Microsoft Ignite 2018, the company’s annual conference is in Orlando, Florida this year, and with three more days to go there’s already been a Floridian deluge of announcements from Microsoft.
Here are five key developments so far…
Microsoft Teams is its rival offering to team collaboration software tools such as Slack. Microsoft allows users to communicate over chat, voice calls and meetings. It connects across devices and is tied into Office 365.
New features announced at this year’s Ignite event include the ability to initiate a background blur when making a video call. This can be used to reduce distractions in the background or it could just be handy to hide the beach behind you.
The Teams software now also records meeting sessions which other invites can at a later stage listen to or they can pull up an automated transcript of the discussion to quickly search for keywords or context.
Keara James Product Marketing Manager of Microsoft Teams added in a blog: “For organizations with enhanced security and compliance needs, we are releasing two new secure messaging features with particular relevance in healthcare – image annotation, now generally available, and priority notifications.”
Priority notifications comes with a new feature that may or may not be welcomed by employees: you can now send an urgent message with an alert that will “automatically notify the recipient every two minutes for up to twenty minutes.”
Open Data Initiative
Microsoft, Adobe and SAP entered into an open data partnership at Ignite. This sees the three companies committing to enhancing interoperability and data exchange between their varied applications and software offering.
This will be done through a common data model that will establish a data lake service on Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure.
“This unified data store will allow customers their choice of development tools and applications to build and deploy services,” Microsoft announced.
Through the Open Data Initiative companies will be able to access siloed data to gain new insight and value.
Azure Digital Twins
For its cloud platform Azure, Microsoft has announced the ability to create digital twins. A digital twin is a virtual representation of physical systems which can then take in new information or data sets to test and probe the systems capabilities.
Through digital twins, enterprises can create models of their real-world Internet of Things layout in the Azure cloud. Essentially they allow you to create a copy of your system so you can tinker with it, without the fear of company downtime resulting from misadventure, as well as develop proof-of-concept ideas with data.
Bert Van Hoof, Partner Group Program Manager of Azure IoT notes that it allows users to gain new insights through testing the modelling of: “Complex interactions and high-value intersections between people, places, and things is unlocking new opportunities, creating new efficiencies, and improving public and private spaces.”
Features included in Microsoft Azure Digital Twins are Spatial intelligence graph; the means to create virtual representation of real environments that help model the interactions between devices, people and places.
Also included is Data Isolation through multi and nested-tenancy abilities though which Van Hoof says: “Users can build solutions that scale and securely replicate across multiple tenants and sub-tenants by leveraging built-in multi- and nested-tenancy capabilities to ensure data is isolated.”
Martin Garner Senior Vice President at CCS Insight commented in an emailed statement that he believes: “Azure Digital Twins is a genuine innovation. It starts from the physical environment where the connected things are operating, such as a factory or building, and pulls the connected products in as part of that. This is a broader view than most suppliers offer, and is much more attuned to the way operational staff run their daily lives.”
Microsoft has made available Office 2019 for Windows and Mac. Office 2019 contains the new on-premises versions of Word, PowerPoint, Project, Excel Visio, Publisher and Access. However Office 2019 is a one-time release that will not receive future updates to its features.
Jared Spataro, Corporate VP for Office and Windows Marketing commented in a blog that: “The new enhancements in Office 2019 are a subset of a long list of features that have been added to Office 365 ProPlus over the last three years.”
“However, we’ll continue to add new features to Office 365 ProPlus monthly, including innovations in collaboration, artificial intelligence (AI), security, and more.”
New features added include a morph and zoom ability to PowerPoint, while Excel 2019 has been upgraded with new data analysis features such as charts and formulas.
Word and Outlook have got new features from learning tools to focus mode, the latter blocks out distractions by putting the content you are focusing on in a centered position. Focused inbox in Outlook moves unimportant emails out of the way so you can deal with the important issues first and avoid missing an urgent message buried in your inbox.
Microsoft, in partnership with the United Nations General Assembly meeting, has announced AI for Humanitarian Action, a £30 million project that will run for five years. Using artificial intelligence they will target four humanitarian issues; disaster recovery, needs of children, protection of refuges and the promotion of human rights.
On human trafficking, Microsoft President Brad Smith noted that it: “Is one of the world largest criminal industries, ensnaring millions of children each year. Already we are using predictive analytics and bot frameworks to target both the supply and demand underpinning human trafficking – ultimately disrupting criminals and bringing relief to victims around the world.”