I attended the Microsoft Ignite event in Chicago in May. Ignite was new this year, replacing TechEd and a few other Microsoft technical learning events. It was well-attended, bringing together more than 23,000 fellow technologists from around the world. The overall theme was Mobile First, Cloud First and creating a “more personal computing” experience – in other words, focusing on the mobile end user’s experience. Overall, I was really excited about what I saw and heard at the show.
The first thing that struck me was the vendor show floor. There were about 250 vendors, of which 50 were the usual suspects: OEMs such as HP, Lenovo, Dell, Cisco and Intel; no surprises there. What caught me off guard were the 150 or so other vendors. There were many new names – companies in business for less than two years. The majority of them were tied to the cloud, Azure and Office 365. In prior years the floor was covered with SharePoint and BI partners; this year SharePoint was low-key and barely existent. It goes to show how quickly IT trends change – keeping us all on our toes!
Below is a summary of key takeaways I put together that I think will have the biggest impact on enterprise clients.
Windows 10 (Win10) was a huge focus and perhaps the biggest systemic shift I’ve seen in a long time. We’ve all heard the rumors that Windows 10 may be the last major version of Windows. Microsoft is more committed to Windows than ever. What they are doing is shifting away from a traditional client to a new concept – “Windows as a Service.” The move will be subtle, and Microsoft is promising that anyone who has Windows 7 or 8, as well as Windows Phone users, will get a free upgrade to Windows 10. Unlike Windows 8, which required a fresh install that could be very complicated to deploy, the Windows 10 migration process will allow for an in-place upgrade.
Microsoft is also making Windows 10 more “Apple, Google-like,” with subtle rolling enhancements delivered by Windows Updates or the Windows Store. This is going to be a profound change for users and partners like CompuCom, who’ve built businesses around helping clients manage the tedious task of upgrading to the next version of Windows. I’ve been running Win10 on a number of devices, and the upgrades have been flawless.
The last thing, and perhaps one of the most important, I will mention about Windows 10 is a new and enhanced security model. This is a combination of hardware enhancements from Intel, as well as dual cameras for 3-D imaging. These enhancements, combined with Windows 10, will work with two new features that, combined, provide an end-user experience that delights end users. These new features are Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport, which, combined, will be a biometric natural interaction with the PC for authentication.
With Continuum, Microsoft is delivering “same code, same experience” and has coined the term “Mobility of Experience.” Microsoft has finally made the dream of developing an application using a universal codebase that can run consistently on any size screen – across phone, tablet, laptop, wearable or large display – a reality. Write an app once and reuse the code on a wide array of devices – with Continuum, Microsoft is making this a reality!
During the show they demonstrated this with Outlook 2016 and Edge Browser (previously named Project Spartan). Both applications were built on the Windows 10 universal application platform, and since the code was identical, you could resize/use the application devices with a consistent experience. The functionality is driven by automatic adaptive UI capabilities.
They then take this even a step further. What if you want to use your phone as your main device? In your hand, it is a mobile browser and device. Connect it to a docking station and the Mobility of Experience transforms you into a fully functional information worker. With Continuum, the display will be external, along with a traditional Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The user experience will be seamlessly expanded, and the universal application will be aware of the new capacity. The automated adaptive UI is the engine that provides a full, rich experience.
Continuum will certainly play a major role in accelerating the new two-in-one and three-in-one form factors. As an example, using Office 2016 on a Lenovo Yoga in laptop mode will focus on the traditional keyboard and mouse; flip it to tablet mode, and it will automatically adapt to touch and provide a more immersive experience. This automatic device transformation is a feature of automatic adaptive UI and part of the Continuum concept.
Microsoft is also continuing to drive the concept of work and leisure coexisting in a secure and manageable fashion as a core operating principle. They are trying to “reinvent productivity” with dual-use productivity tools such as Outlook and Exchange, OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, and Skype and Skype for business. These applications are aware of each other and can enforce rules with DRM that will keep work documents encrypted and only available on OneDrive for business, and your music files only in your personal OneDrive.
Other announcements worth mentioning included:
- Office 2016 Public Preview was just released, and Office for Mac 2016 will be released soon, targeted for late summer as well.
- SCOM is becoming a suite unto itself, enabling all virtual machines, public and private, to be monitored – all in one place, on one pane of glass.
- SQL2016 is also due to be released in the late summer or early fall time frame and promises to have many significant enhancements boasting an “infinite database.” The DB can be stretched into Azure simply, with very little effort and no re-engineering.
Overall, the event was great. Not too long ago, I would have counted out Windows Phone, and now I think it may actually have a shot at broad adoption. Many were saying that the public cloud at Microsoft would never take off – now look at Office 365 adoption rates today. Azure was a quiet recipient of this subtle broad adoption. If you are on Office 365, you already own Azure AD and Identity services. Many have stated that Windows 8 was a major flop, but it has set the stage for clients to transition to Windows 10, which will be less a client and more a platform and service.
My crystal ball has lots of fingerprints on it, but my money is on Microsoft. The future has never been brighter!