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Microsoft BUILD: There is much to chat about

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Beyond the razzle-dazzle of the company’s new Hololens, the biggest takeaway for consumers following the conclusion of this year’s Microsoft BUILD developers’ conference is the importance that the company is putting on ‘chat’ as a platform.
As consumers’ primary screens get smaller — no matter how big phablets become, they’re still less cumbersome and more portable than the average desktop or notebook — and as more and more of the average person’s daily life migrates from analogue to digital, conversation is going to be key.

A bot of bother
Rather than typing or swiping to get things done, Microsoft, like its peers, envisages a very near future where natural language is the interface or the first point of call for any digital task. Part of this will, according to company CEO Satya Nadella, be via chatbots.
Microsoft’s most recent foray into chatbots with Tay may have generated unwanted publicity and the need for a public apology, but the company is certain bots are going to be the answer for plugging the gaps in consumers’ and corporations’ digital lives. Be it filling out forms, managing appointments or retrieving information from the web via natural conversational requests.

A home for Cortana
Chatting with the company’s virtual concierge, Cortana was also high on the agenda at this year’s conference. Just like Apple, Google and Amazon, Microsoft wants to be at the heart of the smart home and, with Cortana to execute voice commands and with connectivity via Windows 10 PC, smartphone, tablets and of course, games consoles, Microsoft has all of the bases potentially covered. Like chatbots, the IoT-packed home of tomorrow is still well and truly still in its conceptual stage but one very positive takeaway from BUILD is that unlike some other companies, Microsoft isn’t looking to splinter operating systems and compatibility even further. It wants to combine the two largest customer facing IoT platforms — OCF and AllJoyn — to ensure interoperability and even greater potential ease of use.

Embracing Android
Remaining on the theme of interoperability and compatibility, Microsoft is also clearly under no illusions that as good as its handset hardware is, Windows Phones are not making any dent on the Android/iOS duopoly. However, according to the latest data, the Windows 10 operating system is a huge hit. It’s running on over 270 million devices and counting and so the company is turning its attention to improving compatibility between Android and Windows. Soon, the Cortana personal assistant app for Android will be able to display all handset notifications on the desktop.

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