I “virtually” attended both Microsoft Build keynotes this week and found myself neither wowed and impressed or completely bored and disappointed. It seems that Microsoft is still playing the catch up game that they were playing at last year’s Build conference while simultaneously joining the larger community, which is a good thing.
On the catch up side of things, Microsoft unveiled “Cortana”, a new virtual personal assistant a la “Siri”. I must say, though, Cortana has a great deal of potential and may even surpass Siri in usefulness. Microsoft discussed that they interviewed actual personal assistants in the design of Cortana and that is borne out in the way that the software learns about users. Cortana learns your habits and will even dig through your data (if you give the software permission) to provided relavent information, like times of upcoming flights. Microsoft seems to be putting quite a few eggs in this basket as all search on phones seems tied back to the Cortana assistant. Will this be available on the desktop sometime? I hope so.
Microsoft also unveiled features of Windows Phone 8.1 and the new update for desktop, Windows 8.1 update. I have liked Windows 8 since its initial launch and this latest refinement is welcome and very nice. You could call this release, “The Nod to Desktop Mouse Users”. They have added right-click context menus back and will detect if you don’t have a touch screen and have the UI respond more effectively. Also, they showed an image of the traditional start menu coming back. I’m not sure if that is in this release or not, but I (and about 100 million other Windows desktop users) are definitely hoping so.
One thing that I found very interesting was that it looks like Microsoft is trying to take their place at the table of internet giants, those giants who have already realized that the Internet is a cooperative venture. I think Microsoft has finally broken out of their walled garden where they once managed the operating system, application software, development tools, and (in some cases) hardware.