Microsoft Build may be a developer conference, but it often provides an exciting first look at how we'll be using Windows in the future. This year's event was all about AI. We saw the first Cortana-powered smart speaker, and got a tease at how artificial intelligence will improve our Windows apps.
We also spent a ton of time in Microsoft's Mixed Reality Headset, which will be getting its own set of motion controllers soon. From surprise app announcements to long-awaited Windows features, here's what you missed from Microsoft Build 2017.
Photo: Andrew Freedman / Tom's Guide
Watch out, Alexa -- Microsoft's answer to Amazon Echo is officially here. The Harman Kardon Invoke is the first Cortana-powered smart speaker, utilizing Microsoft's virtual assistant to tell you about the traffic and weather while also letting you make and receive Skype calls. And since it's a Harman Kardon product, we're expecting great audio quality.
Image: Harman Kardon
Some of the best Windows 10 Creators Update features will extend to your iOS and Android devices. For example, you'll be able to use OneDrive on iMessage to easily send files and photos, and can take advantage of Pick Up Where You Left Off to start a project on your PC and wrap it up on your iPhone. We're not sure what the future holds for Windows Phone, but at least we'll get to use some of Windows' best features everywhere else.
In one of the biggest surprises of the show, Microsoft revealed that iTunes is finally coming to the Windows Store. Why is this such a big deal? Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 S operating system will run exclusively off of Windows Store apps, meaning iTunes users won't be penalized if they pick up one of the affordable notebooks running the lightweight, cloud-based version of Windows.
You can't have a virtual reality platform without motion controls these days, and Microsoft's new headsets are no exception. The company took the wraps off of its own set of motion controllers for the upcoming Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which will feature all of the controls you need to interact with virtual objects without making you set up external trackers like on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. You'll be able to get them bundled with Acer's Mixed Reality Headset this fall for $399.
The next big Windows 10 Creators Update is coming this Fall, and it's all about uniting all of your devices. With new features like Timeline and Pick Up Where You Left Off, it'll be easier than ever to start a project or task on one Windows machine and finish it on another. You'll also get a universal clipboard across devices, as well as a new OneDrive folder that will let you easily access your most important documents anywhere.
VR and HoloLens users will be able to inhabit the same virtual worlds, as we learned firsthand while adventuring through an island on both headsets. Developers will be able to make Universal Windows Apps that work seamlessly across both virtual- and augmented reality platforms, meaning you'll have access to the same immersive content whether you pick up a $299 Mixed Reality Headset or shell out $3,000 for a developer HoloLens. That type of cross-platform capability could prove crucial for both collaborative work and play.
Photo: Andrew Freedman / Tom's Guide
On top of bringing Cortana to the smart home, Microsoft is helping developers integrate all types of AI functionality into your favorite apps. In a demo we saw, a user was pinching to zoom and playing games with gesture controls alone, as well as having their speech translated in real time in PowerPoint. It's an exciting taste of just how smart our apps will get in the future.