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Microsoft's Build Conference Shines a Light on Its Priorities

Among other things, the software giant is putting a lot of effort into simplifying workflows for developers and end-users.

Unlike the product reveals made at Microsoft’s  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report Surface hardware events, the new offerings revealed at Microsoft’s annual Build conference are mostly aimed at developers and other IT pros.

But like recent Surface events, recent Build conferences do show how much the software giant’s R&D efforts have improved and evolved in recent years, and also how much its strategic thinking has changed for various products and end-markets.

While this year’s Build conference has naturally been an online-only event, Microsoft has once more used Build to reveal and/or launch a number of new app updates, services and developer solutions. Major announcements include:

  1. A slew of enhancements and new developer integrations for the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform, which remains in pitched battle with Slack  (WORK) - Get Slack Technologies, Inc. Class A Report. These include support for customizable team-building templates, better chatbot support, and integrations with the Power Apps platform for building custom business apps, the Power Automate platform for creating business workflows and Microsoft’s Power BI business intelligence software.
  2. Project Reunion, an effort to create a common developer environment for traditional Win32 Windows apps and apps based on the newer Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Reunion also decouples app development from Windows releases.
  3. The acquisition (following media reports to the effect) of Softomotive, a developer of popular software for automating business processes. Microsoft says it plans to integrate Softomotive’s software with Power Automate, while stating the move expands Power Automate’s out-of-the-box automation capabilities.
  4. The release of the first Office web app “experiences” based on Microsoft’s Fluid Framework, which was announced a year ago and aims to help app users better collaborate on things such as tables, charts and task lists (historically a strong point for Alphabet’s  (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report G Suite).
  5. The launch of a public preview for Project Bonsai, an Azure machine learning service for creating and improving automated industrial control systems.
  6. The launch of a public preview for the previously-announced and ambitious Azure Arc platform, which lets users manage resources across Azure, public clouds and on-premise infrastructures.
  7. The Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, the first in what’s expected to be a series of app/service solutions targeting specific industries.

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While these announcements often differ a lot from each other, one common theme for several of them is an interest in improving and/or simplifying workflows, whether for developers, office workers or IT admins.

Also, it’s hard to overlook how many of these announcements specifically target areas that CIOs have been paying more attention to (and often, allocating more spending towards) in recent years, such as public cloud services, collaboration tools and process automation.

Overall, much like the smorgasbord of announcements that public cloud arch rival  (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report makes each year at its AWS re:Invent conference, Microsoft’s Build announcements do generally show a strong interest in both skating to where the puck is going and addressing present-day pain points for customers and developers.

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