BUILD 2014: Smart coffees, smarter devices, and the smartest AI?

Microsoft’s biggest event of the year, BUILD, is kicking off today and we already have pretty strong evidence regarding what to expect. But could Redmond shock us with any surprises?

This week Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, had his first public appearance in an event to launch the long-anticipated Microsoft Office for Apple’s iPad tablet. Since, he has announced a reorganisation of his executive team…

Both his initial appearance and reorganisation plans have been widely-praised by industry watchers; but it will be at BUILD where the real direction he’s taking the company will be on display and criticised.

Smart coffees

A site went live earlier today before being quickly pulled which had the slight give-away URL of WindowsOnDevices.com

It appears as if Microsoft his ambitions to bring Windows to smaller devices; even suggesting those such as a coffee mug, a talking bear, and robots. Seemingly Microsoft is taking advantage of development hardware from Intel, particularly the chip manufacturer’s “Galileo” system-on-a-chip.

With Google’s Android turning up on a multitude of similar devices – it’s important from Microsoft to compete. This is especially important if Microsoft wants to be a player in the “Internet of Things” where all devices, even small, are to be connected in some way to the internet.

Of course Google also launched their “Android Wear” platform for smartwatches last month. It has been talked about for a long-time now that Microsoft is preparing both a watch, and eyewear, ready for launch. We’re not expecting such product launches – but we’re happy to be surprised.

Smarter devices

Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS market-share has been growing at a rapid-pace – especially in Europe. But users have been frustrated at slow updates to the OS; to go along with the fantastic hardware being pumped out by Nokia.

Most of today’s keynote is expected to focus on Windows Phone – particularly – we should be seeing what is said to be the first true virtual assistant… but we’ll get onto that in a bit.

We’re also expecting a “notification centre” similar to that found on Android and iOS to keep everything together and organised in one easy location. Alongside this, we’ve seen leaked screenshots of setting a wallpaper which spans across ‘Live Tiles’ to add personalisation.

But frankly, other than that and some new manufacturers, we’re stumped as what to expect from the next update. Usually these things are surrounded by leaks and rumours but it’s been very quiet – and users probably won’t settle for a small update at this point.

As for Windows, we’ll certainly see the launch of Windows 8.1 “Update 1” which brings a multitude of improvements to the OS especially for those using a traditional keyboard and mouse desktop. The biggest change is the ability to run “Modern UI” apps on the desktop – rather than the Start Menu.

Microsoft’s mantra for Windows is: “Build once, engage everywhere. Phone. Tablet. PC” and I’m sure we’ll hear more about how developers can achieve this multi-platform dream.

Smartest Assistant

Windows Phone has been the only major mobile OS which has been eerily quiet on any real competitor to the advances being made to Apple’s Siri, and Google’s own solution which hooks into the company’s vast knowledge graph.

Dubbed ‘Cortana’ – after the AI in video game blockbuster ‘Halo’ – it is thought the virtual assistant will track usage across apps to learn more about what you want, and when, whilst providing a more human-like responses up to the scripted speech found in rivals.

Cortana is thought to follow you across Windows-based devices to provide assistance -- whether accessing on Windows Phone, Windows, or Xbox.

What would you like to see at BUILD this year?

 

The AI Expo world series brings together developers and enterprises to examine the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can drive business in 2017 and beyond. Find out more here.

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