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Our Senior Technical Lead, Aiden Kaskela and myself were two of the lucky few who were able to secure a spot for Microsoft’s developer conference, Build, this year. Many others weren’t as lucky since the conference sold out in no less than 5 minutes. Here’s are the top 5 takeaways from this year’s conference and the reason it’s such an exciting time to be a Microsoft developer and a user of Microsoft technologies.

Conversations are the Newest Platform Paradigm

The conversations as a platform concept was highlighted on day 2 of the conference when the Keynote centered around a demo of Skype’s integration with Microsoft’s Bot Framework. In the demo, a user received a Skype message from a co-worker congratulating her on being selected to Keynote a conference. From there the user’s device took control of the conversation with the user and began providing next steps to assist with planning for the event. Everything from blocking off the user’s calendar in Outlook to booking a Hotel without ever leaving the Skype app. The ability to communicate with micro-services in the Cloud using natural language is an exciting development in computing, but whether it is a true platform for developing larger scale applications is yet to be seen.

Artificial Intelligence is Grown Up and Out On Its Own, But it Still Has a Lot to Learn

By now you’ve heard the story about Microsoft’s attempt to launch an autonomous Twitter Bot “Tay” in the U.S. with embarrassing results. At Build 2016 this year much of the buzz and content revolved around Microsoft’s cognitive services APIs in Azure. These APIs open up the same Artificial Intelligence services that came out of Microsoft’s Research division to developers everywhere. These services provide the engine for a lot of what Microsoft is touting as the next great paradigm shift in personal and business computing to using conversations as a platform. While the novelty Twitter bot was an admittedly failed attempt to use these services in the wild, given a more responsible targeted audience these services can be extremely powerful and will continue to be improved as they learn to handle attacks like those unleashed on “Tay”.

Cloud First, Mobile First

Of course Microsoft continues to push everyone into the cloud. It’s hard to not notice when the lanyard around everyone’s neck included their Build Azure credentials (maybe not the most secure method of communicating that information). However, the rapid development of Azure services makes it hard for businesses to ignore it much longer. Microsoft has long touted its Cloud first, Mobile first mentality and they are certainly living up to the former and making great strides toward the latter with the announcement that Xamarin will be included for free in all versions of Visual Studio.

Microsoft’s Shift Toward More Open Source and Open Platform Development is for Real

Whether it was coordinated or not just about every conversation and session I had at Build this year included a discussion about what other platforms and languages you can use to develop applications outside of the standard .NET framework languages. Many sessions included demos of applications and tools running technologies not reserved to the MS stack.

Microsoft Continues to Give Developers What They Want

Microsoft has always provided developers with fantastic tools and platforms for developing new technologies and as of late that community has really started to grow. If their developer conference is any measure of how popular and relevant Microsoft continues to be in the software development community, then it’s important to note that, while the Build 2015 conference sold out it’s ~7000 registrations in about 20 minutes last year, this year the conference sold out in less than 5 minutes. Developers are clamoring to be on the cutting edge of what Microsoft is offering and businesses are shelling out the money to help them get there. It’s a really exciting time to be a Microsoft developer and I for one can’t wait to get started applying all the knowledge I gained from the show to improve Cobalt’s products and development practices.

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