This is a very exciting week for all things Microsoft as their annual developer conference, Build 2018 is in full steam. This year we can see the main trend being around Azure and particularly around AI. And that is understandable. AI is a hot topic, it utilises a massive amount of compute resources, so its a win-win for both companies that can leverage it, and off course for Microsoft.
In the AI space we can see couple of new and upgraded technologies going on. Big focus on edge AI and containers, as the primary way to deploy edge software. This popped up last year and now it is in quite a mature stage, so everybody should actually pay attention to it. In essence its IoT device management, similar to good old System center configuration management, but now with the twist on deploying AI algorithms instead of just new versions of firmware or apps. So now you can create AI algorithms in Azure machine learning page, deploy it to the edge devices straight away from the same place, and have essentially your edge AI rig up and running in no time.
On the same topic Microsoft has released a preview of Project Brainwave, which is a real time AI Intel chip, low latency, FPGA etc. Basically supercharged, dedicated AI chip which is orders of magnitude better at AI computation than a regular CPU. This is a really cool and much appreciated product, given how expensive and inefficient AI computation is today.
On the CosmosDB side of things. The ONE cloud Db that Microsoft has so heavily invested in, which, in theory, should eventually displace or at least diminish the role of SQL server over time, massive improvements. Multi-master replication. Near real-time performance. Whoever was hysterically screaming that NoSQL databases will never achieve performance of relational databases, especially on scale, is just plain wrong. This is the future. So check that one out if DBs are your thing.
On all things Visual studio, there is a new cool tool, not a feature, an entire tool I would say, which is Visual Studio Code Collaboration. This allows for shared peer development on a variety of platforms and tools, at this point VS and VS Code, Mac and Win, but I assume this is going to be extended over time. It allows to build, debug, run console on remote machine transparently, merge and commit changes. All cool stuff. I will super use this one.
On VSTS side of things, some new cool features around linking git branches with Kanban board items, all kinds of integration with GitHub, a lot of cool things on VSTS + Azure CI/CD DevOps integration. If you are interested, check it out for yourself.
One of the most intriguing parts was Amazon Alexa and Cortana integration. Where Amazon representative was on stage and it was kind of a joint demo, where Alexa was, as I understood it, doing all the “consumer” parts, and then you could ask her to bring up Cortana, and do all the business parts, like answering emails, checking calendar etc. Pretty weird feeling to see such massive rivals on same stage, given AWS and Azure fight for ISV “real estate”.
On my personal favourite topic, everything around XR, now HoloLens experience is kind of integrated with SurfaceHub and Skype for business, so that Holo guy (or girl) can share what he sees to the audience on the other (and this) side of the table, and as well to see what other are watching via attendees avatar. Neat. But, IMO, device itself needs a major upgrade to be a success. And given latest leakages of sales data (only 50K devices out there), some more meaningful market share would also not hurt.
There is a collaboration piece called Microsoft Remote Assist, and kind of Teams for AR of sorts called Microsoft Layout. Which adds regular collaboration capabilities to HoloLens. So all of these innovations are really good and logical step forward. Not a revolution, but a well done evolution of how a modern workplace should look like.
Overall I like where Microsoft is going. All in all the efforts are towards their mission to empower every individual and organisation to achieve more, I think they are doing a good job right now into transforming the organisation from the evil corporate giant image into something more open and modern.
However, I think on the XR side there could and should be done much more. Microsoft will definitely lose out to unlikely rival – Facebook, which has Oculus under their belt, and believe me or not, VR is going to totally dominate the space of where you consume things… sooner than Satya will be able to ask his team – “How the hell did we lose the OS market…again!???” But that is just my speculation 😉
P.S. If I forgot to cover something here, you are very much welcome to leave a comment, and, off course, if you are interested, please check the videos for yourself. Here is one below, for the busy bees:
*Featured image source – Microsoft Corporation