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Build 2016 Day 1 was all about Windows 10 Anniversary Update, machine intelligence, and Xbox dev opportunity

Microsoft took the stage at the Moscone Center today in San Francisco to announce a whirlwind of features, kits, bots, APIs, development environments and platforms the company hopes developers will take to heart shortly. Without a doubt, the first day of Build 2016 has been an exiting one.

Starting off, Windows head Terry Myerson began his open love letter to developers at Build 2016 by informing them that there were over 270 million active Windows 10 devices in usage today. During last year’s developer conference, Myerson offered devs a promise based on a leap of faith that Windows 10 would be enough of a commercial success that beginning development before actual numbers were gathered, would be worth a developer’s investment. A year later, Windows 10 is proving to be the operating system Myerson and Microsoft believed it would be, and developers who got an early start are reaping some significant benefits.

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Terry Myerson at Build 2016

Among the news of 270 million active Windows 10 devices in the wild were other stats such as:

Windows 10 is off to the fastest start in Windows history, with over 270 million active devices, outpacing Windows 7 in the same timeframe by 145%. People are spending more time on Windows than ever before – over 75 billion hours – with the highest customer satisfaction of any version of Windows.

During Build 2015, Microsoft made a bold assertion that Windows 10 would be running on over a billion devices within three years, give or take, and with the numbers Myerson bandied about today on stage, the company is on the path to match those predictions. To help boost those figures, Myerson also revealed that a Windows 10 Anniversary Update would be coming to PCs, tablets, phones, the Xbox One, HoloLens and IoT devices, for free.

Today we announced that we will be releasing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update this summer, for free, to all Windows 10 customers.”

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update looks to be the marketing name for the code name Redstone development Windows 10 Insiders have been getting in recent builds. While Myerson was light on details regarding a specific date for the release of the update, Windows 10 users can look forward to cornucopia of features coming to the operating system sometime this summer that include:

Windows Hello Brings Biometric Security to Apps and Web Sites Windows Hello enables you to easily sign into your device with enterprise-grade security. Yet, studies show over 80% of people use the same password across multiple web sites, managing around 20-30 different accounts requiring passwords. So with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update we’ve made it possible for you to use the same easy, yet strong, security of Windows Hello* with Windows apps and Microsoft Edge, the first and only browser to natively support biometrics, with supporting sites.

As Microsoft continues to push its line of Surface devices with pen support in tow, Windows 10’s beefed up inking support took center stage for arguably the most impressive demos of the day.

More than 70% of us spend more than one hour a day using a pen. We lose notes in our notebooks, take pictures of whiteboards, and can’t do equations or music composition with a keyboard. Windows Ink is an all-new experience, putting the power of Windows on the tip of your pen, enabling you to write on your device as you do on paper, creating sticky notes, drawing on a whiteboard, and easily sharing your analog thoughts in the digital world. Windows Ink is integrated into apps like Maps, Microsoft Edge, and Office. And today, we demonstrated how developers can incorporate Windows Ink into their apps with as little as 2 lines of code!

A carousel of presenters then took roughly 40 minutes to cover what Microsoft believes is the future of computer and perhaps the next big platform developers should be exploring, AI and speech.

Windows 10 is the best place to have a conversation with Cortana, with nearly 1,000 Cortana-enabled apps already available. Today, we’re launching a new Cortana Collection in the Windows Store to make it easy for you to find great apps with Cortana. And in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Cortana** has learned how to proactively make suggestions for you throughout your day, like offering to buy you lunch or arrange transportation. Cortana will be available above the lock screen, giving you quicker access to your personal assistant for common tasks across all types of devices without unlocking your PC. And only Cortana works across your devices – you can complete certain notification-based tasks on your Windows or Android phone, such as receiving and sending text messages, on your PC. Developers now have full access to Cortana’s proactive intelligence through proactive actions, allowing your apps to perform tasks based on user context by linking existing actions in your deep-link enabled apps and websites.

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Cortana functionality mixed with Skype

From integration into Skype to the eventual release on Xbox One devices, Microsoft plans to stuff Cortana into every corner of its platforms as more than just a quirky schedule planner, but a more robust and predictive assistant. Utilizing an evolving matrix of natural language, Microsoft’s big bet during its Build 2016 conference is on the idea that people are growing more comfortable with interacting with AI frameworks and bots every day. Microsoft wants to be an integral part of the neural network of communicating bots that tap into the vast pools of big data, to eventually make the lives of business, and casual consumers lives better.

Microsoft’s time on stage today wasn’t all desktop and productivity speak. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer offered a bit of brevity with his gaming related presentation. As Microsoft continues to blur the lines between PC and “mobility” functionality with its One-Windows core development, so too are the Xbox teams as they introduced Universal Windows App ‘officially’ coming to the Xbox.

Gaming gets better with the Windows 10 Anniversary update, including background music and Cortana coming to Xbox One. Cortana can become your personal gaming assistant and help you find great new games, new challenges or tips and tricks. On Xbox One, we’re continuing to deliver on top fan-requested features like support for multiple GPUs and the ability to turn off v-sync. Game developers have access to a fully open ecosystem with the Universal Windows Platform, making it easy to bring the games people love to both Xbox One and other Windows 10 devices. With the Anniversary Update, any Xbox One can be a developer kit with Xbox Dev Mode, enabling anyone to develop for the living room. And, the Windows Store will offer a unified store experience for all developers, creating new opportunities to reach millions of new customers.

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Phil Spencer and Xbox UWP

Speaking of Universal Windows App development, Myerson and Co also revealed that web, Win32 and .Net development is finally getting their spot in the Windows Store.

  • Web developers have had great success with Windows 10 Hosted Web Apps, driving greater engagement and high store reviews, including American Express, BBC Sport, Yahoo Mail, zulily, and many, many more. But they consistently had one ask before they could make Windows 10 their primary development environment – and today, we responded, sharing that you’ll be able to run native bash on Windows.
  • Win32 and .Net developers have been seeking to extend their applications with Universal Windows Platform capabilities, and distribute their apps in the Windows Store. Today, we shared our new desktop app converter for Project Centennial, which will enable them to do just that.
  • .Net developers have been seeking a way to share more of their code across platforms. Xamarin will help make that possible!

Thanks to Microsoft’s recent purchase of Xamarin, the company can begin to fast-track the development of its porting bridges it mentioned during last year’s Build conference. When first introduced at Build 2015, the idea of porting an existing app from an entirely different environment to Windows seemed like the work of fiction and over the course of eight months, Microsoft’s run into a couple of hurdles in making it a reality. However, by purchasing Xamarin and getting new support from other cross-platform stacks, porting apps are looking to be as accessible as a two-minute demo (of which there were plenty on stage today).

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Kevin Gallo talking Web App converter

Lastly, Microsoft trotted out its HoloLens device to do something it hasn’t done in the year and a half since its initial reveal. In a very heartfelt presentation, Head of HoloLens development Alex Kipman lamented his affection for the headset as he announced the first wave of HoloLens developer kits would be released to the wild.

Today is very exciting because we begin shipping HoloLens! HoloLens mixes holograms into our world, enabling all new ways for us to communicate, create, work and play. It’s the only device that enables holographic computing natively with no markers, no external cameras, no wires, no phone required, and no connection to a PC needed. And customers across industries are embracing the potential of holograms already, including NASA, Case Western Reserve University, Volvo, and more.

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Alex Kipman and HoloLens co-founder with HoloLens dev kits

More than any single announcement from the engineers, leads or developers that took the stage at Build 2016 was the unilateral message just how open Windows development has become. While Microsoft’s old message of Windows first and Windows only arguably stunted the company’s appeal and growth, its new message under Satya Nadella’s vision and leadership is one of inclusion and future expansion.

Our goal is for Windows to be the best platform for all developers. And we are so proud of the great things our partners are doing on top of this platform. We’re excited about new Universal Windows Platform apps from Twitter, Uber, King, Disney, Wargaming Group, Square Enix, Yahoo, and WWE – with new apps on the way from Bank of America, Starbucks, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Facebook will also be bringing the Facebook Audience Network SDK and App Install Ads to the Universal Windows Platform – enabling 3 million Facebook advertisers to reach Windows 10 customers later this year. With so many great apps coming to Windows 10, the Windows Store has already received over 5 billion visits.

Furthermore, today’s announcements made a convincing pitch to developers who are current Windows devs as well as devs who have left to other platforms, to keep an eye on Microsoft and its platforms shortly.

As today’s opening keynote came to a close, we’re reminded that Microsoft has an entire day tomorrow to follow up with more details on Windows, HoloLens, Skype, Azure, Office, and other cross-platform initiatives.

Stay tuned for day two of Microsoft’s Build 2016 developer conference.

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What are your thoughts on Build 2016 day one?