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What the heck is the intelligent edge? Check out this animated explanation.

As Build 2018 gets underway, there's one term that keeps coming up over and over again: intelligent edge. It's an idea that can be tough to get your head around, but it's also one that has become increasingly important to Microsoft's strategy going forward. Luckily, Microsoft recently tackled the intelligent edge in the latest video in it Explanimators series. Narrated by Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott, the video does a pretty good job of getting the idea across.

The video builds upon Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates' idea of "a computer on every desk," expanding to ubiquitous computing that will dominate the future. The idea is that, as computing expands to more and more devices, you won't even notice what is and isn't a computer.

As the video explains, the "edge" in intelligent edge refers to devices that are close to where they need to be, but are still connected to each other and the cloud. Those can include everything from your car and PC to toys, drones, and lightbulbs. Its "intelligence" comes from devices' ability to use AI to sense what's going on around them, then understand and act based on what's happening.

Essentially, intelligent edge is a catch-all for the intelligent connected devices you interact with every day. And going forward, Microsoft is setting itself up to provide the tools for developers to build applications and experiences for the intelligent edge.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to

  • Seems like the idea is "Intelligent Edge" = "Fewer hits on Cloud CPUs" because of more capable local devices. While still using Cloud bandwith to co-ordinate the intelligence, obvs
  • obvs not.
    Intelligent edge can apply to devices that are NEVER network connected.
  • I would say occasionally connected devices but able to take some of the decisions locally without the connection. The component running on cloud is shifted to local device using containers selectively.
  • I think we all get the concept. But the whole “intelligent edge” pitch would be easier to buy into for Windows devs, at least consumer facing Windows devs, and fans, if MS had a mobile device to target. Heck call it the Surface Edge if you want! Mobile devices are the most popular consumer facing edge devices in TODAY’S world. Resurrecting mobile would help us believe that any apps we build for MS’ future implementation of the Intelligent Edge is worth our time, investment, blood, sweat, and tears.
  • He said "devices on your wrist". So how would a dev building a non Windows wrist device utilize microsoft's tech? Does Microsoft plan on making Windows available on all form factors?
  • Windows 10 iot device is already available in watch form factor and i believe we will see more of it with Azure Sphere.
  • Build day 1 revealed Win10IOT (AI and Azure) in security cam, speaker and their partners are using it for different things. Sphero is building their new robot with Win10IOT. Arcade cabinet and new gen vending machines today are powered by Windows, no reason not to switch to Win10IOT for commercial use. Some gov project uses IOT, Azure and AI too. Think of it as Win10 for machines, you can install it in your mirror, digital camera, light bulb, car, Gameboy and push a UWP app (or game emulators) to it. As a programmer, I think the greatest advantage in this is, you can share code between IOT, Win10PC (including S-mode and AMR), AR, MR and Xbox with some #if-else. If you go for C#, you can share code between server and client too.
  • At least now I know that "Edge" refers more to the location of the devices in relation to the ecosystem as a whole, and *not* the use-case of those devices. At first I was like, "I don't think using my PC to run Office is really an edge case, Satya."
  • I take that we, the public, are represented by the dazed-and-confused slacker dude in the audience? He is our stand-in? "Intelligent Edge" = Microsoft buzzword for "We want you to connect everything to Azure and Office 365 so that we can charge you a monthly fee, or show you ads, or otherwise monetize all the personal information we will collect from every little device sending us data." Whether the "edge" device is dumb or smart, the important thing is how Azure will collect data from that device or manage it, i.e., monetize it for Microsoft. If the device never interacts with Azure in any way, directly or indirectly, why would Microsoft care? Did I miss anything?
  • You said it all
  • Kristi, you have the comment of the day! Sad but true. We're all just a bunch of idiot slacker-dudes in MS' eyes. Idiots if we don't "understand" why we should sign up in droves for their subscription cloud services!
  • Wow, having this attitude doesn't show you as intelligent, does it ? Anyways, why make references to how MS is going to make money from this? As if anyone does anything unless there is a paycheque..? I am so sick and tired of just trying to learn about new technologies and all you see is constant trolling and negativity… are you guys developers? and you conduct yourselves in this manner ? The video is "lowest common denominator" obviously... Grrr LOL
  • Tell that to this guy...
  • send video wirelessly to a Google Chromecast dongle. Best example 😂
  • Maybe you're just gullible?
  • LOL.. "A computer on every desk" , try several computers all around the house!
  • When I see videos like this the is when the the MS disconnect from reality is truly apparent (other companies too, but this is a MS focused site). In this video the narrator references a hospital with intelligent edge devices, in reality something like that is decades away, if not longer. I have experience with medical imaging, let's use that for reference. Some of the cameras I work on run software from GE that only runs on Windows XP. Yes, XP. From 2001. 17 years ago. You might say, well eventually that'll need to be replaced. Correct. It'll be replaced with used equipment, also running XP. Indefinitely, until the cost of support outweighs the muti million dollar investment in a more modern piece of used equipment... which will then run Windows 7... Windows 7 is the platform for equipment being manufactured now. It'll last the next 20+ years before becoming obsolete. The camera I work with daily was built in 2006, it'll last another decade with proper maintenance. Everything in healthcare is about reducing capital investment, no one is going to install intelligent light bulbs unless the per unit cost is less than that of a regular light bulb. It's just plain foolishness to expect anything different. I've been hearing about smart homes, smart ovens, smart clothes for years now. None of it is any closer than it has been previously. Unless the smart tshirt makes it's way to Walmart for $2.99, where half the population buys their clothes. It's great to be aspirational, but there really is no connection with reality for a lot of this stuff.
  • So... umm... IoT.
  • So you can install good ole' Windows on a thingy. It will process and share data to our needs. Okay. The movie is a nice idea, but a bit stiff... Who is the target audience? Kinda hard to tell.