Microsoft will narrow its focus to software developers at this year's virtual Build conference

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    Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaks with Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen AG (not pictured), at a “fireside chat” to the media about a joint project between the two companies called the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud on February 27, 2019 in Berlin.

    Sean Gallup | Getty Images

    Microsoft on Thursday said it will start accepting registrations for its first digital-only Build developer conference scheduled for May 19-21. Microsoft had originally planned to hold the event in Seattle but canceled in-person gatherings in March as coronavirus became more prevalent. More than 6,000 people registered to attend last year’s Build conference in downtown Seattle.

    Microsoft is now providing more detail on its substitute for one of its marquee activities that brings together employees with outsiders.

    This year’s event will be free, and it will be more focused on the core audience of software developers, rather than end users of products like Windows 10 or Office applications, or people interested in understanding bigger-picture corporate strategy.

    Last month Microsoft held a digital event for journalists to learn about new features in the Edge browser and other products. Build will see Microsoft delivering content for a larger audience.

    Executives will talk about artificial intelligence technologies, the Azure cloud, the Microsoft 365 family of products including the Office productivity bundle.

    Keynote presentations at this year’s Build event will be shorter, and some of the discussion that normally takes place in person will happen on Twitter instead. Microsoft executives will be recording content ahead of time from their homes as they continue to shelter in place, although some content will be produced live to enable greater public interaction, the person said. 

    Holding the event online will mean journalists won’t have their usual press room available. Microsoft will provide a gathering place for journalists in the Teams communication app for this year’s Build. 

    Earlier this month Microsoft told partners that it had chosen to make all internal and external events into digital-first affairs through July 2021. At some point Microsoft will probably hold in-person conferences again, the person said.

    Other big technology companies like Apple, Facebook and Google have also canceled or gone online-only with major developer events they had been planning for this year as Covid-19 cases mounted. On Wednesday Salesforce called off its Dreamforce show for customers and partners.

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