Microsoft Build Developer Expo Focuses on Artificial Intelligence
During the first day of its annual Build developer conference yesterday, Microsoft unveiled a number of new artificial intelligence capabilities that can be integrated into everything from online presentations to business database management. The conference, which is being held in Seattle, is scheduled to run through tomorrow.
During his keynote address, CEO Satya Nadella (pictured above) revealed that the Windows 10 operating system, launched nearly two years ago, is now installed on 500 million devices around the world. Microsoft's Office 365 suite has also reached a milestone: more than 100 million monthly commercial active users.
Other announcements made yesterday included the launch of a public preview of the Cortana Skills Kit, which lets developers create bots using Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant, and the debut of Azure IoT Edge, which helps developers bring machine learning and other advanced capabilities to other devices on the Internet of Things.
AI in 'Every Product and Service'
Microsoft's vision of artificial intelligence is to make those capabilities "available to everyone, from developers and data scientists to tech enthusiasts and students," Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft's AI and research group, said yesterday in a blog post.
Shum said Microsoft now offers 29 different cognitive services to developers, making it possible for them to incorporate AI capabilities in new apps "with just a few lines of code."
Launched at the 2015 Build conference, Microsoft Cognitive Services is today used by more than 568,000 developers around the world, Shum said. Those services include Bing Custom Search, Custom Vision Service, Custom Decision Service and Video Indexer.
Another intelligent service, the Microsoft Bot Framework, lets developers create ways for people to interact with AI in conversational ways. Announced last year, the framework now has more than 130,000 registered developers.
"We are infusing AI into every product and service we offer, from Xbox to Windows, from Bing to Office," Shum noted. For example, one new offering unveiled yesterday, Presentation Translator, will use Microsoft's Translation APIs to enable real-time translations in a variety of languages during PowerPoint presentations.
"Once launched, Presentation Translator embeds live transcriptions of the presenter into a specific language and even generates a unique link that attendees can use to get translations in their own language in real time," Shum said.
New Intelligence for Azure
Microsoft is adding new intelligence capabilities to Azure, its cloud platform for enterprise customers. For instance, Azure Batch AI Training, announced yesterday and currently available in private preview, will allow developers to "train their own deep neural networks," according to Shum.
The company also took the wraps off Azure Cosmos DB, which it's calling "the industry's first globally distributed, multimodel database service" with 99th-percentile uptime and millisecond latency.
"Azure Cosmos DB automatically indexes data so you can perform blazing fast queries without having to deal with complexities of schema and index management or schema migration in a globally distributed setup," Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group, wrote yesterday on the Azure blog. "Customers, including Jet.com, are using Azure Cosmos DB to scale to 100 trillion transactions per day and growing, spanning multiple regions. Tapping into Azure Cosmos DB gives them planet scale, so they can keep focused on growing their business."
Other news announced at Build yesterday include new MySQL- and PostgreSQL-managed services for Azure SQL Database, general availability of Visual Studio 2017 for Mac, and new Microsoft Graph APIs to enable developers to access Office 365 data and insights.
Developers will also be able to publish new apps to Microsoft Teams, a chat-based workspace in Office 365. A new "app experience" will also be added soon to Teams that will allow end-users to searh for specific applications.
During Build yesterday, Microsoft also demonstrated how it will integrate a variety of its products and services into a sales platform called Tact, which is expected to be released later this year. Capable of working with Office 365, Dynamics 365, Microsoft Teams and other services, Tact will turn "any connected device into an AI-powered virtual sales assistant," Microsoft said.
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