Redmond View

Microsoft Sends in the Bots

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella envisions the company's new "conversations as a platform," which incorporates AI powered by bots using natural language, as the next UI. Nadella believes this new UI could have as big a shift on computing as the GUI, Web and mobile apps had before it.

The goal is to let people request information from apps and services that can understand contextually what the user needs. "It's about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively to all of our computing," Nadella said during the Build keynote, where he introduced his new conversation-as-a-platform vision.

Indeed, Microsoft isn't the only company with this vision. Rivals Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM and even Facebook all have similar strategies. For Microsoft, Cortana is at the center. Cortana has a long way to go before it reaches Nadella's vision, but it will transcend Windows, he said, and impact Office, iOS and Android and into third-party apps and services.

To embolden developers to incorporate this new UI into their applications, Microsoft launched the Cortana Intelligence Suite for developers. Core to this suite is the new Bot Framework enabling developers to build "rich dialogue capability" into their apps. Also coming are microservices that will bring machine learning, conversational capabilities and support for virtual reality in applications. The Cortana Intelligence Suite will be as critical to this next generation of computing as .NET runtimes are for today's apps, Nadella said. It's reasonable to be skeptical. Ultimately, the true capabilities Microsoft and its developers deliver and broad user adoption will determine this new framework's success.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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