Microsoft CEO Nadella: 'Bots are the new apps'

Developers gathered at the Microsoft BUILD developers conference in San Francisco to hear about the latest and greatest from Microsoft. Theresa Chong for USA TODAY. Theresa Chong for USA TODAY.

SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the company's Build developers conference with a vision of the future filled with chatbots, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“Bots are the new apps,” said Nadella during a nearly three-hour keynote here that sketched a vision for the way humans will interact with machines. “People-to-people conversations, people-to-digital assistants, people-to-bots and even digital assistants-to-bots. That’s the world you’re going to get to see in the years to come.”
Onstage demos hammered home those ideas. One involved a smartphone conversing with digital assistant Cortana about planning a trip to Ireland, which soon found Cortana bringing in a Westin Hotels chatbot that booked a room based on the contents of the chat.
Another featured a blind Microsoft engineer who helped design technology that allows him to take photos with a pair of smartglasses and have either a menu's contents or people's emotions described to him.
Nadella placed such human/AI interactions under an umbrella he called Conversations as a Platform. "It’s about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively to all of our computing," he said. "We will infuse intelligence about us and our context into computers."
The integrative AI-focused approach to the way humans interact with their digital lives comes not a moment too soon given the pressure Microsoft faces in this Conversation as a Service sector from Amazon with Alexa and Google with Google Now, says Holger Mueller, analyst with Constellation Research. "All these new conversation canvases need cloud as the delivery platform and Microsoft needs utilization to achieve economies of scale," as it builds out its own cloud storage and services function, Azure.
One significant bit of news out of the morning session was that a forthcoming update to Windows 10 will be free, effectively extending the one year free trial of Microsoft's most popular operating system ever. To date, some 270 million people have downloaded Windows 10, said Windows exec Terry Myerson.