Why Microsoft wants to help developers build bots

Conversations are cross-platform and mobile, even when Windows 10 Mobile isn't winning

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the Build conference in San Francisco on March 30, 2016. Credit: Microsoft/IDGNS

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the Build conference in San Francisco on March 30, 2016. Credit: Microsoft/IDGNS

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is pushing developers to create virtual assistants and intelligent chatbots to help users do everything from managing their calendars to booking hotel reservations.

To that end, Microsoft has published a new Bot Framework, which makes it easier to build chatbots using either C# or Node.js. Working with the tools isn't so easy that anyone could do it, but they can help reduce some of the difficulties of conversing with a computer.

It was one of the main announcements from Nadella's keynote address at Microsoft's Build developer conference Wednesday.

In a session following the keynote, Microsoft Senior Research Development Engineer Dan Driscoll revealed an interesting point in favor of creating intelligent bots as an interface for a service: The bots let developers meet users where they are without having to worry about what platform those people are on.

That's particularly notable for Microsoft because it's not doing well in the mobile phone market. As more computing goes mobile, and moves toward iOS and Android, the company needs a way to stay relevant and involved in users' lives on their smartphones.

If Microsoft can be one of the companies to power a new generation of intelligent bots, it could get developers locked into its cloud services, and stay even more involved with what could be the future of computing.

Derrick Connell, the corporate vice president of Bing, said he foresees a future in which there are tons of bots for different applications. In his view, businesses will want bots representing them to give them access to customers who are discussing decisions they're about to make.

After all, there's no better time to advertise hotel reservations than when people are first thinking about booking a room.

Looking toward the future, computer users may face an interesting conundrum, where there will be too many bots to handle the same query. After all, if someone is discussing a trip to San Francisco, there could be two dozen hotel bots, 10 airline bots, and 80 restaurant bots all vying for that person's attention.

That's when users will have to rely on intelligent systems moderating these bots to point them to ones that specifically meet their preferences. If Microsoft can be at the forefront of that with Cortana, it could be in a valuable position.

The counterexample to an intelligent assistant brokering the right bot transaction is the current state of online advertising. Theoretically, advertisements should be relevant to users as they're browsing the Web, but that's rarely what happens.

Right now, we're still at the beginning of what could be a nascent bot revolution. What remains to be seen is whether they will actually catch on.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftWindows

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?