"Microsoft's core purpose is to unlock a new culture of work... [and] support you as you endeavor to unlock that creativity in every person inside the organisation," CEO Satya Nadella (pictured) told the assembled audience at the vendor's annual Ignite conference, held this year in Orlando.
The event's first day saw a multitude of features and upgrades to its products and services, and included the announcement of an initiative with Adobe and SAP to help businesses better connect their customer data.
Here are our key takeaways from the event's first day.
'The end of the password era'
Business customers will no longer require a password to log into their business applications, as Microsoft announced a move to a two-tier verification mode.
Rob Lefferts, senior VP of security, announced that Microsoft would be supporting password-less logins for customers connected to Azure Active Directory (AD)-connected apps, using the Microsoft Authenticator app. This app replaces passwords with a "more secure" sign-in, using a combination of your phone and fingerprint, face or PIN. Lefferts claims that this will reduce security compromise by 99.9 per cent.
"No company lets enterprises eliminate more passwords than Microsoft does. Today, we are declaring an end to the era of passwords," he declared in a blog post announcing the move.
As part of its security upgrades, Lefferts also announced Microsoft Threat Protection, which is an "integrated experience" for detecting, investigating and remediating across a range of services such as email, documents and infrastructure in the 365 admin console.
"This will let analysts save thousands of hours as they automate the more mundane security tasks," Lefferts claimed.
Windows Virtual Desktop
Available only to Enterprise 10 and Education 10 customers, this Azure-based service allows users to run Windows 10 in the cloud. The company claims that the Virtual Desktop will provide a multi-user Windows 10 experience, along with Office 365 ProPlus. This package includes free extended security updates for Windows 7, which Microsoft claims is to provide "more options to support legacy apps" while transitioning to Windows 10.
Microsoft claims that Windows Virtual Desktop is scalable and deployable "in minutes", with users no longer required to host, install and configure the components themselves. The company is already working with partners, such as Citrix, to extend the service throughout the Azure marketplace. It also said that Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers will be able to offer Windows Virtual Desktop to their customers.
Microsoft Office gets some ‘Ideas'
Nadella told the assembled audience at the conference that modern apps need to be more specific to individual roles.
"We can't be captive to the old way of doing things; buying these large suites of business applications and trying to deploy them," he said. "We need these more modular, modern apps that are role specific, workflow specific, that can be composed for the specific needs you have."
From that sentiment comes the newest feature for the ever-popular Office suite. The set of products is ready to get the AI treatment, with the new ‘Ideas' feature. Ideas uses AI to suggest tips when creating documents in Office apps. These tweaks to the processes are aimed at speeding up the creation of documents and presentations.
The Ideas feature is currently available in Excel, where it uses AI to suggests charts and identify errors in data, and will be rolled out to the rest of the Office products soon.
Teams gets a host of new features
Microsoft's workplace collaboration platform saw a number of new features announced at Ignite. These include the ability to blur the background on-screen, record meetings in Teams - allowing users to play back content - and live transcriptions of the meeting. This will be powered by Microsoft Stream - the company's own corporate video-streaming service.
Joining forces with Adobe and SAP for Open Data Initiative
The three companies announced that they partnering to launch a new initiative which aims to "help companies to better govern their data and support privacy and security". This initiative claims that a company will be better able to connect data across its organisation, using AI and analytics to deliver new services to customers.
With the ability to better connect data across an organisation, companies can more easily use AI and advanced analytics for real-time insights, "hydrate" business applications with critical data to make them more effective, and deliver a new category of AI-powered services for customers.
"Together with Adobe and SAP we are taking a first, critical step to helping companies achieve a level of customer and business understanding that has never before been possible," said Nadella.
"Organisations everywhere have a massive opportunity to build AI-powered digital feedback loops for predictive power, automated workflows and, ultimately, improved business outcomes."
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