September 26 by Eric Dreshfield
Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft kicked off Envision/Ignite by thanking the people of Orange County, Florida for making the event possible. She stated that Microsoft has partnered with Clean the World to build out hygiene kits at Envision/Ignite that will be given to those affected by Hurricane Irma. Microsoft has also partnered with the American Red Cross and will be holding a blood drive on Wednesday of the event week. White called everyone at the event Change Agents, not just referring to what they do on the job, but in the way they come together as a community and impact others globally. She talked briefly about the real-time, Artifical Intelligence (AI) based translation service that is making the keynote available simultaneously in 12 different languages. Julia then introduced Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.
Satya took the stage and similarly started by thanking the attendees, and the local community who encouraged everyone to attend the event. He also indicated that 1 in 10 attendees came from the areas hit hardest by the recent hurricanes. Satya went on to discuss the theme of the conferences, Ignite and Envision, that people come together across all roles, and organizations to help support the increased levels of digitization needed to allow people and organizations to thrive. In addition, Nadella’s keynote had 5 key takeaways.
Enabling a Modern Workplace
Microsoft continues to prioritize software and technologies that help enable a modern workplace. He said the nature of work is, “no longer about routine tasks – it’s about unlocking the creativity inside of your organization.” Nadella discussed how, through the Microsoft Graph API, LinkedIn data can be integrated with Office 365, enabling you to find colleagues with needed skills and expertise quicker and easier.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) First
Satya talked about the promise of “AI-First” applications, those business applications that leverage AI to provide services and support to customers. We are still very early in the AI lifecycle, starting on a “new journey” of creating AI-enabled business applications that will have a profound impact on businesses and people alike. Microsoft utilizes this technology to handle its own online customer service and support inquiries.
Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge
Nadella talked about a paradigm shift that’s happening with the Internet of Things (IoT). He talked about the Intelligent Edge, and how when combined with the Intelligent Cloud, technologies like Microsoft Azure can be leveraged to provide incredible productivity gains through “the agility of being able to do continuous integration and deployment” of new software.
One area that got a lot of attention from Nadella and others during the Ignite Keynote was Mixed Reality (MR). Ford recently announced that it has expanded its tests of Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality headset, Nadella’s keynote included a demo of how the HoloLens platform integrates with Microsoft Teams to enable collaboration with co-workers inside the headset view. What this really demonstrated was the ability to integrate AI with IoT, as well as MR…a very real example of seeing benefits from intelligent technology.
Nadella’s other big initiative is a push towards quantum computing. Are you in the dark about what quantum computing is? If so, that puts you in good company. Bill Gates admits he’s he’s baffled by it, and even though Nadella talked about it during his keynote, he even struggles to find a one-sentence explanation for it. I won’t try to define it either – as I’m sure I can’t do it justice. Suffice it to say that it’s complex. Very complex. As society moves forward at an ever-increasing pace, the nature of our own complex human though grows more complex, and therefore what we try to get computers to accomplish is likewise, increasingly complex. This is where quantum computing starts – where traditional computing struggles. The goal, according to Nadella, is for quantum computing to “tackle some of the biggest challenges that we still face as a world.”
Want to watch the complete Satya Nadella keynote from Microsoft Ingite? You can find it here.