Corey Moss (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Convergent TechFocus is a blog look at technology developments: IT, Audio Visual, Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC), video conferencing, cloud and software-defined, mobility/BYOD, Internet of Things, cybersecurity and more.

This blog focus is on Microsoft Ignite, which took place this week in Atlanta, GA. Two major technology categories discussed here: Skype for Business UC and videoconferencing solutions, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an emerging trend in enterprise business.

Microsoft Ignite kicked off on Monday with exceptional keynotes throughout the day. In his opening Keynote, Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Microsoft focused on how technology enables digital transformation and demonstrated new technologies. He also discussed how IT is transforming and detailed investments and programs to help enable this. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella closed the first day with his Innovation Keynote, focused on next generation innovations and investments that are fundamental to shaping IT in the foreseeable future. He discussed emerging trends and how one can prepare to take advantage of them in their organization today.

The UCC Skype for Business Focus

A presentation of note, especially for the audio visual industry and customers, was the Keynote delivered by Gurdeep Pall, CVP of Skype and Skype for Business (here is a video of Pall made prior to Ignite talking about what to expect during his presentation). Key Skype for Business announcements were made during his presentation involving Microsoft Project Rigel partners Polycom and Logitech, as well as audio visual industry company Crestron and their Microsoft partnered solution.

The new Crestron Skype® for Business Solution for Meeting Rooms features:

  • A touch controller that manages the Skype Meeting
  • HDMI® and Crestron DigitalMedia inputs and outputs
  • Six (6) USB ports to connect audio devices, a camera, and other accessories
  • Cresnet® port to add an occupancy sensor for automation and room usage reporting

Crestron S4B.jpg

You can find more information on the Crestron solution here.

Along with these Skype for Business partner announcements, Polycom RealConnect Service for Office365 was introduced. This service, hosted on Microsoft Azure, enables non-native video teleconference (VTC) systems from Cisco and others to join a Skype for Business meeting. With this solution, a business can keep its existing investments and non-Skype for Business endpoint devices with the ability to leverage Skype for Business Meetings all in a seamless experience. Polycom RealConnect Service simplifies communications by leveraging native Microsoft Outlook calendaring and bringing everything and everyone together through click to join across devices.

realconnect-meeting

The Microsoft Surface Hub Skype for Business touch interactive display was of course present at Ignite – here it is being demonstrated by Pexip Inc., showing interop with a Cisco endpoint:

True evidence of the growing profile of Skype for Business in the enterprise business environment, as well as Microsoft’s full commitment in working with partnered AV industry solutions providers.

The Innovation Keynote – A Focus on Artificial Intelligence 

During his Innovation Keynote, Satya Nadella outlined Microsoft’s four pillars for democratizing AI: Agents, applications, services, and infrastructure. Nadella stated that Microsoft is “not pursuing AI to beat humans at games” – the idea here more in terms of empowering people and organizations. Some of Microsoft’s recent projects include handwriting recognition in Windows 10 and the ability to use Hello to unlock a device.

Cortana is referred to by Nadella as an Agent in his four pillars, the new “organizing layer” helping to mediate the interaction of a human and a computer. For example, Cortana uses machine learning to find commitments you have made in an email, such as letting someone know you’re going to follow up with them later, and reminding you to do so.

 

cortana

Nadella also spoke about wanting to help improve applications with better intelligence, where an example he gave was Swiftkey, where Microsoft is adding neural networks to help better predict the next words that a user may want to swipe. As Nadella states here “the keyboard is attached to you,” rather than the keyboard being attached to the device. There are also plans to add AI to core products including Office 365 and Skype. The services pillar centers around the Cortana Intelligence Suite and the fourth pillar infrastructure focuses on Azure where Microsoft is, according to Nadella, on a journey to develop the world’s “most intelligent cloud.”

It was also reported in GeekWire that Microsoft says it has formed a new 5,000-person engineering and research team to focus on its artificial intelligence products — a major reshaping of the company’s internal infrastructure similar to the one which took place in the mid-1990’s, when the company pursued the opportunity of the Internet.

An internal e-mail was sent by Satya Nadella to all Microsoft employees (obtained by GeekWire) stated: “We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in computing that is unlike anything we have seen in decades.” The new Microsoft AI and Research Group establishes a fourth engineering division inside the company, along with the Office, Windows and cloud groups.

Other product introductions of note at Ignite:

  • Microsoft is launching Office 365 Threat Intelligence, an enhancement to Office 365 security that provides alerts and data on where attacks are coming from.
  • MyAnalytics is the new name for the Delve Analytics service in Office 365. The service, which aims to help users better understand what they’re really focusing on at work, now has new features that provide insight into better ways for users to work together.
  • Windows Server 2016, announced at Ignite for October release, will also include Commercially Supported Docker Engine at no extra cost to users. “This makes it incredibly easy for developers and IT administrators to leverage container-based deployments using Windows Server 2016,” said Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president for cloud and enterprise.
  • The company said that it’s launching a new online community for IT professionals, Microsoft Technical Community, which is aimed at allowing participants “to exchange ideas, build connections and share best practices about Microsoft products and solutions.”

You can watch the first day keynotes on demand here.

Resource: Tech Republic – Microsoft Ignite: Nadella outlines 4 pillars for democratizing AI

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