Read it while it’s hot: Microsoft Inspire highlights

By Jit Reddy, Director of Unified Communications at Arkadin APAC

On 15th - 19th July at the Microsoft Inspire event in Las Vegas, we checked out the latest and greatest that Microsoft has to offer. There are many keynote videos and transcripts of the presentations available, but we have condensed all that information and put together the key highlights of the event.

 

1. Microsoft’s key focus and messages:

  • Microsoft continues to develop its concept of Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge. Computing in the cloud is to be enhanced by AI, complemented by devices or components that are not in the cloud.
  • From a collaboration and communications prospective, this could materialize in the future thanks to Teams (in the cloud, enhanced by AI) and smart endpoints that enhance the meeting or communications experience. Microsoft had an interesting demo of how AI will enhance meetings by performing automated transcription and translation in Teams, with Mixed Reality summoning holographic participants by using intelligent endpoints.
  • Microsoft’s messaging this year centres around these three areas:
  1. Azure
  2. Data and AI (this year seems to be the materialization of AI in actual customer use cases, and is no longer only theoretical)
  3. Microsoft 365 (which contains Office 365)
  • Within Microsoft 365, the key components are Teams and Security/Compliance

 

2. Teams and Direct Routing, Skype:

  • Teams is now considered on feature-parity with Skype for Business (SfB) Online. There are still a few minor caveats, mostly around federation, which will be ironed out in the coming months.
  • Teams now also contains features that SfB Online did not have: Cloud Recording, Cloud Recording Transcription, Video Background Blur, Inline Message Translation, Proximity Detection in Meeting Rooms, etc.
  • The scope for Teams at the 2017 launch was only Collaboration. The scope as of today: Collaboration, Meetings, Cloud Voice, Device Compatibility, AI, Enterprise Compliance.
  • Teams “freemium” is confirmed: free for up to 300 users for SMB customers. Free usage for up to 1 year for EA customers. Details are not fully fleshed out and we will know more by September.
  • In the coming 12 months, Microsoft will direct existing users on SfB online to reach out to partners such as Arkadin to assist with their transition to Teams.
  • Microsoft is no longer promoting SfB Online. Transition to Teams is programmed, with the removal of SfB Online SKUs in the Microsoft price list from Q4.
  • Skype Server 2019 will be in preview on 24th July 2018 and released in Q4 2018. It will support Skype Server and Teams hybrid for customers not willing to be 100% on public cloud.

 

3. Azure and AI:

  • Azure, as well as Azure components powered by AI, have been a key part of Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud/Intelligent Edge objectives since last year. As such, Azure takes precedence over Microsoft 365/Office365 in the Microsoft strategy.
  • Many of the AI sessions I attended were leveraging Azure for its in-built AI components, such as speech recognition, natural language processing, image and face recognition, context-based translation, transcription, bots, etc.
  • Most of Microsoft’s AI capabilities are built in Azure and are, or will be, accessible via APIs for third-parties to leverage.

 

Arkadin is one of the few partners in APAC that can help provide a seamless transition to Microsoft Teams. To learn more about how you can leverage Microsoft Teams and other highlights of the Inspire event, we will hold a live webinar for you. Indicate your interest for our live webinar at the link below.

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