“Any developer, any app, any platform” – is Microsoft’s commitment to app developers globally. Following the recent Windows Build 2016 announcements, is Microsoft one step closer to fulfilling its promise?
We recently covered Microsoft’s acquisition of Xamarin and what it would mean for the company’s resolution to provide cross-platform tools for developers.
Xamarin’s technology lets developers build native iOS, Android and Windows apps using Microsoft’s C# programming language. For many enterprise organisations, who are required to support users equipped with a Windows computer alongside an Android or iOS mobile device, this type of cross-platform support has enormous potential.
At the recent Microsoft Build 2016, it was announced that Xamarin will be made available for free in the Visual Studio toolkit. This reduces the barrier to entry for Microsoft developers by providing free access to iOS and Android without having to learn new development tools. Xamarin’s runtime, libraries and command line tools will also be made open-source; further driving adoption and cross-platform development.
Satya Nadella’s clear ambition is to make Windows 10 a home for developers. Along with Xamarin development tools, the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) lets developers create apps for everything from wearables to IoT to Hololens. With 1000 new UWP APIs available, new UI capabilities, a Linux command tool and a desktop app converter; there were a lot of exciting announcements for Microsoft developers. However, the undeniable highlight of Build 2016 was Microsoft’s Bots.
Much focus was put on how bots, acting as intelligent agents within apps and services, will make users’ lives easier. Nadella is urging developers to create intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants to help communication between apps so users can do everything from managing their calendars to ordering a pizza. Some of the intelligent tools that will be coming to bots will work in multiple apps and support natural language.
The Microsoft bot framework harnesses a platform of cognitive services, from years of AI research, that developers can use to create smart bots to interact with third party apps or Cortana. Microsoft Cognitive Services are also available as separate APIs that enable developers to leverage machine learning to build more engaging, intelligent apps. Intelligent bots, as an interface for a service, would allow developers to engage users irrespective of what platform they are on, at any given time, based on the context of what a user is doing.
In summary, there were some exciting announcements for developers and some pretty interesting ideas about the future of computing coming out of Microsoft Build 2016. How much of an impact any of this will have, remains to be seen. What is clear, is that in a world where computing and mobile are becoming ever more entwined, Microsoft is making impressive strides to remain relevant to users across mobile platforms.