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Microsoft Build: Windows 10 'Redstone' and HoloLens will star at Microsoft's dev conference

Mark Hachman | March 29, 2016
Last year's Build was about promises. This year, Microsoft needs to present developers with a plan for why they should continue buying in to Windows.

A year ago, Microsoft rolled into its Build developers conference on a wave of momentum. A series of public Windows 10 betas had fans cheering, and Microsoft promised that its platform would save Windows phones and PCs alike. 

But now it’s 2016, and the confetti has long since blown away. At this week’s Build, which kicks off Wednesday morning, app developers will demand to know how Microsoft plans to deliver on its promises. Specifically, they’ll want the status of tools that port apps from Android and iOS to Windows, along with details on how they can monetize those apps. 

These are very developer-facing issues, but don’t expect an end to the razzle-dazzle, either, as Microsoft should use Build 2016 to talk up HoloLens in earnest.  And behind it all? Microsoft will dig into “Redstone,” the next branch of Windows 10, and the platform upon which everything Microsoft rests.

Windows moves into ‘Redstone’ territory

Windows will always be a central focus of Build, and the conversation is now turning toward “Redstone,” the next iteration of Windows. Windows 10 is the “last” version of Windows, and the first piece of Redstone should be rolled out as a major update to Windows 10 later this year.

Sources close to Microsoft have indicated that we’ll see some fairly significant Windows 10 news during the keynote. Specifics haven’t yet leaked, but it’s worth noting that Windows 10 Insiders are already using the so-called “rs” or “Redstone” build, and what Microsoft has disclosed indicates we may see some major facelifts to various Windows 10 apps—Maps, for example. 

microsoft maps new look
Microsoft’s Maps app features a redesigned interface.

Rich Turner, a product manager for Windows, tweeted (then deleted) that Build attendees are going to “freak out” over Redstone’s new capabilities. Possibly a smarter Cortana, maybe?

And don’t forget: While Windows 10 is now almost nine months old, Microsoft still hasn’t completed its “year of Windows.” For example, Windows 10 IoT for embedded devices has yet to formally launch. So we expect that sometime during the two-day Build conference, Microsoft will show us greater synergy between Windows 10 and smart home devices... and maybe cars?

The future of Windows Mobile

Developers are still looking to Microsoft for a concrete vision of its Windows Mobile phone platform. Indeed, since Microsoft announced the Lumia 950/XL and Windows 10 Mobile late last year, Microsoft’s mobile market share has continued to fall—it’s now down to about 1 percent.

So now, in 2016, Microsoft appears to be positioning third-party phones like the HP Elite X3 as its future. Like a similar phone from Acer, the Elite X3 is aimed at large companies that buy hardware in fleet purchases. As such, the Elite X3 is is positioned as the perfect Windows Mobile companion for sharing an ecosystem with Surface tablets, Windows 10 notebooks, and pure enterprise solutions like Azure and the Surface Hub.


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