Microsoft just wrapped up its Microsoft Build 2022 developer conference, and honestly, it was excellent enough if you’re a Windows fan. I’m usually pretty vocal in my review of Build – along with different Microsoft conferences – and the continuing lack of focus on the company’s desktop OS. But as is the case, any time I’m critical of something that I watch, nothing makes me happier than to be able to admit that I’m wrong.
The company was clear from the beginning that it wasn’t going to talk about Windows feature updates, and it promised to have exciting news for developers at Build. I expected this to revolve around things like Win UI, but that developer news does translate to stuff that should be exciting for everyone.
For example, Microsoft declared a bunch for Windows on Arm, third-party widgets on Windows 11, changes to the Microsoft Store, etc. That’s a lot.
Why doesn’t Microsoft talk about Windows at Build, and why should it?
The last time the Redmond firm talked about Windows features on stage at Build was in 2017. Joe Belfiore showed off many slated features to arrive in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. When some of those features didn’t send, Microsoft decided that less transparency was the answer, rather than just admitting that some features got delayed. But that’s a story for another time.
At Build in 2018 through 2020, the messaging seemed clear Microsoft doesn’t care about Windows presently. It’s the Azure company now. That’s where the firm has seen the most growth, and that’s where it’s headed. Windows wasn’t going anywhere, but the caption would be Azure if Microsoft got to write the caption.
2021 was a resurgence of the PC market.
2021 was a bit different. The working from home boom caused a resurgence of the PC market, and suddenly Microsoft wanted to do something exciting with Windows again. It put together Windows 11 for a June launch in about nine months, keeping it away from Build.
For this year, you might have expected Windows 11 version 22H2. After all, Windows is back, it’s more of precedence, and there’s less reason to give it a dedicated launch. But still, that’s not the case.
The Build is a developer show, and Microsoft wants to emphasize that the news is aimed at developers. While Google and Apple lay out more consumer-related news at their shows, Microsoft doesn’t want to do that presently. Of course, this is a veritably accessible way to not talk about Windows since all of the Azure news remains the same.
I also take issue with the sentiment. Consumer news is developer news. At WWDC in precisely over a week, Apple will announce new versions of iOS, iPad, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. You can tune in to see what new features your iPhone will get this fall. Is it specific to developers? Probably not. There’s little to do with new features you can confirm your app for, coding examples, or anything like that. The same goes for the Google I/ O keynote.
But here’s why this is still important for developers. It’s showing instigation for the platform. Microsoft not exposing Windows features has historically been a signal that Windows isn’t a priority. You can watch any Google I/ O or WWDC keynote and walk away with no doubt that Google is running full steam ahead with Android and Apple is each- by on iOS. And if they’re all-in, you should be as well, as a developer.
Still, even without Windows 11 feature updates being discussed, I think Microsoft put together a solid Windows show.
There were lots of new Windows things at Microsoft Build 2022.
The show has been different since it went virtual in 2020. Even without Windows talk, there used to talk about other products, with sessions like, “What’s new in OneNote,” “What’s new in Edge,” “What’s new in Outlook,” “What’s new in OneDrive,” and so on. None of those sessions exist presently. Hopefully, that will change when these events go back to in-person, and there’s a real value that has to be offered for people to convince their bosses to give the resources to attend. Remember, when Build was in-person, the cost for a ticket was nearly$, and that doesn’t indeed include travel and accommodations.
But while new consumer-looking weren’t discussed features, the Windows news was pretty significant.
Finally, taking Arm64 seriously.
I’ve been a fan of the concept of Windows on Arm since it was announced in December 2016. Windows has traditionally and primarily run on x86 processors; the entire ecosystem is built around Intel. The idea of supporting a new architecture was exciting to me.
Microsoft is going to release an Arm64 version of Visual Studio 2022.
The platform has had a slow start. Qualcomm’s hardware has been lacking until recently, but more importantly, Microsoft has always treated it like a second-class citizen. For example, when the first Windows on Arm PCs launched, you couldn’t compile a native app unless it was UWP. Support for compiling Win32 apps as Arm64 native was coming after. Another example is that x64 emulation support didn’t even arrive until October 2021, when Windows 11 shipped.
Windows on Arm was a big part of the Microsoft Build 2022 announcements. Microsoft’s caption was a commodity called Project Volterra, although, to me, the most significant announcement was an Arm-native developer toolchain. Along with other things like. NET 6 classics. NET Framework, VC, and more are running natively on Arm. Microsoft is also going to release an Arm64 version of Visual Studio 2022. Everything is in place with the Windows Subsystem for Android and Hyper- V already on Arm.
It is a big deal because Visual Studio 2022 is one of Microsoft’s most complicated applications. The idea that a Windows on Arm machine could be all you need for software development is wild, and it shows a commitment from Microsoft.
What is Volterra?
That’s where Project Volterra comes in. Volterra is hardware. It’s a new dev box from Microsoft that uses a Snapdragon processor, and that’s about all we know. It’s not like the Arm64 dev box announced last year, though. Last year’s Snapdragon 7c- powered dev kit was for testing apps, not building them.
This one is each about building out AI experiences. Microsoft says that most future PCs will have neural processing units, like those built into Snapdragon chipsets. Combined with Azure applying the new Hybrid Loop pattern, developers will be able to apply Volterra to build these new AI applications.
Qualcomm has been pushing the AI angle for Arm.
Qualcomm has been pushing the AI angle for Arm for a while now. Indeed, the initial worth proposition for Windows on Arm was cellular connectivity and battery life. But right now, the base models for WOA PCs are almost all Wi-Fi only, and the battery life isn’t being delivered as promised. The San Diego firm consistently talks about how much better it’s than Intel at AI tasks with its AI Engine.
Third-party widgets are coming.
When Microsoft first reintroduced the concept of widgets with Windows 11, you could only use the ones it offered.
Coming later this year. Any developer will be able to build widgets into their Win32 app or PWA. In one session, the company briefly noted exploring other places for widgets to be displayed on Windows. That means we might see a return of widgets to the desktop, similar to how the search bar was added in a recent Insider Preview build.
You can restore apps from the Microsoft Store.
It’s funny because it’s starting to feel like everything new has already existed in a previous version of Windows. One feature replacing the Windows 8 era is the ability to restore apps on a fresh installation of Windows 11.
Of course, this only applies to apps that you’ve downloaded from the Microsoft Store. Windows can’t just go and fetch Google Chrome for you, so you’ll have to handle that one yourself.
It is a feature that has existed on mobile for ages. When you upgrade your phone, it’s easy to install all of your apps automatically. Now, Microsoft is trying to make that happen on Windows.
The good news is that anyone can put an app in the Microsoft Store now. No modifications are needed. Microsoft also announced that it’s eliminating the waitlist for Win32 apps.
Windows Subsystem for Android improvements.
The Windows Subsystem for Android is getting better. For one thing, it’s now running on Android12.1. The big news is that it, along with the Amazon App Store for Windows 11, will be supported in five new countries.
While WSA is currently only available in the United States, it’s coming to France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK. Unfortunately, the timeline is “before the end of the year.”
Ads in the Microsoft Store.
OK, so none of us are excited about ads, and that’s OK. Still, it’s the idea that Microsoft is investing in the Store that matters. It’s providing developers with incentives and opportunities to distribute their apps through its marketplace.
First of all, developers will be able to advertise their apps in the Store, and you’ll need to be a published developer to be able to do that. It is familiar in app marketplaces and search engines.
There’s also a new pop-up store feature on the web. That’s where developers will be able to advertise their app, probably on their website, and you can install it directly from there.
And ultimately, Microsoft Store listings will show up in Windows Search results. It isn’t an ad, but it’s still a call to action to download an app.
Advertisements aren’t bad, and I say that’s probably the immediate reaction many of us have when we hear “advertisement.” Ads are necessary for a thriving commerce ecosystem, which is all good.
Microsoft Build 2022 was exciting.
As I said, there was no talk about Windows 11 version 22H2 or the features that it’ll offer. That’s fine, even though the timing would have lined up for that. But, Microsoft Build 2022 was an exciting show for Windows enthusiasts like myself.
Microsoft showed more interest in Windows on Arm. Then it has since the platform was present. Even it was introduced as a way to spark invention from Intel, which was substantially producing stale products at that point. But with Apple doing so well using Arm processors, a significant investment is in order.
Still, this wasn’t the show for you. Suppose you want to know the following new features coming to Windows 11. But if you’re just a fan of the platform and where it’s heading, Microsoft build 2022 was awesome.