Microsoft Build 2021 kicks off with “next generation of Windows” tease

Satya Nadella’s keynote centered the speed of digital transformation and the role of developers in the process, but he also dropped a hint about the biggest update to Windows “in over a decade.”

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Build, Microsoft’s annual developers conference, has officially kicked off its 2021 session with a keynote from CEO Satya Nadella in which he outlined some of the coming events and sessions, as well as dropped hints surrounding coming news about the biggest update to Windows “in over a decade.” 

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Nadella’s keynote was centered on the idea that digital transformation is accelerating, developers will play an essential role in shaping that technology and that Microsoft envisions itself as “the platform for platform creators” in the coming years.

SEE: The best programming languages to learn–and the worst (TechRepublic Premium)

The keynote itself was a brief, high-level overview of the news and breakout sessions coming over the next two days of Build, but a few announcements stood out, including news that Azure app services will now run anywhere on Kubernetes and that Pytorch Enterprise is coming to Azure. 

Nadella didn’t let a ton spill, leaving many of the announcements that are coming to session speakers, but he did mention two big news items; the first being Microsoft’s new integration of PowerFx low-code programming with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that will allow developers to build PowerApps using natural language. 

The particular AI tools that are being added to enable natural language coding are GPT-3, or generative pre-trained transformer 3, a natural language AI model from OpenAI, and Microsoft’s own PROSE software development kit.

Microsoft officials said that GPT-3 integration into Power Apps is the first time it’s being added to a commercially-available Microsoft product, while PROSE was previously added to Power BI, Excel and Visual Studio. 

Perhaps more exciting than natural language development—at least in terms of what it could be hinting at—is Nadella’s teasing of the future of Windows. Toward the end of the keynote, Nadella mentioned upcoming announcements about the future of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, describing the coming changes as “the most significant updates to Windows in the past decade.” 

What that means is anyone’s guess. Nadella also did not specify when that announcement will happen, though rumors do point to a “What’s next for Windows” event sometime in the near future.

Nadella’s own words could hint at what’s coming for Windows with his promise that “we will create more opportunity for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications.” 

SEE: C++ programming language: How it became the foundation for everything, and what’s next (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Nadella also mentioned “unlock(ing) greater economic opportunity for developers and creators” as being a part of the coming changes, while only a few moments earlier mentioning that Windows “lets you choose the hardware you want, works with Linux and Windows as one and has a modern terminal.” Let the speculation commence.

Additional Microsoft Build 2021 coverage can be found at TechRepublic sister sites CNET and ZDNet, as well as at Microsoft’s Build website.

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