At its Build 2022 developer conference, Microsoft announced a list of updates aimed at making Windows, Edge, and Teams solutions better for productivity. The software giant has announced a slew of Microsoft Store updates including the ability to display ads and allow users to restore apps when they switch to a new PC to give developers ways to make their apps more discoverable and retain their users. In addition, Microsoft has partnered with Qualcomm to offer Project Volterra as a new microcomputer to help developers build cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
Windows 11 has been one of Microsoft’s biggest areas of focus since its launch in October last year. Although the new operating system has modernized the user experience with features including a center-aligned Start menu and widgets, Redmond is making improvements to these features to improve the user experience.
At this year’s Virtual Build conference, Microsoft announced that it will soon introduce the ability to view apps available on the Microsoft Store directly using Windows Search on PCs running Windows 11. The feature will be initially available to Windows Insiders and is intended to allow developers to make their apps discoverable, without Distracting users from their flow. Users will see a Get it from the store For every list of apps they see in their search results to install the apps of their choice, without requiring them to access the Microsoft Store.
Windows 11 users also get a feature to allow users to automatically restore their apps directly from the Microsoft Store. “This will also help developers retain their customers without having to remind customers to re-download their app,” the company said.
Letting users restore their apps will initially be available for testing in the Windows Insider channel in the near future.
Microsoft is also expanding the Amazon Appstore preview to run Android apps on Windows 11. Currently living in the US, the preview is coming to five additional countries, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK. The company said the expansion will take place by the end of the year.
In addition, the Windows maker introduced Microsoft Store ads to help developers run ad campaigns directly in the Store. It will help Microsoft increase revenue from its Store and allow developers to improve discoverability of their apps.
The company said that ads in the Microsoft Store will start showing through a beta program based on Microsoft Advertising that will be running soon.
Microsoft has also removed the Win32 Application Queue program in the Microsoft Store and is opening it up to all application developers. The update will particularly help increase the number of apps available in the Store for download on Windows 11 systems.
Alongside the Microsoft Store-centric updates, Microsoft at Build 2022 announced support for third-party tools on Windows 11. The company said developers will be able to begin creating widgets as “companion experiences” for Win32 and Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) on startup. Windows 11 later this year. The new experience will be supported by Microsoft Adaptation Cards.
OneNote also gets an updated visual design that will look and feel and have Windows 11-inspired pen and audio functionality. There will be modern visuals to deliver a new user experience. The note-taking app will also get AI capabilities to recognize inputs from voice in the form of dictation, photos using the device’s built-in camera, and via handwriting through a stylus pen.
Microsoft Edge updates
As Internet Explorer bids farewell next month, Microsoft is improving user experiences on Edge to bridge the gap left by its old browser and make the new offering a competitive option against Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari.
One of the biggest changes Microsoft Edge has received between build announcements is the general availability of WebView2 for WinUI 2 and Universal Windows Platform (UWP). The new Embedded Web Control is built on top of the Microsoft Edge Chromium platform.
Citing performance insights from Cerner, Microsoft said WebView2 helped deliver improvements including an 85 percent reduction in rendering time, 33 percent lower CPU usage, and 32 percent lower memory usage compared to traditional solutions available on Internet Explorer.
Microsoft is also improving PWAs on the Edge browser by enabling new APIs and improving their notifications. The company said that core improvements will enable notifications from PWAs to appear as coming from a local app. Users will also be able to access features including the common user interface for the original file sharing platform on PWA.
Additionally, Microsoft is adding the ability for users to find Educational Web Apps (PWAs) alongside native apps in the Microsoft Store.
The Applications page in Microsoft Edge has also been updated with an improved interface. Microsoft has also developed a new Apps Hub experience and enables cross-device syncing of apps in the Edge browser to improve the user experience.
Microsoft Edge also receives a simplified DevTools interface that provides a new, compact and customizable activity bar. This will provide more than 30 tools to help customize workflows for developers.
Microsoft Teams updates
At this year’s Build conference, Microsoft Teams received a feature called Live Share that allows users to share apps in their virtual meetings. The company said it will help with co-viewing, co-editing, and co-creating Teams meetings.
Developers will get new preview extensions through the Teams SDK to allow them to create Live Share experiences for their apps. Initially, companies including Frame.io, Hexagon, Skillsoft, MakeCode, Accenture, Parabol and Breakthru built their experiences on the new feature.
In addition to Live Share, Microsoft introduced the Azure Communication Services application builder model to allow developers to create and publish a sample application for virtual appointments. Users will be able to use the app form to book appointments and join a Teams meeting.
Microsoft has announced the general availability of a new Teams SDK that will help developers build apps for Teams, Outlook, and Office using a single application and deployment model.
Developers offering apps for Microsoft Teams will also be able to start offering free versions of their offerings as Microsoft has introduced in-app purchase within its video conferencing solution.
Updates focused on app development
At this year’s Build conference, Microsoft announced Power Apps with the ability to build a low-code running app from inputs like Figma design files, PDFs, paper forms, and even a hand-drawn app image. The company used cognitive AI technology to enable Power Apps to examine inputs and produce working application controls. The apps created with the new experience will also have data storage.
Microsoft has also partnered with Qualcomm to deliver Project Volterra – a new developer suite based on the Snapdragon computing platform. It aims to help developers create new AI applications using the Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK for Windows. The microcomputer carries a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) to process the AI algorithms locally.
Exact details about the launch of the Volterra project were not disclosed. However, Microsoft said that the system will be released later this year.