Last week, San Francisco played host to Microsoft Build 2015, the annual developer summit on new technologies. After Satya Nadella’s first 15 months at the helm of the company, game-changing announcements were everywhere you looked. I’ll mention a handful of the most intriguing in terms of civic impact.
As a society, we are transitioning from documents to data. Microsoft Office boasts over a billion users worldwide who have created massive amounts of data that now resides within the Office ecosystem. Using a new product called Delve, users can make sense of the density of data in the Office Graph and also have the ability to merge those data resources with other data produced outside the Office suite of tools. As Satya put it, this creates a “semantically rich graph of data that developers can view and extend.”
Azure Data Lake
This new data commons promises to put a wide variety of data building blocks at the fingertips of thousands and thousands of Microsoft cloud customers so that they can mash them up with their own proprietary data to create value.
Visual Studio Code
Following on last year’s announcement that Visual Studio would support numerous open source languages and libraries and that .NET itself – long having been proprietary – would be open sourced, Microsoft unveiled a new tool called Visual Studio Code built around the cross-platform realities of modern developer workflow. With a video shout-out from GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath and other luminaries, the audience reaction to these new tools was off the charts.
Continuum for Windows 10
As part of the deep dive into the new Windows 10 operating system, Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore demonstrated how the Continuum feature enables a user to plug in her phone to a desktop, laptop, or any screen and the phone’s apps would run on that larger screen appearing and functioning much like you would expect a traditional desktop application to appear. When you start thinking about it, Continuum could be a groundbreaking advance in addressing the digital divide. Many lower-income people in the United States and around the world have connected smartphones but do not have their own laptop or desktop. Using Continuum, anyone could plug their phone into a screen and keyboard and work in traditional productivity tools such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. This promises to be useful to millions of business people, but more importantly, it can allow millions of less-advantaged people a means to participate in the professional economy using technology they already have.
And this brings us to perhaps the single most exciting technological advancement jn years: The emergence of holographic computing.
First announced in January, HoloLens was on full display at Build, with a mind-blowing demo on stage that made clear the benefits for home life and for professional scenarios. It is easy to dream up the many ways this technology could benefit communities as they address their shared social issues, from urban planning use cases to public health and education. Hundreds of attendees at Build had the chance to try out HoloLens for themselves – something we hope many more will have the opportunity to do later this year.
In addition to the excitement of the developers in the convention hall, press and third-party observers saw a lot that they liked.
I joined Microsoft just 13 months ago and in that time, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in an array of incredible projects that have the potential to empower people to do good. The pace of change today is incredible – in the industry and at the company. And what is most exciting is that these recent announcements are just a start.