Microsoft Announces Cloud Services, Developer Tools and Productivity Extensions for Every Developer

At Build 2016, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group, and Qi Lu, executive vice president of the Applications and Services Group, demonstrated how Microsoft Azure services and the Office platform can empower developers to more easily leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, emerging cloud development models and the Internet of Things (IoT) to build their intelligent apps. Microsoft also announced new free development tools to help every developer more easily scale their apps for every platform and reach the largest possible number of customers. Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Developer eXperience, delivered the final Build keynote address to showcase how partners are innovating using Azure, Office and Windows.

“Microsoft is the only cloud vendor that supports the diverse needs of every organization and developer — from core infrastructure services to platform services and tools to software-as-a-service — for any language, across any platform,” Guthrie said. “With 30 regions worldwide — more than every major cloud provider combined — Azure’s massive scale means developers and businesses alike can focus on creating the next generation of amazing applications, not their underlying cloud infrastructure. This makes our cloud the de facto choice for enterprises of today and tomorrow — and today, more than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 agree.”

“In terms of reach, Office is one of the few platforms in the world that provides developers with access to over a billion users across a variety of devices,” Lu said. “The opportunity to build on the Office platform has never been greater. With new extensions and new connections to the Microsoft Graph — an intelligent fabric that applies machine learning to map the connections between people, content and interactions across Office 365 — developers are empowered to build intelligent apps that can transform the landscape of work.”

The intelligent cloud to help developers build their next intelligent app

Guthrie announced on Thursday that Microsoft is helping developers more easily build native cross-platform mobile applications by including Xamarin’s capabilities in Visual Studio Community and also making Xamarin Studio for OS X free as a community edition. In addition, Visual Studio Enterprise subscribers will now have access to Xamarin’s advanced enterprise capabilities at no additional cost. The company also announced a commitment to open source the Xamarin SDK, including its runtime, libraries and command line tools, as part of the .NET Foundation in the coming months.

With these announcements, Microsoft extends its commitment to offering choice and flexibility to every customer across every platform and device — merging the .NET and Xamarin ecosystems together to provide an unmatched mobile development and DevOps experience. Now developers can deliver fully native cross-platform mobile app experiences to all major devices, including iOS, Android and Windows.

Guthrie also announced several new Azure services designed to help developers address today’s operational realities and take advantage of tomorrow’s emerging trends, such as the Internet of Things and microservices. These new capabilities are designed to make Azure the best platform to build the next intelligent app — on Linux or Windows using any language:

  • The general availability of Azure Service Fabric, a microservices application platform developers can use to design apps and services that are available 24×7 at cloud scale. Battle-tested supporting Microsoft cloud services, Service Fabric seamlessly handles application lifecycle management for constant uptime and easy application scaling. Also today, Microsoft announced previews of Service Fabric for Windows Server, for deploying on-premises and other clouds, and Service Fabric for Linux and Java APIs, and said it would open-source the programming frameworks of Service Fabric for Linux later this year.
  • A preview of Azure Functions that extends Azure’s market-leading platform services to serverless compute for event-driven solutions. Functions lets developers easily handle tasks that respond to events common in Web and mobile applications, IoT, and big data scenarios. Functions works with Azure and third-party services, automatically scaling out to meet demand and only charging for the time functions run. With an open source runtime, developers will be able to host Functions anywhere — on Azure, in their datacenter or on other clouds.
  • New Azure IoT Starter Kits available for purchase Thursday. These kits allow anyone with Windows or Linux experience to quickly build IoT prototypes that leverage all Azure’s IoT offerings, for just $50 to $160. In addition, early adopters can now use the Azure IoT Gateway SDK, which enables legacy devices and sensors to connect to the Internet without having to replace existing infrastructure, as well as device management in Azure IoT Hub to maintain and manage IoT devices at cloud scale.
  • A preview of Power BI Embedded, which allows developers to embed fully interactive reports and visualizations in any application, on any device. Guthrie also disclosed that applications can now easily communicate with the fully managed Azure DocumentDB NoSQL service, using existing Apache License MongoDB APIs and drivers.

The Office developer opportunity: unprecedented users, data and intelligence

Microsoft’s Lu, along with Office partners Starbucks Corp., MDLIVE Inc. and Zendesk Inc., showcased how developers can use the Office platform to create new business opportunity and closer customer connections.

Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger showed how Starbucks is developing an Outlook add-in that allows people to send gift cards within Outlook and schedule meetings at nearby Starbucks locations.

“We’re always looking for new ways to engage with our customers outside our stores,” said Martin-Flickinger. “Our work with Office is opening up new opportunities for us to connect with our customers and save them time when they want to combine coffee with meetings. Building on the Office platform is reaching our customers right on their desktop or device and extending the Starbucks Experience to them in new and compelling ways.”

The Microsoft Graph, made generally available last fall, offers developers unified access to insights about how workers can be more productive. Microsoft previewed six new APIs for the Microsoft Graph that let developers link Office 365 data to third-party solutions. For example, one extension automatically compiles and exposes a list of times a group of people are available to meet, making it easier to work across organizations.

Lu also shared how conversational interaction will evolve in the future and how developers can immediately start building apps that engage users in meaningful conversations. The new Skype for Business App SDK and Skype Web SDK announced Thursday allow companies to integrate Skype calls directly within their Web or device offering, greatly enhancing the service and connection they can provide to their customers.

The company also showed off new functionality that lets developers build apps and place them directly into Word, Excel and PowerPoint ribbons.

Finally, the developer portal for Office 365 Connectors is now available for developers to write and publish their own connectors. Connectors deliver relevant content, such as updates on financial records or helpdesk logs, from popular apps and services directly into Office 365 Groups conversations. The developer portal is launching with connectors such as Asana, Salesforce, Trello, Twitter, UserVoice, Zendesk and many more.

Developers and partners innovate on Windows, Azure and Office

  • Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft corporate vice president and chief evangelist, and John Shewchuk, a technical fellow and the “chief geek” for the Developer Experience (DX) team, demonstrated how partners are building on Microsoft’s platforms. As the actor Kevin Hart helped highlight in their opening video, everyone wants to be a developer these days. Guggenheimer and Shewchuk showed a few of the most interesting scenarios, tools and frameworks that developers have been working on recently with Microsoft.
  • Muzik LLC’s new SDK turns Muzik’s headphones into a platform. Developers can take advantage of the wide variety of sensors in the headphones to create apps for Windows, iOS and Android devices.
  • Highspot demonstrated support for the Office 365 Graph and Add-in model, along with embeddable Power BI, as well as intended support for Microsoft Bot Framework, announced at the Build opening keynote.
  • Rita Zhang, a developer in DX, helped show how easy it is to take an existing Spring-based Java application and move it to Microsoft Azure using Pivotal Cloud Foundry. The demo also showcased investments Microsoft has been making to support an S3Proxy for Microsoft Azure Storage through support for the Microsoft Azure Java SDKs.
  • New Microsoft Edge extensions partners were announced, including Pinterest, Reddit Enhancement Suite, Adblock, Adblock Plus, LastPass, Amazon Assistant, Evernote Corp., and Page Analyzer, powered by Vorlon.js.
  • Square Enix Inc. and Io-Interactive AS have begun to use Azure for enabling next-generation gaming in “Hitman.”
  • Vuforia’s Augmented Reality SDK for the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform supports Windows 10 devices, including Microsoft HoloLens.
  • Xbox partners such as Nickelodeon, Dailymotion, NASCAR and Hulu LLC announced plans to bring Windows 10 Universal Windows apps to Xbox One later this year.
  • A collaboration between the Quest Institute Inc. and Microsoft provided the first Windows IoT implementation in space. Three students from Valley Christian Schools in San Jose, Calif., demonstrated their experiment, which will run on the International Space Station and test the pliability of metals.