Lots of news this week at the annual Microsoft Build developer conference. They did produce a very helpful “Book of News” (at about 8,800 words) with a table of contents to cover it all. Below is a selection of announcements our readers are most likely to be interested in, followed by a link to the complete list.
Azure Cognitive Services, a family of AI services to deploy high-quality models as APIs, has multiple updates, including:
- Document Translation, a feature of Translator in Azure Cognitive Services announced in preview in February, is now generally available. Document Translation enables developers to quickly translate documents while preserving the structure and format of the original document. This feature helps enterprises and translation agencies that require the translation of complex documents into one or more languages.
- Text Analytics for health is now generally available with Text Analytics in Azure Cognitive Services. It enables developers to process and extract insights from unstructured medical data. Unstructured text includes doctors’ notes, medical journals, electronic health records, clinical trial protocols and more. Another new feature of Text Analytics is Question Answering. Now in preview, Question Answering helps users find answers from a passage of text without saving or managing any data in Azure.
With the introduction of the partial document update for Azure Cosmos DB, developers can modify specific fields or properties within a document without requiring a full document read and replace. This gives developers more flexibility to update only certain portions. Partial document update is available for Core (SQL) API and via .NET SDK, Java SDK and stored procedures. Developers can sign up for the partial document update preview.
Azure Cosmos DB serverless is now generally available for all APIs (Core, MongoDB, Cassandra, Gremlin and Table). Developers can now optimize costs and more easily run apps with spiky traffic patterns on Azure Cosmos DB. Serverless is a cost-effective pricing model that charges only for the resources consumed by database operations. It is ideally suited for apps with moderate performance requirements and frequent periods with little to no traffic.
Microsoft Graph data connect is now offered on Microsoft Azure as a metered service. Microsoft Graph data connect is a more secure, high-throughput connector designed to copy select Microsoft 365 productivity datasets into the Azure tenant. It’s a tool for developers and data scientists creating organizational analytics or training AI and machine learning models. Although most Microsoft 365 products are offered on a per-user/per-month basis, the company is offering Microsoft Graph data connect as a metered service, so developers pay for only the data they consume.
Microsoft Search Federation, which connects information from across platforms, will be generally available later this year. It creates a unified search experience across Microsoft Azure Cognitive Search and Dynamics 365. Microsoft 365 customers use several search options, from Microsoft Search to Azure Cognitive Search. Microsoft Search Federation connects these systems, making finding information much simpler.
Microsoft Teams apps for meetings, launched last year, gives developers the tools to build collaborative apps that help connect people to solve common goals and design experiences across the full lifecycle of a meeting. Now, developers can build even more unique scenarios with new features that include:
- Shared stage integration, in preview, provides developers with new access to the main stage in a Teams meeting through a simple configuration in their app manifest. This provides a new surface to enable real-time, multiuser collaboration experiences for their meetings apps, such as whiteboarding, design, project boards and more.
- New meeting event APIs, in preview, enable the automation of meeting-related workflows through events, such as meeting start and end, with many more planned for later this year.
- Together mode extensibility, coming soon, empowers developers to create custom scenes for Teams meetings and share them with users. This provides an easy design experience, within the Developer portal, so developers can make meetings more engaging.
- Media APIs and resource-specific consent, coming soon, provide developers with real-time access to audio and video streams for transcription, translation, note-taking, insights gathering and more.
Fluid components in Microsoft Teams chat is now in private preview and will expand to more customers in the coming months. Fluid components are powered by the web, can be edited in real-time or asynchronously and work across surfaces, such as Teams and Office apps. Fluid components in Teams chat allow users to send a message with a table, action items or a list that can be co-authored and edited by everyone in line, minimizing the need for long chat threads and meetings. Fluid components can be copied and pasted across Teams chats, helping users become more efficient.
Microsoft Power Fx, a low-code open-source programming language, is adding new features that allow developers to build apps using natural language — no coding required.
The new experience centers around three key scenarios: natural language transforms to Power Fx code, Power Fx code transforms to natural language and programming by example where a user inputs an example of a data pattern that trains the model.
This experience is powered by GPT-3, the world’s largest natural language model from OpenAI, running on Azure Machine Learning. Microsoft also is announcing the PROgram Synthesis using Examples SDK (PROSE), which can train models to do certain tasks by typing in a few examples.
Microsoft Power BI users can now embed Microsoft Power BI analytics reports in a Jupyter Notebook. Jupyter Notebook, an open-source development tool featuring documents with live code, equations, visualizations and narrative text, is often used for data visualization and more. Power BI Embedded Analytics enables data app developers to engage directly with data, explore analytics and generate reports. These Jupyter Notebook integrations are now in preview.
Power BI Premium, which enables analysts, developers and business users to create, develop and turn data into insights, has added Automation APIs to its deployment pipeline capabilities. This allows developers to use tools, such as Microsoft Azure DevOps and Azure Pipeline, to automate the deployment of Power BI assets and integrate into their existing app deployment framework.