Top 5 releases from Microsoft Ignite 2019

With great excitement, Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) opened the flagship Ignite conference with his Vision Keynote, once again inspiring the audience with his formula for 'Tech Intensity' - tech adoption multiplied by tech capability and trust.  This promises to make every business more productive, collaborative, safe, and efficient through the adoption of the growing suite of Microsoft technologies.  Rather than watch Satya's 75 minute keynote address (and the following 4 on the separate technical areas of the Microsoft realm), we've summarised the parts we think may be useful to the average user of the Microsoft suite.

1. New Improved Edge Browser

The all new Chromium-based Edge browser will be available on the 15th of January, but for those keen to try it now you can download the Beta version here.   In the never-ending quest to improve productivity, there is a new tab page for accessing Microsoft 365 files, sites, intranet searches and much more of your company's information stored here.  The new release also has a IE mode for working with older websites still dependant on Internet Explorer. The browser will be available on all devices including MacOS, iOS and Android and, through Azure Active Directory technology, it offers the ability to access work documents from your phone.  We have been testing the new Edge browser at Sentrian and can report that Microsoft have finally got it right!  It is at least as good as Chrome to use. 

2. Meet Cortana

Your new and improved productivity assistant, Cortana, is now available with the added option of a male voice.  Although he's not a consumer PA, he is targeted at improving efficiencies in your work, and is particularly helpful with organising your day and your email.  Cortana can now read out emails, flag emails, write emails based on voice and send a daily agenda email gathered from room calendar appointments, bookings, reminders and events.  Cortana will integrate with Scheduler to coordinate meetings, book rooms and send a calendar invite.  This functionality is now available in the US through Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS, and will hopefully be available for us in Australia in early in 2020.

3. Introducing Project Cortex

The latest offering from the Microsoft 365 suite, Project Cortex promises to make you work more efficiently by helping you manage the content kept across your 365 repositories including Office apps, Outlook and Teams.  Using AI, this new tool creates a "knowledge network" to review your information and organise it into topics and then deliver relevant data from within to those in your team who are working on these topics.  Further, it has the ability to connect your Microsoft 365 content with external systems making it easier to control and manage all of your working data.

4. Chatbots made easy

Ignite saw the launch of a new tool, Power Virtual Agents , which will enable a chatbot to be built with ease.  Previously, these handy little creatures required the skills of a developer to build a virtual bot, however, this was often cumbersome and missed the initial requirement.  As explained by Microsoft, practically anyone in a business, regardless of technical knowledge, can create an "intelligent virtual agent".  This no code/low code agent means any of us can create a chatbot workflow to onboard an employee or respond to a customer's initial enquiry.  There are costs associated with Power Virtual Agents, check with your Sentrian Client Services Manager to learn more.

5. HoloLens 2

The upgraded version of the first model, the HoloLens 2 is far beyond a gaming or multimedia device.  Microsoft is promoting this as a core-business, mixed-reality piece of equipment aimed at healthcare, engineering and manufacturing.  The device promises to deliver a more comfortable, secure and instinctual experience for utilising holograms in the workplace.  Launched for sale at Ignite, the HoloLens 2 is retailing for USD $3,500 with remote assistance costing $125 per user per month.

For a more thorough look at all of the news released at Ingite, check out the Microsoft Ignite Book of News.

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