All The Important Stuff From Microsoft Build 2015

Microsoft’s Build 2015 developer conference has kicked off today, bringing a host of news about Windows 10 and its developer tools. Here are all the key developments in one handy wrap-up. Just when will Windows 10 get its official release?

Picture: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

No Confirmed Windows 10 Release Date Yet

We’ve long known Microsoft was due to release the final version of Windows 10 before the end of the (US) summer, and some evidence suggests as soon as July. It was speculated that Microsoft might use Build to name an official release date, but that didn’t happen in the first keynote. We may not have to wait long to find out, however. There’s a second keynote tomorrow, and the next likely announcement target after that is Microsoft Ignite (the successor conference to TechEd), which takes place in Chicago next week.

Microsoft Edge Is Project Spartan

Project Spartan, the successor to Internet Explorer, now has an official name: Microsoft Edge. Edge will be the default browser in Windows 10; companies who need Internet Explorer features (yes, they exist) will need to install it separately. There will also be developer tools designed to make it easy to move existing Chrome extensions onto Edge.

Developer Tools For Moving Android And iOS To Windows

Microsoft is going to roll out four new software development kits (SDK) to encourage the building of Windows 10 apps. The two most exciting additions are tools designed to make it easy to migrate existing Android Java/C++ and iOS Objective C apps directly to Windows — a tacit acknowledgement that developers don’t want to have to maintain wildly different code bases for multiple platforms, and that Windows Phone is often a distant third choice. There will also be tools to migrate existing .NET and Win32 apps into the “modern” Windows 10 platform, and to convert web-based apps into standalone Windows 10 apps. Those tools should be available to download today.

Visual Studio Code

Also added to the developer toolkit: Visual Studio Code, a basic free development environment that will run across Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s essentially a stripped-down version of Visual Studio, but if nothing else it underlines that Microsoft really isn’t a Windows-only shop these days. Versions of the .NET Core which can run on Azure in Linux and OS X were also demonstrated.

Continuum And Cortana

The Windows 10 Continuum option will allow Windows 10 phones to access Windows 10 desktop apps. (We’ve previously seen Continuum used to switch Windows 10 devices between desktop and tablet mode, depending on how they are being used.)

There were also more demonstrations of Cortana, Microsoft’s voice assistant, which can be tightly integrated with other apps — letting you send a message directly from within Viber without actually having to open Viber up, for instance.

New Windows Store Payment Options

The Windows Store is going to offer payment options via carrier billing — so you pay for apps as part of your phone bill — as well as the ability to support purchase orders from larger businesses. There will also be new options to make it easier to pay for recurring subscriptions.

More HoloLens Demonstrations

Microsoft used Build to further showcase the HoloLens virtual reality technology it first showed off earlier this year. Windows 10 apps will be able to run within Windows Holographic, so you could see different app screens on different locations around the room when wearing a HoloLens viewer. It looked impressive, but a note of caution: it’s likely that most of the HoloLens features won’t be in the first Windows 10 release, but will be added in subsequent updates.

Office API Extensions

One of the more discussed demos online was the ability to request an Uber from within Outlook, demonstrating the ability to call cross-platform APIs from within Office 2016 apps. Office has long offered API access, but it has generally been a Windows-only proposition.

New Azure Big Data Tools

New Azure tools announced at Build 2015 include Azure Data Lake, which can support data pools of up to one petabyte. Microsoft has been talking up the “data lake” concept since mid-last year. Microsoft also previewed Azure SQL Data Warehouse, a broad-scale data warehousing platform that runs in the cloud.

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