Seattle skyline
Though geared towards developers, Microsoft's Build conferences often give a clear direction where the company is heading in the year ahead PHOTO: Ganapathy Kumar

The Microsoft Build conference heads north this year, moving from its San Francisco base to kick off tomorrow in Seattle. 

The three-day conference will give developers a chance to catch up on the plethora of new products and upgrades Microsoft added to its portfolio in the last year as well as offer a sense of where the Redmond, Wash.-based company is headed in the year to come. 

Microsoft made a number of notable releases in the productivity space over the past 12 months that will likely feature highly at the conference as Microsoft fills in the missing holes in the roadmaps of several products.

We'll be looking for more information specifically about Teams, about Office 365 in general as well as its individual components, about SharePoint on-premises, online and in hybrid deployments and about Azure.

Expect to hear more about Windows 10 too, especially now that Microsoft has a six-monthly update cycle, with some of the improvements already appearing in insider builds.

Undoubtedly, Microsoft will also throw some curveballs into the event, so we will be following until the end. 

5 Areas of Interest at Build 2017

But in the meantime, here are five things we will be watching:

1. Teams

One of the really big announcements over the year was the launch of Microsoft Teams, the collaborative working space for teams that left some people confused as to where it fit in Microsoft's growing collaboration portfolio. 

Microsoft has already indicated that it still has a lot to do here, so expect at least one Teams-related announcement over the three days.

The breakout sessions includes one dedicated to Teams working with Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Document Cloud, which enables teams to access, share and collaborate on assets from Adobe Creative Cloud, as well as send and track Adobe Sign agreements using bot and tab.

There’s no guarantee any announcements will come out of this, but the program does advertise a dive into how Microsoft used Teams extensibility framework, Adobe Creative Cloud API and Adobe Document Cloud API to build this integration. 

2. Office

Microsoft recently announced changes to how users will be able to access Office that will go into effect in 2020. The changes include some tight limitations on the use of standalone versions of Office, including the 2016 version.

The move is calculated to push as many people onto the cloud as possible, with the selling point that it gives businesses access to improvements as they are introduced.

Of particularly note among the sessions is one titled,"File Collaboration and Sharing Experiences with OneDrive, SharePoint, and Microsoft Graph." According to the program this will look at connecting Microsoft Graph for programmatic access to files across OneDrive and SharePoint, among other things.

3. SharePoint

After the release of SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Framework over the past year it’s only to be expected that the conference will have an ongoing focus on SharePoint and how Framework can help it.

One session will be focused on building a modern workplace, including team spaces, departmental sites and organizational portals, using modern web development technologies in SharePoint. It will also walk developers through the SharePoint Framework extensibility roadmap and timeline.

4. Cortana

Cortana will also be in the spotlight this week, especially following this week's announcement of a fall shipping date for the Invoke speaker, the Microsoft Cortana-powered answer to the Google Home and Amazon Echo.

According to Microsoft, the new speaker will make and receive calls with Skype, control Microsoft’s music app Groove, and improve productivity with Cortana.

Microsoft expects Invoke to control many IoT devices using the Cortana Skills Kit, which the company announced back in December with an expected February release which came and went with little word from Microsoft.

It looks as if the company will break its silence this week. Build includes a number of sessions on Cortana Skills Kit, including one designed to walk users through the creation of a Cortana Skill, from inception to publishing. 

5. Bots

Microsoft officials spent a good amount of time during Build last year discussing the future of Bots and how the company sees them fitting in its overall portfolio. But with the notable exception of Bots for Skype, the past year hasn't seen much action in the space from Microsoft. 

Bots will nevertheless return to Build once again this year with a number of sessions on the topic, including one that focuses on Bot capabilities, patterns and principles and how Microsoft’s partners will work with the company in this area. 

Setting the Course for the Year Ahead

This is only a small taste of what’s to come over the next three days. As usual a lot of what will be on show, or discussed during the conference, will set the agenda for Microsoft over the coming year.