Unlike Google and Apple, Microsoft Build is usually committed to being a developer-heavy event. That means more on-stage coding and developer sessions and fewer Surface announcements. You can, however, expect to hear new info centered around how developers can create experiences for Windows and the other Microsoft 365 services like Microsoft Teams.
Last year’s Build conference saw Microsoft tease what we now know as Windows 11, as well as detail several big features for Teams and Microsoft Edge.
We’re expecting a little bit of the same again this year, and here are some highlights we want to look out for.
How to watch Microsoft Build
Microsoft Build is free to attend this year and is an all-virtual event due to the pandemic. You can register online to listen to or watch various keynotes. The most important keynote kicks off on May 24 at 8:00 a.m. PST. Microsoft has a webpage dedicated to streaming that keynote.
You can expect to hear from Satya Nadella in this keynote. Microsoft specially mentions that the CEO will explain how “Microsoft is creating new opportunities for developers across our platforms.”
Updates or new features for Windows 11
Windows 11 is the future for Microsoft, even with Windows 10 still being around until 2025. The operating system hit broad deployment status, which means almost everyone can try it out now on supported PCs. That said, we’re looking out for Microsoft to announce Windows 11-related features and updates at Build 2022.
Leading our list is a big update for the Widgets experience in Windows 11. Based on a tweet from a Microsoft leaker, we do believe that third-party widgets could be on the way soon for the OS.
We’ve also heard from Windows Central that developers were already briefed on how third-party widgets might work. So, what better time to announce it than Microsoft Build, where developers are front and center?
Other than that, there could be big news about the next big update for Windows 11. We say this because Microsoft recently made an interesting move in the Windows Insider program to “merge” the Beta and Dev testing channels to get the same builds of Windows — only to split both up again in the weeks before Microsoft Build.
The merge was rumored as a way for Microsoft to quality-test the first featured update to Windows 11 with a wide audience, though the company never confirmed that. An additional tweet from a Microsoft leaker suggesting that this update could RTM soon adds to the speculation. RTM is typically when Microsoft is ready to declare a specific build of Windows stable for release to laptop makers (though it doesn’t do this much anymore).
So, with the two major Windows 11 testing channels now split and RTM coming on the first day of Build, there could be a window for Microsoft to announce the first update for Windows 11.
It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but we do think that the update brings multiple features. Folders in the Start Menu, tweaks for tablet mode, a new task manager, improved search, and live captions are just a few things that could be confirmed for the first major Windows 11 update during Build.
Microsoft has repeatedly mentioned most of these features as coming “soon” to Windows, most recently at an April Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work event, so chances for a solid release date for these and also mentions of Windows news at Build are high.
We also hope to hear more about Tabs in the File Explorer too, which Microsoft hasn’t talked about much since first revealing it back in April.
There are currently 51 different Windows sessions scheduled for Build across various languages, including one with Windows Chief Panos Panay slated for later on May 24.
New features for Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams has been on the boom due to the pandemic and the rise of hybrid work. That said, we expect to hear Microsoft talk about Teams a lot during Build 2022. Microsoft last reported in January 2022 that Teams has 270 million monthly active users, so Build is a great chance to show developers what they can build apps and services for that massive Teams audience.
Last year’s Build saw mention of Together Mode APIs, fluid components. With Teams also now being in the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 and Windows 11, there’s added reason for the company to treat Teams even bigger. For all we know, Microsoft might even talk about Teams in the metaverse, too.
There are well over 100 Build sessions that mention Microsoft Teams by name. Some include “Conversational apps in Microsoft Teams,” “Creating interactive meeting apps for Microsoft Teams,” and “Reach 270M users and grow your business with Microsoft Teams.”
The new Outlook app for Windows
Microsoft has been working on a new version of Outlook for Windows for a while. The year 2020 saw MacOS get a new Outlook app, and we hope to hear more about the new features coming for a new “One Outlook” app on Windows at Build.
Microsoft actually already confirmed the new app is in testing with Beta channel Office Insiders, but it won’t be too surprising if breakout sessions at Build mention the app, too.
As a recap, the new Outlook client is streamlined and more efficient, based on the Outlook.com experience, but also with cool features like Sweep, Pinned items, Meeting coordination, a Calendar Board, and integrations with Microsoft To Do.
There are currently seven total sessions for Outlook at Build. The most interesting seem to be “Relevant Notifications Across Microsoft 365 & Windows” and “Extending Teams Apps to Office and Outlook.”
More on Microsoft’s Android efforts?
Rumors indicated that Microsoft created a new organization called Android Microsoft Platform and Experiences (AMPX). With that in mind, we do wonder if Microsoft Build will focus more heavily on Android experiences this year. A quick search reveals seven sessions dedicated to Android, so we’re looking out for some Microsoft on Android news, too.
We hope to hear more about the Windows Subsystem for Android and running Android apps on Windows 11. Other things we hope to hear about could be OS updates or more on how developers can build Android apps for the Surface Duo 2.
Sessions for “Bringing Android Apps to Windows” and “Develop Windows apps on and for a rich ecosystem of platforms and devices” add to our nudge.
More on the Metaverse
The Metaverse is the next big thing for all the major technology giants, so we won’t be surprised to hear Microsoft talk about this during Build. A leaked session indicated that Microsoft was planning to highlight Teams integrations with the Metaverse, so we’re hoping that there could be more on that. In the past, the company has also talked about its vision for working in the metaverse together with Microsoft Mesh. These are all topics that might re-emerge during Build.
A specific session titled “Microsoft Build Into Focus: Preparing for the metaverse” could dive deeper into these plans.
It’s rare for Microsoft to talk about physical hardware during Build, but we do hope that that could change this year. We know that Microsoft’s partner, Lenovo, has the new Snapdragon 8cX Gen 3 ThinkPad X13s coming out later this year. With the company going all-in on ARM last year by enabling 64-bit app-emulation in Windows, we wonder if there could be new Microsoft or partner hardware to support this.
Last year Microsoft announced the Snapdragon Developer Kit, which resembles Apple’s Mac mini developer kit, so we wonder if a follow-up could be in the works to support ARM-based Windows 11 app development. It’s just a wild guess, though, as we’ve had no indication of any new ARM-based hardware from Microsoft itself. That usually comes in the fall during Surface events.
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