The convergence of artificial intelligence and cloud has taken the centre stage at this year's Build, Microsoft's annual conference for software developers.

During his opening keynote, chief executive Satya Nadella announced that Windows had reached 500 million active monthly Windows 10 devices, noting how Windows, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Azure offering developers more than a billion opportunities to connect their innovations with Microsoft customers.

“In a world of near infinite compute power and an exponential growth in data, we are focused on empowering every developer to build applications for this new era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge,” said Nadella.

At the conference, Microsoft released four new services as part of its Cognitive Services bundle, which is a set of application tools based on Azure that allows developers to build apps for Apple iOS, Google Android and Windows.

The four new services are Bing Custom Search, Custom Decision Service, Custom Vision Service and Video Indexer, and Microsoft said developers can create algorithms using these services in their apps with just a few lines of code.

Bing Custom Search allows users to search the web for images, videos and news based on prior data, while Custom Decision Service uses Microsoft Graph, which takes unique or customised data from the user and connects it with other apps on their device, such as email or contacts.

The Custom Vision Service allows an application to learn the names of items in images that a user uploads, and lastly there's Video Indexer, which makes the contents of videos searchable and can also learn recorded languages and slang terms, and translate them into text.

Microsoft has also announced a preview of Azure IoT Edge, technology that extends the intelligence and other benefits of cloud computing to edge devices; extensions to the Microsoft Graph to combine insights from the world of work with device insights and contextual awareness of the physical world.

Azure Cosmos DB

At Build, Microsoft enhanced Azure SQL Database and added Azure managed databases for PostgreSQL and MySQL. But the company's most important database announcement was the availability of the new Azure Cosmos DB, a cloud offering that provides a globally distributed, horizontally scalable, schema-free database to support every type of data and offer several levels of well-defined consistency options.

On a global end-to-end basis, Cosmos DB exposes popular NoSQL APIs and provides developers with guaranteed uptime, fault tolerance and single-digit millisecond latencies in the 99th percentile for their cloud-native and edge applications, according to the tech giant. It is an auto-indexed database service with auto-replication to any Azure region in the world. Developers can choose any of several data models (key-value, document, column family, graph) and APIs (Document DB API, MongoDB API, Gremlin API for Graph, and Table API). Essentially, Cosmos DB is an evolution of Document DB, whose existing users have already been migrated to the new service.

Microsoft also announced the general availability of Visual Studio 2017 for Mac, allowing developers to work seamlessly across Windows and Mac environments with full support for mobile, web and cloud workloads, and previews of Docker tools, Azure Functions and Xamarin.IoT support.

The company also rolled out support for containers of nearly every type, on every platform, with the general availability of Windows Server Containers support in Azure Service Fabric, with Visual Studio tooling, and a preview of the ability to use Docker Compose support for Service Fabric to deploy containerized apps to Service Fabric—enabling developers to deliver mission-critical, scalable apps and services.

Microsoft has also published new Graph APIs that provide developers with programmatic access to a common data model, as well as entities and functionality, across Office 365 for building smarter cross-device apps. New Graph APIs enable developers to expose calculated, relevant insights based on a user’s activity, such as identifying what documents are trending or how various users are working together within Microsoft’s suite of productivity applications.

In addition, Microsoft is now enabling developers to orchestrate all of these multi-device/multi-app Office 365 capabilities with Microsoft Flow, extend the apps with code hosted in Azure, publish the apps through Microsoft Office Store and make them discoverable through Microsoft AppSource.