Microsoft held its annual product showcase for its partners from June 15-19, in Las Vegas. Inspire 2018 presented the overall strategic direction of Microsoft and how partners can best serve their clients with Microsoft products over the next year. I wanted to highlight 3 areas where Microsoft and their CEO made news.

1.  AI, IoT, and the Future of Decision Making

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet-of-things (IoT) are inflection factors in regard to data gathering and decision making. Both are building blocks toward automating common business functions. “When you think about business process in particular, the one thing that is going to be true is more things are going to be digitized. As we see the power of IoT and other tools that are going to be used, every workflow is going to be automated,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. “That means we need to have a set of tools that allows us to reduce the total cost of these customizations and automation. And now we’ve built a complete new app platform, which I think represents a tremendous opportunity for everyone in the room — Power BI, PowerApps and Flow. The combination of it is just going to change how applications are built and deployed.” We have seen tremendous progress in both AI and IoT over the past few years, and Microsoft Research has been on the cutting edge. But Nadella contends that “it’s not about celebrating these [AI] breakthroughs for Microsoft Research. Our collective objective is to take these breakthroughs and democratize them, with the tooling we create, and with the expertise and the skill set and the services that you provide,” speaking to partners at Inspire 2018. It’s clear Microsoft’s focus is on incorporating new innovations in AI and IoT into products that directly support business functions of organizations.

2.  Modern Collaboration

Inspire 2018 also illustrates how Microsoft sees the future of business collaboration. Last year, it introduced a holistic platform that combines some of its most popular products. Microsoft 365 combines Office 365, Enterprise Mobility & Security, and Windows 10. According to Microsoft’s CEO, Microsoft 365 is a way to help customers transition into a paradigm of “people-centered experiences” rather than device-centered experiences. “The opportunity for everyone here is to take Microsoft 365 and apply it for cultural transformation in large enterprises [and] for productivity in small businesses. To be able to really do industry-specific workflows in health care, manufacturing, financial services. To be able to take it to first-line workers. That’s the opportunity that everyone in this room has with Microsoft 365.” Nadella clearly sees Microsoft 365 as a long-term play that emphasizes the strengths of Microsoft’s core services. Another example of this is the migration from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams within Office 365. Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President of Office 365 Marketing, told partners during his keynote address “now that we have parity between Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams, you have the ability to create voice-managed services and modernize the customer’s voice infrastructure.” Microsoft has streamlined its approach to products with an emphasis on simplifying user experience and putting people first.

3.  Emphasizing Azure

Azure has always been Microsoft’s data center platform, but over the last few years Microsoft has really tried to align its core competencies to its cloud storage offerings. This began in March, when the company merged its Windows and Azure teams. They have simplified the Azure stack and emphasized interchangeability between services. Microsoft is clearly shifting its focus to these data-center concerns. Considering the variety of collaboration methods, the progress in AI and IoT, and security concerns, this focus on Azure its timely and pragmatic.

Peters & Associates is a top Microsoft partner with 11 Gold and Silver competencies in a wide range of areas. Whether you need to deploy a PowerBI solution utlilizing IoT, upgrade Microsoft 365 or its three underlying components (Office 365, EMS, or Windows 10), or install any level of Azure data center, we have the specific expertise needed. Don’t hesitate to call 630.832.0075 or email info@peters.com today!