Microsoft has taken over San Francisco’s Moscone West convention center this week for Build, a three day extravaganza for developers who work on its platforms. The company is kicking it all off with a massive two-and-a-half hour keynote Wednesday morning, which will feature appearances and product announcements from Microsoft’s top executives.
Here’s what we can expect from the event:
More details about Windows 10
It has been more than 6 months since Microsoft first unveiled Windows 10. Since then, the company has provided more details about features like the return of the Start menu, the launch of Cortana for PCs and a new Xbox app that’s designed to make this a strong update for gamers. But there are still a few glaring pieces of missing information.
First off, Microsoft has yet to announce a release date for the new operating system. AMD’s CEO said that Windows 10 will be coming in July, and Microsoft has previously said that it’s aiming for a summertime release. That would line up well with the bump in PC purchases during back to school season, so it makes sense for there to be a big push right around that time.
Then, there’s the matter of Windows 10’s pricing model. Operating Systems group chief Terry Myerson spent a lot of time at Microsoft’s last Windows 10 press event touting the benefits of “Windows as a service” which would seem to indicate some sort of subscription-based plan for the Windows 10 update. Right now, all we do know is that Microsoft will offer the update for free to existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users for the first year after launch.
Since this is a developer conference, expect a focus on the Windows 10 Universal App Platform, as well. That system, which as already been announced, allows developers to create one core application and then build a customized user interface for tablets, smartphones, PCs and even televisions through the Xbox One.
Shiny new hardware
The new software should also bring with it some new hardware ready to take advantage of what Windows 10 has to offer. Microsoft is reportedly working on four Lumia handsets to take advantage of the new phone software, and some rumors have said that the company plans to unveil the Surface Pro 4.
It’s not yet clear what we’ll see on Wednesday, but it could provide a better idea about Microsoft’s hardware product road map for the Windows 10 era.
Reaching across platforms
Microsoft’s own mobile and desktop operating systems will undoubtedly be the focus for this year’s event, but we’ll likely see some signs of Microsoft’s ecosystem on other platforms like iOS and Android, similar to what the company showed off at Build last year. It makes even more sense, considering the acquisition spree Microsoft has pursued in recent months, gobbling up smaller startups to power mobile apps on operating systems besides Windows.
In addition, some rumors have pointed to the company unveiling a system that will allow Android developers to easily port their apps to smartphones that run Windows. That could be huge news for Microsoft’s smartphone ambitions, which have been hampered by a lack of up-to-date apps available for its mobile platform. Offering a path for Android developers to bring their apps to Windows Phone could make it a more appealing platform.
Amazon has no easy time getting Android developers to port their apps to an ever-so-slightly different version of Android, so it’s hard to say how successful a porting scheme might be.
With an audience full of developers, this will be a perfect time for Microsoft to unveil more details about the augmented reality headgear that it announced in January. The company has been trickling out information about the new gear ever since its unveiling, but Build gives Microsoft a chance to talk about developing apps for the device.
Microsoft will need to sell devs on its ambitions to bring about an era of three-dimensional “holographic” computing, and in order to do that, the company will need to give them the tools to create apps for the HoloLens.
Of course, there’s always a chance that Microsoft has something else up its sleeve, too. Stay tuned to GeekWire for all our live coverage of Build starting Wednesday morning.