Microsoft Build 2018: the biggest highlights and all the news

 It’s May, and you know what that means – it’s time for Microsoft Build, where Microsoft pays homage to its dedicated following of developers. And the Day 1 keynote was – much like last year's – dedicated almost entirely to developers.

Build 2018 continues to, er, build on the tradition Microsoft started with the 2017 event, not really focusing on consumer products, but rather on the framework that will allow its platform to thrive.

At this year’s keynote Microsoft talked about everything from its growing install base to AI and even Kinect (we know!). So, let’s dive into all of the exciting details from day one at Microsoft Build 2018.

Microsoft Build 2018

Windows 10 levels up its user base

Last year at Build 2017, Microsoft said it had reached 500 million active Windows 10 users worldwide. Now, just a year later, that number has grown in a huge way – Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 has now reached almost 700 million users. This is a far cry from its earlier goal of 1 billion users by the end of 2018 (which Microsoft walked back), but it’s a huge number nonetheless.

Read: Windows 10 hits 700 million active devices

Alexa and Cortana together in a limited beta

We've known that Alexa was coming to Windows 10 for sometime, but we finally got our first demo of the two virtual assistants working side-by-side at Build 2018. What's more, you'll be able to play around with them yourself by signing up for this limited-time beta.

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 is a new combined subscription service for Office 365, Windows 10 and the company’s enterprise mobility services. Meant for companies, enterprise users and students, it's the ultimate combination of all of Microsoft's best subscription-based software solutions.

Microsoft takes to the sky with DJI

Put aside all of your fears about a dystopian future with drones watching your every action for a second, because Microsoft has teamed up with DJI to develop commercial drone solutions. And, instead of just being focused on the government sector, Microsoft and DJI are implementing this to help with agriculture, public safety and construction – in order to bring these industries into the future.

Read: Microsoft Azure opens its eyes to AI 

AI for Accessibility

At Build 2018, Microsoft has pledged support for any developer using its AI tools, by announcing a new $25 million, five year program aimed at using the power of AI to help people with disabilities. This program will include technology investments and grants. Microsoft will also publish its own accessibility apps like real-time text-to-speech transcription, predictive text functionality and a wealth of other solutions.

Read: Microsoft wants to empower people with disabilities through AI for Accessibility

Azure leaps into artificial intelligence

Microsoft’s cloud technology, Azure, has always been at least tangentially related to Microsoft’s AI endeavors, but now, they’re closer than ever before. Microsoft, to start, has opened up the Azure Internet of Things (IoT) runtime to developers. This might seem like a minor detail, but the potential for future applications is huge. Microsoft has also updated its Bot Framework, which, in combination with new Cognitive Services updates – will level up conversational bots so they can deliver deeper and more realistic conversations.

Project Kinect for Azure

Project Kinect for Azure

Remember how Microsoft quickly killed off the Kinect following the release of the Xbox One? Well, it’s back with Project Kinect for Azure, which is a package of sensors and cameras that carries on from the legacy of Kinect. And, don’t think it hasn’t been upgraded either, as Project Kinect for Azure will utilize AI technology to better track hand movements and incorporate high-fidelity spatial mapping – making Kinect better than anyone ever dreamed of.

Microsoft HoloLens learns a few new tricks

Microsoft also showed off some new HoloLens tricks with Microsoft Remote Assist and Microsoft Layout. With Microsoft Remote Assist, customers can use hands-free video calling, images and Mixed Reality annotations to collaborate with anyone on their Microsoft Support contact list in order to solve problems quickly and efficiently. 

With Microsoft Layout, designers will be able to effortlessly design new spaces. They can do this by importing 3D models to create room-sized layouts with holograms, which they can effortlessly share with collaborators and stakeholders.

Visual Studio Live Share

Visual Studio Live Share

Hey programmers, Microsoft has heard your pleas, and has created Visual Studio Live Share, now in preview, that allows multiple developers collaborate in real-time no matter where they may be located. This is great news for any developer who has yearned for a Google Docs/Office 365-esque solution for programming – it’s finally here. This application can be used with any language and any scenario – no matter the platform they’re developing for. Another win for developers.

Bill Thomas

Bill Thomas (Twitter) is TechRadar's computing editor. They are fat, queer and extremely online. Computers are the devil, but they just happen to be a satanist. If you need to know anything about computing components, PC gaming or the best laptop on the market, don't be afraid to drop them a line on Twitter or through email.