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Microsoft Build 2017

Microsoft aims to empower every developer for a new era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge

Digital technology and its impact on every corner of our lives is profound today. Every part of our economies and our society, whether it’s precision agriculture or precision medicine, is being shaped by the advances in digital technology.

The opportunity for developers to have broad, deep impact on all parts of society has never been greater — and with all this opportunity comes enormous responsibility, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the audience during his keynote speech at Build 2017 on Wednesday.

It is essential that technologists have a principled approach. In our design choices is the code for the future. At Microsoft, we’re guided by our timeless values and principles. First, to empower people and amplify their capability and ingenuity with technology.

Collage of photos of people and places around the world, with the words Opportunity &Responsibility

Next, we must have inclusive design to bring more empowerment to more people. We want to use advances in technology to make it possible for more people to benefit from computing and for more people to participate economically in our society.

Also critical is ensuring that we build trust in technology. We must take accountability for the algorithms we create and the technology that we build. These timeless values, these design principles are going to help us create the future.

At Microsoft, we don’t celebrate technology for technology’s sake, we celebrate what others create and build with technology.

We’re also grounded in the notion that we must create developer opportunities that will enable maximum impact. Today, developers building on top of Microsoft’s platforms are able to reach over 500 million Windows 10 monthly active devices, 100 million commercial Office 365 monthly active users and more than 140 million monthly active users of Cortana. There are 12 million organizational entities in Azure Active Directory, representing the depth and breadth of small, medium and large businesses using cloud services. What’s more, 90 percent of the Fortune 500 firms are using the Microsoft Cloud.

By pushing boundaries with the applications and experiences they build — innovations like agents, bots and new, conversational interfaces — developers drive the evolution of platforms. As a result, today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world is evolving to a new world of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge.

Three attributes define this evolution.

Graphic showing a relationship between multi-device, artificial intelligence and serverless, along with intelligent cloud and intelligent edge

The first is that we’re moving from a world of single devices to a world of multiple devices. This is true of personal computing and the devices we connect with in our work and lives each day. It’s also true on a factory floor or in a hospital because of the proliferation of sensors and IoT devices. Developers require platforms that connect all of these devices.

But it’s not just the richness that happens in the app model as you span devices; there is the evolution of the device itself that’s happening because of new, natural interfaces — speech, vision, ink and touch that enable new, multi-modal and agent-based interfaces spanning all devices.

With more compute power developers are able to collect the enormous amounts of data these devices create, reason over that data and turn it into knowledge. So, artificial intelligence, which is being crystallized by this infinite capacity and richness of data, is also getting distributed to the edge. Put simply, data has gravity and computational power will move to it.

As we write these new applications, we need new techniques — new ways to manage the resources to manage the complexity of distributed computing. That’s where serverless computation comes in. In a world where developers want to invoke functions and write them in response to events, serverless computing is changing the nature of these distributed applications.

The combination of multi-device, AI everywhere and serverless computing is driving this new era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.

And these innovations are happening today.

Swedish industrial automation company Sandvik Coromant makes precision metal-cutting tools and has invested in software systems to protect against and predict anomalies on these machines before they happen. Their existing Azure-based application collects data from equipment on the factory floor and reasons over that data in the cloud to make these predictions.

With Azure IoT Edge, Sandvik Coromant is now moving this application to the edge, allowing it to take that cloud functionality and export it to run on IoT devices on the factory floor. The ability to have the compute power, logic and reasoning where the data is, is transforming its business. This is the power of the intelligent cloud working in harmony with the intelligent edge.

Now, consider a hospital, a construction site or a manufacturing plant. What do these three very different locations have in common? Safety is a top priority. Imagine if we took existing commodity cameras, the power of Azure Stack at the edge and AI vision capability to turn these physical places into their digital twins. Doing so enables organizations to apply business policies that recognize the relationships between people, places and things and ultimately turns these places into AI-driven safety zones.

This is just one example of how we can stretch the cloud to create a mesh of interconnected devices and services. The intelligent edge becomes the interface between the computer and the real world. These are early days, but we are excited for the potential of applying AI to enhance workplace safety and the promise of this technology to transform industries while improving safety, security and productivity.

This same application pattern will impact everyday applications that we all use, too. Imagine this new application model of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge changing how you communicate and stay productive in the car, or even how meetings take place.

Consider the number of devices we’re using every day. By 2020, it’s estimated that there will be 30 billion connected devices, according to the IDC research group, with many people using multiple devices during the course of a day. The ability to move experiences from device to device requires us to orchestrate these devices using the cloud as the control plane.

Today, the Microsoft Graph enables developers to take rich data underneath all of the Office applications, people and their activities: their schedules, their plans and their projects. With Windows 10 as a service, and Project Rome, devices are now part of the Microsoft Graph too. This combination of people, devices and activities, the richness and uniqueness of the Microsoft Graph, enables developers to build entirely new experiences that span the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge.

Graphic shows intelligent cloud surrounded by intellingent edge

And with Microsoft Teams and Cortana, two services leveraging the intelligent edge and the Microsoft Graph, developers can create systems of intelligence that will fundamentally change the future and culture of work.

Take meetings, for example. Most people think about meetings as a one-time thing, but the reality is people come together, collaborate beforehand and during, and then want to be able to access the artifacts after the meeting. There are multiple people, multiple devices — a single cloud service is not sufficient. You need a new programming model, an intelligent meeting, built using the Microsoft Graph, Office 365, Azure and Windows.

In this increasingly digital world, each one of us as developers has enormous opportunity to imagine the impossible and make it real. And this is much more than any technology choice we make. The choice we must make is to cultivate empathy, focus on where we can have impact and amplify that technology at scale.

This is the power we have. At Microsoft, we’ve always been inspired by developers and their passion to push us forward.

One such developer is Haiyan Zhang, innovation director at Microsoft Cambridge, who through her ingenuity, curiosity and perseverance created a tool to help Emma Lawton, a graphic designer diagnosed at 29 with Parkinson’s disease, draw a straight line — and write her name — for the first time in a very long time.

These two amazing women continue to collaborate and dream about what’s possible with the hope that their ideas and the technology they create will help change the lives of others, too.

There is a tremendous opportunity for all of us to have broad impact. What will define this time is the choices we make. Let’s tap into this opportunity. Let’s responsibly exercise our responsibility. Let’s not only imagine the future, let’s create it together.