Microsoft Ignite: LinkedIn integration, Teams getting top marks, mixed reality, and more

Microsoft laid out more of its vision around artificial intelligence (AI), mixed reality, and the importance of collaboration over individualism at its Ignite event in Orlando today.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, outlined to the audience the four methods of enabling digital transformation (below); modern workplace, business applications, applications and infrastructure, and data and AI, to empower employees, engage customers, optimise operations, and transform products.

“When you think about the nature of work, it’s changing,” he explained. “It’s no longer about routine tasks. It’s about unlocking the creativity inside of your organisation. It’s about going beyond individual productivity… to dynamic teams.”

Starting with the modern workplace, the first set of announcements were comprised around Microsoft 365, the package the company launched back in July with a combination of Office 365, Windows 10, and EMS (Enterprise Mobility + Security). At the time, as Kirk Koenigsbauer noted in a blog post, the enterprise Microsoft 365 package aimed to “unlock creativity by enabling people to work naturally with ink, voice and touch, all backed by tools that utilise AI and machine learning.”

With that in mind, Microsoft announced Microsoft 365 F1, aimed at firstline workers who are the first point of contact between a company and its customers, or employees who are directly involved in making products. Also launched was an education package, including Office 365 for Education, Windows 10, EMS and Minecraft: Education Edition.

Of much interest to enterprise observers was an update on Microsoft and LinkedIn, as well as the AI angle through intelligent search with Bing.

As this publication noted in June last year when Microsoft announced the $26.2bn acquisition, the key would be around the combination of Microsoft and LinkedIn’s graphs. Here, progress has certainly been made: users can now in Outlook check the LinkedIn details of their contacts, and even connect with them. Li-Chen Miller, partner group program manager for AI and research, said this was the “first of many” LinkedIn integrations on the way for Microsoft 365 in the coming months.

For Bing for Business, AI and machine learning aims to deliver more relevant search results to users. Miller gave the example of Harry Shum; not the Glee actor, Harry Shum Jr, but the executive vice president of Microsoft’s AI and research group. Using the beefed-up Bing, and combining SharePoint, Azure Active Directory and more, Miller could see contact details, as well as an Office 365 calendar for her fellow Microsoft employee.

Perhaps the biggest change came through the rising star that is Microsoft Teams. The company added guest access earlier this month, and now arrived the news that it was effectively usurping Skype for Business as the number one teamwork application at Redmond. The ‘new vision for intelligent communications’ included plans “to bring Skype for Business Online capabilities into Microsoft Teams, along with cognitive and data services, making Teams the true hub for teamwork in Office 365”, as the company put it in the press materials.

Mixed reality came in through a demonstration with Ford, and Nadella took time to tell the audience about other companies’ efforts. Tetrapak has built an end-to-end solution across manufacturing and Land O’Lakes has enabled its farmers to get more yield from land they have had for generations, while Trimble is using a digital twin for the mining industry. “Trimble is using both Azure and mixed reality to build these digital twins across industries,” he said. “Just imagine how you can change the efficiency of a physical operation in a mine… that’s an example of one industry being completely transformed by these two technologies.”

Picture credits: Microsoft

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