones, tablets, PCs all can do this, what is the advantage of doing it through a new device you have to buy that doesn't do much else? Microsoft or Apple can just issue software updates to the billions of screens they control to do this and more, and, game over.

  5. charms55

    As I noted in another thread, price cuts on Surface Book and Pro 4, and a display poster stating Surface Pro 5 coming to Japan may 31. Interesting

  6. Asgard

    "Alternatively, Microsoft could (and probably will) make a painful last attempt at making UWP look successful. So I’m also on the lookout for any major new apps in the Store, and whether they are “pure” UWP apps or, more likely, more Centennial-contained apps."

    I think the Store itself is the problem, not the technology. I use some apps from Store which are UWP and for example Slack which is "traditional" desktop application. The point is that the user doesn't even have to know what technology is used behind an app. And btw, many applications people think use "Win32" are actually .NET or QT...

  7. jgnetworksecurity

    First day of Build was most dissapointing Build Day One I can remember, AZURE AZURE AZURE -

  8. mortarm

    >...and lots of other nonsense I just don’t care much about.

    Paul, I though you wanted to get back into the dev-side of things again?

  9. rakitik23

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  10. jwillis84

    Get Real the Mixed Reality VR thing "peaked" with the GAF ViewMaster Reels. XAML and XML in general has already "peaked" as well, it may be structured but the formalism and structured document rules are too strict and numerous and hard to debug. A small number of "predictable" typos could cost you months of development time. What's good for running code "strict type checking" is bad for developers attention span and increases debug time, it doesn't really decrease it.. that's a theory that sinks ships. Javascript and JSON took the best parts and spit out the worst. Gozar the Grammarian will throw fits, but its the "real world". Microsoft has never really been "good" at app development, but languages and bundling.. they need to go back to "supporting developers" where they develop and make coding easy for the non-developer.. like they did with Macros for Office.. its the idea of broading the pool of programmers to people who would never think of programming.. like IFTTT.. or cron jobs.. that leads to "innovation".. not some superlative edifice built as a monument to "managed code" so brittle and fragile.. nobody bothers.. and averts their eyes to scan.

  11. Mark from CO


    I have been arguing for several years that Microsoft is no longer relevant in the consumer market.  You have been saying this more and more as well. If Microsoft's future is the cloud (an article on what you think this means would be helpful - the term conjures many differing thoughts) and not personal computing, we should be ready to face the implications of such a strategy.

    Nothing in the personal computing world would make sense for Microsoft.  Not Windows, not Xbox, not Groove,...  ... not even Surface.  Not even education in terms of the scope Microsoft talked about last week.

    If this is true, why all the fuss over all these initiatives?  Why all the investment of time and $.  In truth, all of Microsoft's personal computing efforts must be Nokias in the waiting.  These contradictions make me wonder what is Microsoft's strategy, if not confused and incoherent?  Cynically, perhaps it is Microsoft milking its personal computer customers as much as they can to finance the 'transition.'  And then when the transition comes?  Will its personal computing customers be cast off (like so many times in Microsoft's past) for the greener pastures of the 'cloud'?

    Forgive me Paul, while this may make "tons of sense for its future," it makes little sense for its personal computing customers who look to be ambushed in the near future.  Not a great way, in my view, of winning customers in the utopia that is the cloud, whatever that really is.

    Mark from CO

  12. Aditya Manthena

    I think Microsoft should open source Windows 10 Mobile as a last ditch effort !!!!

  13. Chris_Kez

    I'd love to see some stats or a report about BUILD attendees. How many work on consumer-facing software or products? How many are independent or small shops? How many are corporate IT types? How many develop for Android or iOS (or even formerly Windows Phone)? What are they most/least excited about? Did they attend last year or previous years and were there things that excited them that Microsoft has dropped or not followed through on? Etc.

  14. timothyhuber

    Microsoft will also, over time, deemphasize the things I care the most about: Windows specifically, but personal computing in general.

    So by "personal computing" do you specifically mean Microsoft Windows and the devices that run them?

    I've been accused of being a MS devotee. (I grew up near the MS campus, interned there in college, am currently typing this on my Surface Pro 4 which replaced a Pro 3, and before that a series of Windows laptops and Windows phone, etc., owned multiple generations of Zunes, as well as other hardware including their Wi-Fi router.)

    But I'm finding that what excites me about "personal computing" is how the cloud is transforming what that means. It's the cross-platform accessibility of data and services that makes my experience personal. If that's what MS is bringing to the table - and it does seem to be - I'm okay with that.

  15. wolters

    "Microsoft will also, over time, deemphasize the things I care the most about: Windows specifically, but personal computing in general."

    This and this and this. I've lost most of my enthusiasm for Microsoft consumer products. No, not one of these "I'm going Mac" reactionary guys. I just now have to live with the fact that I can't have it all with Microsoft. I'll live with my Windows PC, Surface Book, XBOX One to go along with my Android Phone, Kindle Fire tablet and a heavy dose of Amazon services. And oh, good 'ole Push Bullet for SMS on the desktop. :)

    • mikeghou

      In reply to wolters:

      Feeling the same, tho I'm still one of the diehards on WP. My 950XL still does what I want.

      Feeling MSFT is becoming more like IBM of the 1990's: if you aren't at least a multi-user business, you are getting more and more ignored. Showing my age, I remember the buzz about OS2. Tried to buy a copy to see how it was. Never could get a response out of them.

  16. prettyconfusd

    Sad, but true I suppose. I'm also interested in what is put forth about PWAs, as that's probably going to be my summer project rather than C# as originally planned.

    As they've just had an education focused event I'm assuming there won't be any more announcements around that, which is a shame. The whole event felt lacking and unfocused to me - as a teacher other than them ditching Microsoft Classroom for Microsoft Teams (which I've had to find out about separately as they didn't explicitly state that) nothing there was really geared towards secondary schools in the UK. Or nothing we could afford anyway - MR headsets would be great but £300 per headset is still too expensive, Windows 10S is useless when teaching Computer Science as the programs we use aren't available in the store (and likely never will be - I don't see Microsoft pushing Expression Web across the desktop bridge anytime soon, haha!).

    It'll be fun to see what's in store for Windows and Office, hopefully there'll be some exciting announcements. As for the cloud - at least I know the backend services I use should still be around far longer term than Windows client.

  17. skane2600

    One thing I believe would be useful but isn't going to happen is for Microsoft to create a non-declarative way to develop UWP apps. As others have stated, XAML makes hard things easy and easy things hard. It's amazing the customization and styling capabilities of XAML, but many utility apps don't really need it. The two scenarios that are the sweet spot for separating presentation from code is when there's a high probability that the presentation of data is going to change or when you have a dedicated design team that can work independently from software development. IMO, rapid development is the gap in UWP's capabilities.

    Having said all that, I'm not sure that such a capability can save UWP given the advantages of traditional Windows programs and the pool of talent to create web apps.

  18. Larry Shepard

    I'm looking forward to this Build. Win 10S is the future of Windows, but the future is not here yet. In addition to UWP, PWA, Centennial etc., MS has to step up with some 1st quality apps, invest in leading edge developers AND make it ever easier and profitable for developers to build powerful(PWA and Win10S capable apps with their tools. EDU is a smart play and is an important piece of the puzzle. The "App Gap" can still be bridged, especially with the potential of new capabilities of WIn10S ARM mobile devices (vs. traditional smart phones). MS is lining up all of the pins. Can they roll a strike (execute)? The next 18 months will likely let us know.

  19. Carlouiss123

    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. Lip fillers Manchester.

    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.

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