What to expect at Microsoft Build 2018

Microsoft's Build conference is May 7-9 this year, and it's quickly approaching. The event is Microsoft's opportunity to outline not only what new developer tools they'll be introducing but also their own vision for their own platforms and industry as whole. Each year we examine what might be coming at the conference, and this year will be no different. We'll try to outline our expectations and point out some other possible announcements.

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Visual Studio

Microsoft will likely highlight some of the enhancements coming to their popular IDE. Both Visual Studio on PC and Visual Studio for Mac have some planned updates that will likely be covered and are already available in preview. Based on the previews available, these are the major new features coming:

Visual Studio 2017 15.7 for PC

  • UWP updates for latest Windows 10

    • Updates to Blend inline with XAML Designer changes from last fall

    • Visual State Management and Animation tooling

  • Updates for C++ Development

    • Standard Conformance improvements

    • Code analysis and Intellisense improvements

    • Spectre variant 1 Mitigations

  • Improvements for Xamarin

    • XAML editing improvements to Intellisense

    • New modern project templates

    • Android improvements (faster emulator booting) and Apple improvements (static types, smaller apps, faster app start up, reduced memory usage)

  • NuGet

    • Migration tool for moving from packages.config to PackageReference

Visual Studio 2017 7.5 for Mac

  • Razor, JavaScript, and TypeScript editors are being added

  • .NET Core 2.1 and C# 7.2 compatibility added

  • .NET Standard and Xamarin.Forms project templates

  • Reliability and performance improvements

We're also more than a year beyond Visual Studio 2017's release, so it's possible Microsoft could talk about the next version. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a new release sometime next year. Visual Studio 2017 is internally numbered 15, so it's possible we could hear something about Visual Studio 16 for the coming year.

Windows 10

Microsoft also has the "Spring Update" (also called Redstone 4) planned for Windows 10, and it's possible that its release could coincide with Build. The rumored planned rollout date is May 8th (right in the middle of Build) so I would expect them to give at least a little bit of time covering features in the release. The Spring Update does have a lot of enhancement, the post interesting of which include:

  • Timeline - a visual timeline of the desktop that allows the user to jump back into work that they were doing previously. It shows files and sites accessed in the past 30 days from any connected devices including iOS and Android phones and tablets.

  • Nearby sharing -- This feature allows you to share files over Bluetooth. Similar to Apple's AirDrop feature.

  • Focus assist - A do not disturb mode for your Windows 10 device.

  • Password recovery for local accounts

  • Graphics settings - New settings make it easier to toggle between integrated or dedicated graphics chips for laptops. Allows you to choose between power usage and performance.

  • Edge - The ability to mute tabs.

  • Fluent Design -- Enhancements to the Windows 10 visual style.

Also, we wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft shares some of their plans for what will be coming in the Fall Update (Redstone 5).

Xamarin

Microsoft also uses Build to announce big changes that are coming to Xamarin's cross platform tooling since they acquired them a couple of years ago. Xamarin.Forms 3.0 is currently in preview so an announcement about it's release seems quite likely. Xamarin already has listed many of the upcoming features on its roadmap page, but I'll list some of the highlights here:

  • Globalization - RTL support

  • Adding the ability to set styles through CSS to complement XAML

  • Accessibility -- Added focus order and tab index.

  • Improvements to GTK Linux and MacOS backends.

  • FlexLayout -- A new box layout system with CSS.

  • All code moved to .NET Standard 2.0

One of the big question marks this year will be whether Microsoft has any further XAML Standard announcements. Initially it seemed as though Microsoft was moving in the direction of unifying the XAML language that it could be used interchangeably between UWP and Xamarin.Forms (with WPF potentially as well). Since Microsoft announced it last year it's seen only limited development while it's scope has also been scaled back considerably. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft has to say about further development into this area since its future is unclear.

.NET Core 2.1

Microsoft has a new release of .NET Core on the horizon with some interesting enhancements. A release of a new version seems possible, and there is a .NET Core 2.1 roadmap available. The biggest features include:

  • Improved build time performance.

  • .NET Core Global tools that let use the tools from anywhere.

  • Improved HttpClient performance.

  • Windows Compatibility Pack that adds key libraries like System.Drawing to make it easier to port from Windows Framework to .NET Core.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are great web apps that behave just like native apps. These apps come with a number of modern web technologies (Service Worker, Fetch networking, Cache API, push notifications, Web App Manifest) that enable the apps to have native-like capabilities. These include features like offline mode, instant loading, push notifications, background refresh, and the ability to be locally installed. Microsoft has been working on adding better support for PWAs into Edge and Windows 10, and they're even going a step further by allowing these types of app into the Windows Store. Microsoft even plans to use the Bing Crawler to automatically index and convert popular PWAs so that they're visible in the Store. The main points I'd expect Microsoft to hit about Progressive Web Apps are as follows:

  • PWAs are web sites (or apps) that look and behave like native apps

  • PWAs coming to Windows Store

  • Microsoft provides a PWA builder tool

  • Developers can submit PWAs or MS will auto submit some using Bing crawler

PWAs are also interesting since they can potentially replace native UWP apps in Windows 10 so we'd also expect Microsoft to emphasize their vision of each platform, how they overlap, and what use cases they think fit each technology best.

Azure

It's very likely Microsoft will discuss some current and new features for their Azure platform. Serverless applications will probably continue to be a prominent topic for the platform, and I'd also expect to see some more talk around the Cosmos DB and Graph API. Cloud, AI, and Cognitive Services will likely be discussed as well.

Windows Polaris

There's been a rumor floating around for some time that Microsoft is looking at producing a more modular OS with Windows 10 Core at its base. This would also be an opportunity to remove a lot of legacy code while improving security and performance. This would create some questions, though, as far as compatibility with Win32 apps (if it turns out to be true).

Such a platform could scale between traditional PCs, 2 in 1 devices, mobile devices, Xbox, HoloLens, and all the way down to IOW devices. It's also rumored Microsoft might have some interest in pairing a version of this OS with a new foldable mobile device (Andromeda). This is all speculation, but it's possible some of these rumors could creep into an announcement at the show.

See us at Build

GrapeCity will be attending Build this year with some of our own new products to announce. Feel free to stop by the booth to say "Hi", chat about industry news, and check out what's new.