Day Two of Build 2016 has come to a close and the news from the three-and-a-half hour keynote was plenty. Microsoft’s story to developers today encompassed cloud computing with Azure, developing with Xamarin, and linking a billion Internet of Things devices or sensors to machine learning, and expanding Office 365 into a serviceable platform for users.
Scott Guthrie, the executive vice president of Cloud and Enterprise for Microsoft, took the reins of the master of ceremonies today, giving Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella a break from yesterday’s festivities. Guthrie alongside a parade of presenters and partners walked developers through Microsoft’s vision for the future. Trotting out a litany of partners to showcase what can be achieved with Azure, Office, and IoT, Microsoft made its pitch for 2016 development and beyond.
The biggest tech news of 2016 may prove to be Microsoft’s purchase of Xamarin. Now, developers are free to use almost any current configuration, code base, or dev machine to code for any number of operating systems or services. Perhaps in even bigger news, Microsoft isn’t looking to gouge developers with additional fees for the new convenience, instead, bundling Xamarin into Visual Studio for free.
Today, we made targeting every device and platform a lot easier by making Xamarin available to every Visual Studio developer for free, including the free Visual Studio Community Edition. We are also making available a free Xamarin Studio Community Edition for OS X. Developers worldwide can now easily create apps using an end-to-end mobile development solution – joining companies like Slack, Pinterest, Alaska Airlines and more. To enable even more choice and flexibility for developers, we announced a commitment to open source Xamarin’s runtime, libraries and command line tools as part of the .NET Foundation. Both the Xamarin SDK and Mono will be available under the MIT License.
Xamarin capabilities and services will also be added to Microsoft DevOps and Enterprise development tools offerings, providing a comprehensive solution that spans every phase of the mobile development cycle.”
The Xamarin purchase was just the tip of Day Two’s keynotes iceberg as Guthrie moved on to highlighting partners who are already taking advantage of Microsoft’s open development stance.
Among the partners who took the stage was luxury brand car company BMW, which showed off its Open Mobility Cloud that consisted of its connected app service powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
According to Thom Brenner, BMW Group vice president of Digital Life,
BMW Connected is part of the automaker’s vision for the “future of mobility,” which includes digital services, automated driving and assistance, and interiors designed for digital seamlessness. BMW built the Open Mobility Cloud, a new flexible, scalable platform, using Microsoft Azure technologies and tools.
BMW Connected is more than an app. It’s an experience on top of an intelligent platform that can learn about your driving habits. We are building this platform as a foundation for our future services and experiences … and Microsoft Azure and Azure services gave us the right tools.”
Another significant announcement made today was about Microsoft vision for connecting platforms. Using what the company calls Azure Service Fabric, Microsoft wants to enable developers to “build and manage scalable and reliable applications composed of micro services running at a very high density on a shared pool of machines (referred to as a Service Fabric cluster).”
The new Service Fabric, as Microsoft pitches it, is a more comprehensive runtime with improved lifecycle management capabilities that allows applications to offer expanded micro services to users.
While Microsoft’s Azure and connected services seem like some deep developer conversations, Qi Lu, executive vice president of applications and service group of Microsoft came to stage to speak a language many currently understand, Office 365. Azure and IoT may eventually become a pervasive experience in the future, but Office 365 is something most people are actively interacting with and Lu with a handful of presenters, showed a future where Office 365 makes users lives more accessible.
Starting off, Lu introduced (rather re-introduced) the Microsoft Graph, that enables applications to lean on the deep data intelligence of Office and Azure by using APIs with a single authorization token within the app. Expanding on that older news, today Microsoft introduced API’s that search “relevant documents” as well as surfacing suggestions for meeting based on up to the minute calendar adjustments.
Yina Arenas, the senior PPM manager at Microsoft, pulled partner DocuSign on stage to highlight this functionality coming to Outlook. Following the improved Microsoft Graph news was perhaps the biggest news of the day in Office Add-ins coming to Office 2016 for Mac.
Later this year, Office 2016 for Mac will get Office an improved Office Add-In experience alongside its improvements on Windows and mobile. Once again, Microsoft brought up a partner to best exemplify the functionality, with Starbucks new Outlook add-in. Gerri Martin-Flickinger, chief technology officer at Starbucks, walked the audience through an elaborate demo of how Office add-ins could help users send Starbucks gift cards, deep links into mobile app functionality and plan meetings equipped with location services related to Starbucks locales, all from within the Outlook app. Starbucks wasn’t the only Add-in demo as Document Wizard showcased a Word add-in for creating custom templates and Baydin showed off its Boomerang add-in in a custom Office ribbon button for emailing.
Rounding out the Office portion of the Day Two keynote was the announcement (re-announcement) of Office 365 Connectors. We briefly covered Office Connectors a couple of weeks ago, but Microsoft took time today to fully explain when and how this will make the lives of Office 365 more convenient. Leveraging Microsoft’s big bet on conversations-as-a-platform, developers can push content and data from their services or apps straight into Office 365 Outlook through a group conversation. Think, a more robust RSS feed in Outlook. Arenas remained on stage to show how combining the new Skype Web and Skype for Business App SDK with Office 365 group connectors could facilitate an all-in-one communicating platform from within Outlook.
After the Office 365 demos, Microsoft hit the three-hour mark which seemed like a downhill race to jam-pack the last bit of developer news into a set of rapid-fire presentations. The remaining blur of presentations included comedian Kevin Hart using voice and natural language to code, a brief appearance from the members of NASAQuest at Build 2016 during their Spring Break and the last bit of Microsoft evolving its SaaS infrastructures.
Build 2016 will continue for another day at Moscone in San Francisco with more hands on developer sessions, and from there, Microsoft looks to take the experience on the road with single-day events in Canada, the Netherlands, England, Spain, Poland, Russia, India, Japan and Australia. With over 72 hours’ worth of information to sift through, we’ll keep updating as we wrangle a grasp around Microsoft Build 2016 conference.