Logan McCoy, our VP of Services and I spent last week at Inspire, Microsoft’s Partner Conference in Washington D.C., eating, drinking and sleeping Microsoft. It was a long five days that kept us going from early morning to late at night and often in different directions. Inspire is a great place to catch up with contacts who have become friends over the years. In our 25+ years of business, we have had the support of some very exceptional people at Microsoft and we had already heard of several we knew that were no longer with Microsoft. There was quite a bit of speculation going on as we walked into the opening session and waited to hear Satya Nadella’s keynote.
Of course, Satya addressed the announcement by doing what he does best – looking forward, not backward. The entire conference revolved around five key themes:
- Digital Transformation
- Empowering Employees
- Engaging Customers
- Optimize Operations
- Transforming Products
With the workplace rapidly changing, Microsoft is focused on transforming to meet the expectations of today, as well as tomorrow’s business environment. Businesses today have a globally focused mindset at the same time they are trying to deal with an increasingly complicated threat landscape. With transparency at the forefront, Microsoft is changing and evolving to “empower people to be more productive.” So what does that mean for you as a Microsoft customer?
Here are several key product changes from the “new” Microsoft to watch for in the months ahead:
1. Windows 10 and ATP: Moving users to Windows 10 is mission #1 for Microsoft and security is the primary focus with Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). It will “provide centralized management for threat protection that will quickly detect and respond to threats, as well as provide preventative protection” that was not available previously. The security technology goes too deep for this blog post, so check out this recent Microsoft blog on ATP and a 90-day free trial that is available.
2. Office 365: There are now more than 100 million active monthly users of Office 365. Microsoft is redesigning their offerings to meet the needs of both small and enterprise level companies.
- Microsoft 365 Enterprise integrates Office 365 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise and Enterprise Mobility + Security. IT will be offered in two plans: E3 and E5, both available starting August 1st.
- Microsoft 365 Business is for small- to medium-sized businesses up to 300 users and combines Office 365 Business Premium, security with management features from Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. It will be available for preview in August and for purchase sometime in fall for about $20 per user per month. There will also be three tailored applications offered that include email marketing services, invoicing applications, and a simplified way of publishing to top websites.
3. LinkedIn/Dynamics: Last June, Microsoft purchased LinkedIn for 26.2 billion dollars. LinkedIn will now be directly integrated into the Dynamics ERP/CRM product line, but also watch for a LinkedIn-provided network in Outlook and the Office suite, LinkedIn lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365, and incorporating social selling through Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365. It will be interesting to watch where Microsoft takes this social platform and how businesses can leverage it for growth. If you have ideas on how Microsoft can improve the Dynamics 365 and deepen its integration with LinkedIn, let them know on the Dynamics Ideas site.
4. Azure Stack: This extension of Azure will bring cloud computing to on-prem environments and allow for an entirely new set of hybrid cloud scenarios. It is already available for purchase and Microsoft is offering a Development kit (ASDK) that is a free, single server, deployment for trial and POC purposes, available here as a web download. Microsoft’s goal is to have most ISV applications and services that are certified for Azure to work on Azure Stack as well. Here at CCB, we are seeing more and more opportunities to use Azure’s pay-as-you-use model in our customers’ environments, and Azure Stack will unlock new possibilities for hybrid options. Check out this whitepaper on Azure Stack for more information on its capabilities.
5. Interactive Technologies: The last couple of years, Surface was a huge push for Microsoft, but this year it took a back seat to the company’s focus on growing its collaborative offerings. Many of you were able to experience the Surface Hub first hand at our TechShowcase in April and saw the capabilities it has for enterprise settings. New this year is the Whiteboard for Windows 10, a PC application targeted toward education. It allows for collaboration through OneNote Class Notebook, where changes can be made together in real time on whatever devices are being used. Microsoft Whiteboard will be released as a free application in the Windows Store later this year. Judson Althoff- Executive Vice President, Worldwide Commercial Business for Microsoft reminds us that “65% of today’s students will have jobs that don’t yet exist,” and innovations like Whiteboard are exciting to see as a part of this.
Microsoft will continue to invest in mobile technologies, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing with the goal of adapting to a new generation in the workplace – a generation with high demands for both technology and world change. I think Satya’s closing statement summed up Microsoft’s philosophy as they move forward: “We not only need to build technology, but we need to build it for impact.”
In the end, I don’t know the decisions made behind the scenes at Microsoft that eliminated positions, but I left Inspire understanding that Microsoft is undergoing a major transition. Satya has a new book coming out in September, Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, which may shed some more light on how he is remaking Microsoft’s culture and vision for the future.