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Microsoft touts “conversational intelligence” at Build 2016

31 MAR 2016
Microsoft Build 2016, San Francisco.

Microsoft held its annual Build developer event, where it outlined its efforts to change the way users interact with technology, although there was little in the way of updates regarding its mobile activities.

Indeed, while reiterating its “mobile first, cloud first” mantra, Satya Nadella argued that “mobile first is not about the mobility of any single device…it is the mobility of the human experience across all the devices and all the computing in our lives”.

And underpinning this is cloud – an area where Microsoft is undoubtedly stronger – with Nadella stating that this “enables that mobility of experience across all our devices…it infuses those experiences with intelligence, because it has the  ability to reason over large amounts of data using a distributed computing fabric”.

Terry Myerson (pictured), EVP of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, said that the company’s Windows 10 platform is “now running on over 270 million active devices”. But the platform has not made much of an impact in the mobile market, due in no small part to the fact that Microsoft’s own smartphone share has dwindled.

The Verge reported that Myerson subsequently said that with regard to smartphones, “there will be a time for it to be our focus, but right now it’s part of the family but it’s not the core of where I hope to generate developer interest over the next year”.

With developers increasingly adopting a mobile first mindset, this is undoubtedly a weak spot in what is otherwise a strong developer story from Microsoft.

In a statement, Nadella said that the technology industry is “on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence”.

At Build, it previewed two additions to its Cortana Intelligence Suite. Microsoft Cognitive Services is a collection of intelligence APIs which enable systems to hear, speak, understand and interpret needs using natural methods of communications; and Microsoft Bot Framework can be used by developers to build intelligent bots that enable customers to chat using natural language on platforms including text/SMS, Skype and the web.

Microsoft said Cortana Intelligence Suite is “powered by cutting-edge research into big data, machine learning perception, analytics and intelligent bots”. This, it said, can be used by developers and businesses to “create intelligent end-to-end solutions, including new apps that learn about our world and bots and agents that interact with people in personalised, intelligent ways”.

The company also released its Skype Bot Platform, including SDK, APIs and workflows, enabling developers to build bots on the Skype communication platform.

Of course, following the high-profile issues with Microsoft’s Tay chatbot – responsible for what the company previously referred to as “unintended offensive and hurtful tweets” – a passing reference was made, noting that it was “back to the drawing board”.

Microsoft also showcased updates to Windows 10, which it describes as the Anniversary Update.

These included Windows Ink which enables users to write on computers “as you do on paper”; a Cortana update enables users to receive proactive guidance throughout the day and speak to the application even when a device is locked; and new Windows Hello features extend the security of Windows 10 to multiple devices and the Edge browser.

Microsoft also shipped its HoloLens Development Edition, as it looks to developers to “begin helping build the future of holographic computing”.

And the company made a reference to its recent acquisition of tools company Xamarin, stating that this will “help make it possible for .NET developers to more easily share common app code across Windows, iOS and Android apps while still delivering fully native experiences for each platform”.

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Steve Costello

Steve works across all of Mobile World Live’s channels and played a lead role in the launch and ongoing success of our apps and devices services. He has been a journalist...More

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