September 2017 saw Microsoft Ignite and Envision conferences in Orlando welcoming more than 25,000 partners and customers from around the world to hear about Microsoft’s latest developments.
Each of the announcements focused on technology to help organisations continue growth, regardless of size and industry.
AI & Mixed Reality Infusion
We hear a lot about 'disruptors' and the value they have in the workplace. Microsoft is now putting this power into their customers' hands, rather than letting them feel disrupted. At Ignite, Microsoft showed how they will be infusing cloud-based technology, artificial intelligence and mixed reality through their products, in order to help customers visualise the future of their business, enabling them to 'disrupt' their business space, and digitally transform their businesses.
Microsoft was keen to share how, in giving their customers access to platforms such as artificial intelligence, hybrid and cloud technologies, as well as to data, that they were enabling them to transform the world they live in, evolve business processes, and innovate for the future – allowing employers to foster a new culture of work in a workplace in which employees feel empowered. The goal is to have an impact on the world, pushing the frontiers of what is possible. Changing work culture seems to be an important motivation factor for Microsoft, with the company opening Microsoft 365 out to as wide an audience as possible, including to first-line workers and students. It's all about working smart, together.
There is a new vision in the pipeline for intelligent communications, including plans for integrating Skype for Business Online into Microsoft Teams. They want to make Teams become a true hub for collaborative teamwork in Office 365. This will include enabling users to have access to chat, video and voice functions, plus cognitive and data services.
Improved Search Experiences
Search engines have completely revolutionised our lives. Now, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, they will become even more ‘intelligent’. When searching across Microsoft 365, developments in technology mean more relevant search results. There will also be new experiences introduced, including Bing for Business Private Preview. This will enable organisations to have access to a unified view of contextual and personalised search results, both from within and outside the organisation.
For the everyday man, quantum computing (just like quantum physics) can seem as in a language from another universe. The technology is based on imaginary numbers and involves detailed studies of computer systems. While it's not an area we'll delve into too deeply, it deserves a mention given that it is something that Microsoft have been investing time and money into for the past 12 years. At Ignite they made quite a point about this work, in which developers are being given a new programming language and are seeking out answers to even greater questions from the parallel computing universes. It is also behind many of the advancements in technology and our understanding of the world, even if it’s impossible for many of us to figure out.
Thanks to the release of SQL Server 2017, considered the world's most popular database, plus enhancements in how the Azure Machine Learning system operates, there is a wealth of new intelligent apps and AI models. Barriers that were once in place with cloud software have now been removed by Microsoft for Enterprise customers so that Azure can work alongside even the most complicated of technology. This means that many new opportunities are available for organisations, and accessibility for all types of businesses (large and small) has been opened up.
This was a key buzzword used throughout the conference, and there are three ways in which Microsoft hopes to drive this change. It will come about through using inclusive designs, building trust in technology (which is challenging when there are questions of privacy and trustworthiness), and empowering people. Microsoft is keen to put the power into the hands of businesses and their employees, ensuring customers are engaged and products are transformed. They are seeking to create a modern workplace that is reliant on clever, informative business applications and infrastructure. This will involve data and artificial intelligence, which will provide solutions for creativity, teamwork, security and simple workflows.
Announcements made during the conference, includes that of the wider launch of the Azure Pass-Through Authentication. In addition, Cloudyn is now available free of charge for everyone with Azure subscriptions, Azure File Sync Preview has been announced, which synchronises files between Windows Serves and Azure File Shares, and Azure Service Fabric on Linux has now become widely available. Additionally, Azure has received end-to-end monitoring updates, there have been several updates to its Applications Insights, and there are now also three new Azure certification exams available.