Winning developers and the trust of enterprises are two of the biggest arenas of competition between the major cloud providers today and for this reason, every Build for the last six years has been a determining event for Microsoft.

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SwissCognitiveBuild 2019 was no different as a steady stream of news focused on many of the key technologies (and buzzwords) that have become vital to developers: cloud, open source, serverless, edge computing, blockchain and mixed reality, to name a few.

But at the epicenter of everything was artificial intelligence (AI), which has become fundamental to Microsoft’s positioning with developers, in its post PC and Windows-centric era. AI was at the heart of the future scenarios for human-machine interaction CEO Satya Nadella showcased during his keynote as well as most of the event’s major announcements. Let’s take a closer look at the highlights and what they mean for Microsoft’s strategy and the market moving forward. 

Nadella took the opportunity of his keynote to frame Microsoft’s strategy, which, unlike previous years, is currently being delivered with unprecedented clarity and precision. The strategy’s four main platforms — Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 (which includes Power Platform) and Gaming (which wasn’t covered at the event) — provide ample opportunity for developers to build products around as well as have an enviable flywheel effect across Microsoft’s core cloud businesses. In my view, these pillars are a great way to look at the entirety of Microsoft’s cloud proposition today.

A key enabler spanning this picture is AI, as shown in the Microsoft image below. Microsoft focuses on three main audiences for AI: developers, organizations and industries, and people. The firm’s capabilities can also be broken down between three categories, based on customer maturity:

Incubation — Aimed at helping firms bring AI to every application through its Azure developer tools spanning infrastructure, platform and developer services.

Transformation — Which orients around bringing AI to every business process and concentrates on its packaged business solutions in Azure as well as the Dynamics and Power Platforms.

Productivity — Which is about bringing AI to every employee through the infused AI in Microsoft 365.

This clearly articulates the breadth of Microsoft’s capabilities and sends an unmistakable message to developers that Azure is the best cloud for AI. Customers on stage during the keynote such as Walgreens, Starbucks and BMW reinforced this view.

So too, for the first time, did students.

In a clever move ahead of Build, Microsoft announced attendees could bring their children to the event. The timing coincided with the final leg of its annual student developer competition, the Imagine Cup, which Microsoft held just before the opening keynote. An 18-year-old freshman from UCLA won for his work developing a smartphone-based blood glucose monitor using Azure Machine Learning aimed at tackling the global diabetes epidemic. It was an inspiring showcase of Microsoft’s technology and the keynote’s “new and better world” message.[…]

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