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From Windows 10 to the next Surface, here’s what we expect from Microsoft BUILD

microsoft build  preview satya nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft’s annual BUILD developer conference in San Francisco is the closest thing it has to a fan festival. BUILD serves as its most prominent platform for announcing new products, and sets the tone for the rest of the year. It’s particularly important when a new version of Windows is right around the corner, and with Windows 10 just months from release, the 2015 conference is sure to deliver exciting news. Here’s what you can expect to see in the coming days.

(BUILD 2015 starts at 8:30 a.m. PT April 29: Go to BuildWindows.com to watch the live stream.)

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 debuts

The Surface Pro 3 isn’t old, but it’s still using Intel’s 4th-generation Core processors, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to newer laptops and tablets with newer, more efficient 5th-gen processors. That’s sure to be of interest of Microsoft. It’d be a huge surprise, and a missed opportunity, if Microsoft didn’t announce at least a hardware refresh of the Surface Pro 3’s internals.

Frankly, the real question is not whether the Surface Pro will receive an update. That’s almost certain, and if it doesn’t, Microsoft is being daft. The real question is whether the company will embrace Intel’s Core M, or stick with standard Core. The former can stretch the battery a bit further, but using it would sacrifice performance, and undermine the Surface Pro’s image as a do-anything PC.

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My money is on Core M. Switching to it would let Microsoft build a fan-free, super-thin version of the Pro. If the company doesn’t switch to Core M, then its design options will be more limited, though it could technically still pull off a fan-less design. Whatever the details, though, the Surface Pro is due for a change.

– Will it happen? Yes

Major new Windows 10 build

Windows 10 will undoubtedly dominate this show. Microsoft has talked extensively about Windows 10 in the past, laying out features and plans, but now we’re just a few months away from release. It’s time for the company to show us how previously announced features will come together in a cohesive package.

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That’s not going to be easy. The Windows 10 Technical Preview has been criticized for maturing too slowly, many features still don’t quite work right. Cortana is a shell of what it should be, the Start menu still looks like a work in progress, and notification support is iffy, at best.

Windows-10-Start-menu

If Windows 10 was released in its current state, it wouldn’t be pretty. That means Microsoft is off track and rushing into release, or it’s holding back features for a big new update, or series of updates, that’ll drastically improve the operating system. I have some faith in the company still, so I think the latter is more likely.

– Will it happen? Likely

Windows 10 release date

On a related note, BUILD 2015 is the perfect time for Microsoft to clarify the release date of Windows. Rumors have been flying fast, anyway, and the company has already committed to releasing before winter. If the operating system is not going to be delayed, it’s time for the release date to be announced.

Fans, fear not; it’s very likely to happen. Besides the fact an announcement at BUILD would be perfect timing, leaks of upcoming Windows 10 builds have revealed a change in name from “Technical Preview” to “Insider Preview.” That name suggests a state of development that’s pending release.

– Will it happen? Likely

Windows 10 flagship phone

The release of Windows 10 isn’t just about the desktop, though that’s certainly an area of focus. It’s also about phones. Microsoft claims that the universal app strategy it’s baking into its new operating system will make it functional on a device of any size, so the release of Windows 10 as important for tablets and smartphones as it is for PCs.

That means there’s an excellent chance Microsoft will be showing a brand new flagship phone to go alongside its new OS. But what phone will it be? Leaks suggest it will be called the Lumia 940 and will have a 5.2-inch, 1080p display. There may also be an “XL” model with a 5.7-inch display, resolution unknown. The only other leaked specification was the camera, which is said to boast an incredible 25 megapixels.

RelatedMicrosoft expands phone support in latest Windows 10 preview

All of this information comes from a single source, AdDuplex, which teased the data out of information about the devices on which ads were being served. There’s additional rumors – perhaps better called speculation, really – that a digitizer pen will be included, at least with the larger 940XL.

I agree with the rumor; it’s very likely Microsoft is working on something in the flagship phone arena. But is it the Lumia 940, and will it be ready for BUILD 2015? That’s hard to say.

– Will it happen? Possible

Android apps for Windows 10

A late-breaking rumor, which came courtesy of an opinion piece by long-time Windows journalist Paul Thurrott, suggests that Microsoft is ready to announce Android app support for Windows 10. If correct, this move would be an attempt to address the biggest problem with Windows as a mobile platform: lack of apps. Instantly, Windows Phone 10 would have access to a huge catalog.

Supporting Android apps would be both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a sensible move, and one that’s not without precedent. Android app emulators have been available in Windows for some time. While running apps in an emulator can introduce performance degradation and some unexpected bugs, the experience works well enough most of the time.

On the other hand, as Thurrott points out, this would effectively be an admission of defeat. It would surely make enemies among long-standing Windows developers who’ve supported Microsoft despite its unpopular mobile platform. An announcement of Android support would be a bit of a risk. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

– Will it happen? Maybe

HoloLens release date

HoloLens was the big surprise of the last Microsoft conference. It came out of nowhere and blew away the crowd with a surprisingly innovative and forward-looking implementation of holographic augmented reality. It also looked slick, and the demo translated very well to 2D video thanks to some clever editing on Microsoft’s part.

That doesn’t mean a HoloLens is coming to you soon, though. Jeremy Kaplan, our editor-in-chief, had the chance to use the device. While its holographic capabilities were incredible, it didn’t look anything like what was shown on stage. Microsoft has a lot of work to do before the device is ready to release to businesses, never mind consumers.

Microsoft Hololens 2

We may see more of the device at BUILD. More demos, more announcements, more partners. On the other hand, we may see nothing at all. There are numerous projects throughout Microsoft’s history that have wowed the press, only to disappear without a word later. The Surface brand, for example, was originally coined to describe an interactive tabletop the looked amazing but was never brought to market.

– Will it happen? Nope

Conclusion

BUILD is almost here, so you don’t have to wait long to see if these rumors are confirmed! Check out the livestream of the event and stick with Digital Trends for breaking coverage and hands-on of whatever is announced over the next few days.