Microsoft's Build 2016 developer conference is happening right now, and it's just made some big announcements related to Windows 10 and several of its other products. Let's start with what's coming up for Windows 10.
Because this is a developer conference, a lot of the changes announced are behind-the-scenes items that you won't ever see. However, you will eventually see the results in future apps and features. We're going to cover the ones that you'll notice the most.
The next big update for Windows 10 is going to be the "Anniversary Update" this summer. It will improve how you interact with Windows and make some changes to other core features.
First up, the update will expand Windows Hello, which lets you log into your computer with facial recognition, to let you log into participating websites, such as USAA. It will also add support for fingerprint scanners.
Microsoft is introducing "Windows Ink." This is an extension of its pen technology that makes it easier to use a tablet or touch-screen computer like you use pen and paper. This includes a number of pen-related apps for taking notes and sketching.
The note-taking app is smart, so if you write "Meeting tomorrow" it can put it on a calendar and remind you. The sketching app works like a notepad, including a virtual ruler for drawing straight lines and adjusting the sizes of shapes you draw.
Windows Ink also will integrate with other apps. In the Windows Maps app, you can draw a line between a starting point and an ending point and the app will give you directions between them. It can also find hiking routes.
For Microsoft Office, you can do natural text editing or use the ruler to place objects in PowerPoint. Adobe Illustrator lets you combine the pen and touch, so you can use your fingers to hold a virtual stencil and use the pen to draw around it.
Microsoft is heavily pushing apps on Windows 10, especially universal apps. These are apps that developers can program once but will work on Windows, Windows Mobile, Xbox and any other hardware running Windows.
Microsoft is working hard to make this as easy as possible for developers, and has even launched an app converter. This automatically takes a program and converts it to a universal app with as little headaches as possible. So, you could start seeing a lot of your favorite programs showing up in the Windows 10 app store soon.
Universal apps can also take advantage of built-in Windows features like speech recognition and Windows Ink using very little additional code. So, expect more apps to have those features as well.
Microsoft is doubling-down on its personal digital assistant Cortana. It imagines a future where most interaction is done through voice and is working to make talking to Cortana as conversational as possible.
That means better artificial intelligence and "bots" everywhere handling tasks for you. It actually already started exploring this area with a chat-bot called Tay earlier this week. The chat bot was only up for a day because Microsoft made the mistake of letting it learn from the Internet, and it quickly turned into the worst version of humanity. Microsoft acknowledges its mistake and is changing its approach for the future.
In the meantime, Cortana is getting an upgrade for better language processing, joke telling and integration with more apps, including Outlook. Cortana will also be available from the Windows 10 lock screen so you don't have to log in to ask a question.
In addition to Windows 10, Microsoft talked more about its HoloLens system. This headset lets the user see "holograms" in the real world.
Microsoft has gotten a number of partners making apps, including NASA, Volvo, VW, Airbus, Lowe's and plenty more. Case Western Reserve University has the Holographic Academy Program, which lets medical students virtually examine inside the human body.
At $3,000, HoloLens is way out of reach for the average user. However, as it trickles into corporate environments, expect prices to fall.
The Build 2016 conference is going on for a few more days. If there are any other important announcements, we'll let you know.