If you missed Microsoft’s big annual IT conference Microsoft Ignite, you missed a lot of news about computing, Windows, Skype, Office, Azure, artificial intelligence and more. This year, Microsoft Ignite was held in Orlando September 25th to September 29th, and it was overflowing with news about products for many business sizes and enterprise customers alike.
Opening Address by CEO
Opened by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, the Orlando computing conference began with a look at the company’s vision for the future. Right from the start, mixed or augmented reality was one of the main focuses of the program. Nadella presented the flexibility that auto manufacturers, notably the Ford Motor Company, have when using Microsoft headsets for design. These headsets allow teams to work in a shared environment, even though each member’s location is unique. Colleagues in different cities and even different countries can quickly create, modify and approve new automobile designs.
Microsoft announced its plans to make search easier for businesses with Microsoft Graph. This is Microsoft’s centralized API, which was known until now as the Office 365 Unified API. Microsoft is adding multiple new endpoints, meaning users will be able to search for websites, files, people, documents or email. The goal is to make business user’s search experience more straightforward, with fewer keystrokes, so that they can quickly search from wherever they are. For instance, if they are currently working in MyAnalytics (a.k.a. Delve), SharePoint or the new Bing for Business, searching from within that application is possible. This is Microsoft bringing search to where the users happen to be.
New Microsoft 365 Versions
Microsoft announced new versions and new capabilities for Microsoft 365 aimed to simplify enterprise business’ compliance issues. These include new management and security features, after bringing together Office 365 Enterprise Mobility + Security, and Windows into a single software platform called simply Microsoft 365. Instead of multiple systems and costs, this gives businesses a constantly updated software solution that is less fragmented, more modern and more cost-effective. Organizations are using Microsoft 365 and its new Compliance Manager and Customer Key to manage and secure users, devices, and data. Compliance Manager makes reports audit-ready and allows for easier monitoring. For its part, Customer Key offers service encryption to help regulated customers manage further compliance controls and encryption keys.
New and Affordable Windows 10 S PCs
The company is working on new, inexpensive devices that run Windows 10 S and come powered by Microsoft 365. This new generation of computing devices will start at around $275, reasonable enough for almost anyone to own.
With Azure Stack systems a reality and on their way to businesses, customers are better able to grasp how an intelligent cloud coupled with a smart edge, as Satya talked about in his opening address, will work together. The company is poised to quickly connect Azure Stack to hybrid cloud data computing with SQL Server 2017 + Azure SQL DB, which is a game-changer in hybrid computing. The distributed cloud combines public cloud and on-premises resources so that each company can optimize for their particular situation and solutions needed. Microsoft is making it easier for fluid data retention and location with hybrid cloud development.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer something that will happen in the future. It is here, it is real, and it is developing fast. Companies using AI in business processes and applications are already impressive, and it is clear from the attendees at Ignite that it is ready to explode. New Azure Machine Learning tools can and will allow AI to augment existing systems and add significant process changes.
Security, Security, Security
Of course, with so many massive breaches in the past year, security was one of the hottest topics at Ignite. No longer were the programs about whether or not the cloud was secure. In fact, security discussions were about broad security strategies and using machine learning and AI to increase security while tapping into cloud technology. Microsoft, while looking to the cloud for expanded protection, is also counting on governments, customers and the tech industry to work with them to address cybersecurity.
Satya’s Quantum Computing presentation was one of the favorite parts of the conference for attendees. Though many admitted that they did not understand all of it, they were fascinated by the possibilities and excited to take a peek at what lies ahead. Microsoft noted its progress toward building a quantum computer, and in laying out tools for developers to experiment with a version on their machines. By focusing on a different way for quantum computing to work, Microsoft likely is leaps and bounds ahead of Google, IBM or any other competing companies looking at this area of IT. While quantum computing is a complex topic, taking a look at the information surrounding topology and physical qubits should be enough to get most IT professionals excited about the future.
Every area of computing and IT is changing, and for the better with the newest Microsoft solutions and products. Better security, advancements in cloud and artificial intelligence, along with inbuilt programming solutions on Microsoft’s most modern personal computers will help enterprises work smarter and safer over the long-term.