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As posted on Windows, AI and Cortana in your house: Get ready for Microsoft Build

Developer conference season has officially kicked into high gear. 

Microsoft Build is about to get underway, and we’re expecting the show will be as jam-packed with news as ever.

This year Microsoft has moved the conference back to Seattle after holding it in San Francisco for a number of years. Whether the location — right in Microsoft’s backyard — is a hint the company has more than usual in store for us isn’t clear. 

But we do know there will be a ton of news to fill the four and a half hours (!!!!) of keynotes and then some. For now, here’s a rundown of everything we’re expecting.

Windows

If there’s one certainty about Build it’s that we’ll hear about what’s next for Windows. Last year at Build we got our first look at the Windows 10 Creators Update, which had been given the nickname Redstone 2.

This year, we expect to hear about what’s reportedly nicknamed Redstone 3. (Build is also when we typically find out the official name of the next version of Windows, too.) There hasn’t been much in the way of leaks about what will be in Redstone 3, but expect improvements on last year’s features as well as updates to core services like Office and its Edge browser. 

Rumor has it the company is also planning a massive update to the look and feel of Windows with a new design language codenamed “Project Neon” (as with Windows, we’ll likely hear the formal name at Build). Windows’ first major design update in years, Project Neon will bring back transparent effects to Windows. More importantly, as PCMag points out, it will also make it easier for Microsoft to translate Windows across other platforms, like HoloLens.

Bots + AI

We already know Microsoft wants to put AI everywhere, and that plan will no doubt continue at Build. During the keynote we’ll hear not only about what’s going on in the labs of Microsoft Research, but also how artificial intelligence is improving the consumer experience as well. 

Likewise, last year was all about bots and they definitely aren’t going away. It’s already been discovered that Microsoft is working on bot integrations for its Bing search engine, so it seems like a safe bet the company plans to open these up to developers during Build. 

Mixed reality

Speaking of HoloLens, expect updates on Microsoft’s ambitious plans for mixed reality. It’s been a year since the company began to open the platform to developers in earnest at last year’s Build, and augmented reality has only become a hotter topic since then.

Image: LONKHUIJSEN/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Developers have now had a full year to tinker with mixed reality, so we’re sure to see a lot of new applications (and, hopefully, some sweet demos.) We’ve also recently gotten our first look at cheaper HoloLens headsets so expect to hear more on that front as well. 

What about mobile?

It was the elephant in the room last year at Build, but not much had changed since: We still have no idea what is going on with Microsoft’s mobile platform. The company continues to issue preview builds for Windows 10 mobile, believe it or not, so the platform isn’t totally dead (though it’s nearly totally irrelevant).

Still, Microsoft needs to have some kind of mobile strategy to enable its cross-platform vision for Windows. Whether we’ll get any updates at Build, however, is another matter. While we may hear a bit about smaller improvements to Windows 10 mobile, don’t expect significant updates, including that long-rumored Surface Phone.

Cortana

Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, will no doubt make a few appearances during the Build keynotes. The company raised some eyebrows this week when Harman Kardon revealed its Cortana-enabled speaker, Invoke

The Invoke’s debut may have been oddly timed, but Build would be the right time to talk about plans for more Cortana-powered devices and how developers can take advantage of the platform — the same way third parties can build skills or app integrations with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. There’s already a Cortana Skills Kit, but it’s not something we’ve heard much about up until now. Expect that to change.  

Other hardware?

Cortana aside, it’s not clear what Microsoft’s hardware plans at Build may be. Surface chief Panos Panay just said that there is no Surface Pro 5 on the way, and yet there’s a mysterious Surface event in Shanghai just after Build. 

Could we get a preview of what’s to come during Build? Perhaps, though it seems unlikely Microsoft would tip their hand so close to the big reveal. That said, Microsoft has surprised us before at Build so we’re not ruling anything out just yet.  

Either way, we don’t have much longer to wait. Check back here as Mashable will be on the ground in Seattle with all the latest updates from the convention center floor. 

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