Jul 04

View on Microsoft’s June activities

The most significant event this month has been Microsoft’s announcement of its planned acquisition of LinkedIn. This will be the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s corporate history. Microsoft’s CEO believes that LinkedIn information can be incorporated into Office 365 and Dynamics and envisages a LinkedIn newsfeed that serves up articles based on an individual’s current project with Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn. There are also other potential synergies with Office 665, Dynamics CRM & ERP as well as advertising products and services.

Microsoft continues extending its services to non-Microsoft platforms with Translator for Amazon Fire available from the Amazon Underground app store and Outlook watch face for Android Wear.

Microsoft has announced that it will use Apache Spark to power its big data and analytics offerings, which includes Cortana Intelligence Suite, Power BI and Microsoft R Server.

The CRM 2016 spring wave includes Dynamics CRM Online 2016 Update 1, Dynamics CRM 2016 Service Pack 1, Dynamics Marketing 2016 Update 1 and Social Engagement 2016 Update 1.5.

Microsoft has featured in a number of Gartner’s Magic Quadrants. Identity and Access Management as a Service (IDaaS) for 2016 and Azure Active Directory was placed in the “leaders” quadrant with a favourable completeness of vision assignment. A visionary placement for Intune and the Enterprise Mobility Suite in the Enterprise Mobility Management Magic Quadrant as well as a Leader in the Mobile Application Development Platforms Magic Quadrant.

Of interest is the release of Microsoft’s first holographic email and calendaring apps, Outlook Mail and Calendar, to Microsoft HoloLens.

Microsoft has announced Azure Information Protection, which is a new service that builds on Azure Rights Management (Azure RMS) and its Secure Islands acquisition. There are no changes for current Azure RMS customers until the General Availability of Azure Information Protection later this calendar year.

A preview of Azure AD Conditional Access policies for Exchange and SharePoint Online has been made available. These policies can be used to require multi-factor authentication (MFA) or block access based on network location.

Microsoft will release its Windows 10 Anniversary Update on 2 August. There have been quite a few test builds of the Anniversary Update for Fast Ring PC and phone testers. The Start Menu and Action Centre include a range of refinements and changes as well as significant updates to Edge, which starts to support add-ins.

Jun 01

View on Microsoft’s May activities

In spite of selling off its entry level feature phones, along with more staff reductions planned, Microsoft has said that it will continue to support and develop the Lumia brand. Given the company’s ever shrinking mobile phone market share coupled with Satya Nadella’s focus, this is not a huge surprise. Will we see the launch of a Surface Phone at some time in the future?

Microsoft is partnering with the Jenkins community to offer both compute resources and technical expertise to build a development and delivery infrastructure on Linux and Java in the Azure cloud.

Cloud services continue to be the company’s focus as it unveils its vision and roadmap for SharePoint, which focuses on providing file sharing and collaboration on any device as well as becoming an open and extensible platform.

May’s updates to Office 365 include real-time chat integration into the web experiences, as well as new capabilities in Outlook and Visio. The Power BI Desktop May Update, features improvements to Report View, the ability to Publish to a Pyramid Server, analytics and data connectivity.

The company has announced the availability of the PowerShell module for Azure Machine Learning in public preview mode. This is a .NET based PowerShell DLL module that allows end users to manage Azure ML workspaces, experiments, datasets, web services and web service endpoints.

The latest volume of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR) has been published and includes threat data from the second half of 2015 as well as longer term trend data on industry vulnerabilities, exploits, malware and malicious websites.

Microsoft has reported that Windows 10 is now running on 300 million active devices around the world. There have been a number of Insider Build releases that include the revised Start Menu as well as a range of other refinements.

May 03

View on Microsoft’s April activities

Microsoft has continued to apply its focus on iOS and Android as significant targets for its applications and services. These include Calendar Apps for Outlook on iOS and Android, which connects Wunderlist, Facebook and Evernote; content viewing for Skype for Business on Android and updates to iOS as well as Microsoft Translator capabilities for Android users.

The company also announced the availability of the Linux Data Science Virtual Machine on the Azure marketplace. This is a custom VM image built on the OpenLogic CentOS-based Linux version 7.2 and contains several popular data science tools used by data scientists, developers, educators and researchers.

Office 365 has been enhanced with email safety tips providing an added layer of protection; a new look and feel to the Office 365 welcome page that includes a range of new features for administrators and users. Microsoft has also released updates to Excel 2016’s Power Query technology, which is accessed through the Get & Transform section on the Data ribbon.

Extended support for SQL Server 2005 ended on 12 April and marks the end of security updates or hotfixes. Microsoft released their fourth and final SQL Server 2016 release candidate and announced that SQL Server 2016 will be generally available on 1 June 2016.

Microsoft released a public preview of the Azure Media Face Detector, which contains Face and Emotion Detection services. This Media Processor can be used for people counting, movement tracking and gauging audience participation and reaction via facial expressions.

Microsoft has announced that they will be releasing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update this summer. The update includes Windows Hello Biometric Security for Apps and Microsoft Edge, Window Ink enhancements, increased number of Cortana-enabled apps as well as revisions to the Start Menu.

Apr 01

View on Microsoft’s March activities

Microsoft announced its Dynamics CRM 2016 spring wave that will be available to online customers in Q2 2016. The release focuses on the integration of two recent acquisitions (FieldOne and Adxstudio), which provides capabilities for field service and portal solutions for community engagement.

For Office 365 subscribers, there have been new feature updates to Power Pivot for Excel 2016, which include the ability to save a relationship diagram view as a picture and enhancements to the relationship dialogue experience.

Microsoft announced the availability of SQL Server 2016 Release Candidate 0 and just a few days later, the availability of Release Candidate 1, which included an updated preview portal, custom branding, KPIs and mobile reports as well as paginated reports.

Microsoft plans to release the first version of the Skype Universal Windows Platform Preview app to its Windows Insiders for testing. The version includes a simplified user interface as well as a range of usability features that have been requested.

The first set of extensions for Edge are available to preview via the Windows Insider Program and include the Microsoft Translator, Mouse Gestures and the Reddit Enhancement Suite.

Microsoft has been making a range of announcements at its Build conference for developers. These include the release of HoloLens Development Edition, the introduction of support for Bash with Ubuntu user mode in Windows 10, new Skype for Business App SDK, new Skype Web SDK and a preview of Power BI Embedded.

Support for SQL Server 2005 ends on 12 April 2016. Microsoft plans to end support of the RC4 cipher with April’s cumulative security updates, which will disable the RC4 cipher by default.

Mar 01

View on Microsoft’s February activities

Gartner has positioned Microsoft as the Completeness of Vision leader in BI and Analytics Platforms, although behind Tableau and Qlik in Ability to Execute.

The Power BI mobile apps have been updated to support viewing reports on iPhones and Windows 10 phones. The Power BI Android app is due to be updated in the near future.

Microsoft has released a range of changes across Office clients on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. These include a number of new capabilities in Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In addition, the team released the first cumulative feature update since the initial September release of the Office 2016 apps. See February Office 365 updates for more information.

The Office training team has released tutorials to support Office 365 scenarios that include Get it done from anywhere, Content collaboration, and Run more effective meetings. The tutorials cover Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads, Macs and PCs.

Microsoft’s February Cloud Platform Release announcements with additional announcements made on 17 February include a range of services that have been released, some that have moved to public preview as well as price increases (Azure IoT Hub) and reductions (Dv2-Series).

The drive towards non-Microsoft platforms and devices continues unabated and includes rolling out group video calling on iPhone, iPad and Android phones and tablets (interesting that Windows Phone was not mentioned in Microsoft’s announcement).

New Windows 10 devices showcased at the Mobile World Congress included HP’s Elite x3, VAIO’s new Windows 10 phone, ALCATEL’s Fierce XL and Plus 10, Trinity’s NuAns NEO, Microsoft’s Lumia 650, Huawei’s MateBook, Lenovo’s YOGA 510 and 710, Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S, Panasonic’s Toughpad FZ-F1 and Toughbook CF-20 as well as Getac’s RX10, which is designed for the healthcare industry.

Microsoft has joined other industry participants to create the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), which has been established to define industry standards for the Internet of Things. Founding members include Cisco, Electrolux, General Electric, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung and a number of other organisations.

Microsoft has announced that developers will be able to purchase the HoloLens Development Edition, which will begin shipping on 30 March.

Microsoft conducted an interesting experiment by deploying a datacentre below the ocean’s surface. The company believes that this approach could solve several problems by using new power sources, reducing cooling costs and the distance to connected populations as well as making it easier and faster to set up datacentres.

Feb 01

View on Microsoft’s January activities

Another month of very few newsworthy announcements by Microsoft, who has been publishing articles on how best to use their latest offerings and promoting a variety of games and apps that run on Windows 10.

Microsoft now claims that more than 200 million devices are running Windows 10 and has started to apply its universal app vision for its own products by releasing the Power BI Windows 10 universal app for desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

The company continues to develop and promote its products on non-Windows platforms. These include Microsoft Selfie, a selfie and portrait enhancement app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch as well as updates to Outlook for iOS and Android. In addition, Outlook for Android was updated with new calendaring features and improved navigation.

Office 365 updates included the new Skype for Business for Android, smart rename for the Power Pivot data model in Excel 2016 and availability of the Access 2016 Runtime.

Microsoft’s consolidated list of Cloud Platform Release Announcements for January is worth reviewing. The company has also reduced it Azure pricing in keeping with the latest compute, storage and bandwidth pricing from Amazon Web Services.

Microsoft has announced that Microsoft Envision will take place in New Orleans on 4-6 April and is a new event targeted at business leaders.

Jan 04

View on Microsoft’s December activities

On a personal note, I hope everyone had a wonderful time during the holiday season and wish you the very best of success for 2016.

Like most companies, Microsoft has been promoting its software and hardware offerings during the holiday season with an occasional announcement worth reporting.

Microsoft continues paying attention to non-Windows platforms and has released Cortana on select iPhone, Android and Cyanogen OS powered devices. The company also released a preview of the Power BI app for iOS with support for SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.2, which provides delivery of on-premises data to mobile devices and includes out-of-the-box mobile reports and KPI tracking.

On the Azure front, Microsoft announced that Dynamics CRM Online customers will be able to use Azure ExpressRoute to establish a private, managed connection to CRM Online. Updates to Azure Backup include faster backup times, reduced cache space and an increase in the number of recovery points for cloud backups.

As part of promoting HoloLens, Microsoft has opened the first ongoing HoloLens experience showcase for developers at its store in New York – appointment required.

2015 saw the release of Windows 10 and Office 2016, an extraordinary amount of activity evolving its non-Windows platform offerings, the continued evolution of the Azure platform and the “restructure” of its acquired Nokia phone business.

Dec 01

View on Microsoft’s November activities

A relatively quiet month for Microsoft with much of its marketing energies focused on promoting Office 365, Windows 10 and associated devices as well as more in-depth information about its latest cloud service offerings.

Microsoft has announced plans to deliver commercial cloud services from datacentre regions in multiple cities within the UK and announced the expansion of regional hubs in Ireland and the Netherlands. General availability of Azure and Office 365 from local UK datacentres is expected in late 2016, with Dynamics CRM Online following shortly thereafter.

Red Hat has recognised Azure as a Certified Cloud and Service Provider, which enables customers to migrate Red Hat subscriptions to Azure and maintain their direct relationship with Red Hat.

FieldOne from Microsoft is available for purchase and can be installed directly within Office 365. FieldOne was acquired by Microsoft and provides field service management capabilities for delivering services to customers in the field.

Microsoft has announced plans to enhance its protection of customer data with a Cyber Defence Operations Centre and the new Microsoft Enterprise Cybersecurity Group. The company also revealed that its annual investment in security research and development is more than a billion dollars.

Microsoft has published its Security Intelligence Report Volume 19, which includes threat data from the first half of 2015 as well as longer term trend data on industry vulnerabilities, exploits, malware and malicious websites.

Microsoft HoloLens has partnered with Volvo Cars to explore automotive and technology scenarios in the context of people’s car buying experience. In addition Microsoft HoloLens has announced a partnership with Autodesk Fusion 360 on a solution focused on how industrial designers, mechanical engineers and other product development fields work together.

Microsoft has released 30 feature updates to “Get & Transform” in Excel 2016 and the Power Query add-in for Excel 2013 and 2010. The company has also released a new Bing app for iPhone.

Finally, in the spirit of the forthcoming holiday season, Microsoft’s Halo World Championship starts on 6 December with a $1.7 million prize pool.

Nov 02

View on Microsoft’s October activities

Gartner has positioned Microsoft as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems.

Microsoft has started reminding its customers that extended support for SQL Server 2005 ends in April 2016 and uses the opportunity to promote to the latest version of SQL Server.

Updates to Power BI include custom visualisations, group options and mobile notifications, while the Power BI Desktop October update included 23 new or improved features.

During October, Microsoft has been promoting many of its new and updated offerings as well as continuing to push Office 365, which is now available from local datacentres in India. The recently released Office 2016 has features such as Clutter, which only work for Office 365 users and not for the one-time purchase version. Microsoft plans to release updates with new features that will be dependent on an Office 365 subscription.

There has been a flurry of activity around newly announced devices and Windows 10 hardware. As part of this campaign, Microsoft has opened a flagship store in New York City and announced the availability of the new Microsoft Band, Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 for purchase.

Microsoft’s partners have been announcing their Windows 10-based hardware offerings. These include HP, Dell with new XPS Devices, Acer’s new line of Windows 10-optimised Laptops and All-in-ones, Toshiba’s dynaPad Tablet, LG Electronics as well as Lenovo’s new YOGA 900 devices.

Microsoft and Dell have announced hybrid cloud solution and program offerings. The Cloud Platform System Standard (CPS Standard) being the newest addition to the Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS) family.

The Skype division has been active with the release of Skype Translator for Windows desktop app that includes six voice languages (English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish) as well as 50 messaging languages. The Skype for Web feature allows chats using a browser interface. Microsoft has also released Skype for Business iOS app and added new video filters with their updated Skype for Android, iPhone and iPad.

Factoids of the month include Microsoft Azure hiring people around the world with open source skills and Windows 10 running on 110 million devices.

Oct 01

View on Microsoft’s September activities

Microsoft has announced that, in early 2016, it will no longer support RC4 cipher in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11. Google and Mozilla have also announced that they are ending support for RC4 in Chrome and Firefox.

This month saw a range of updates to Microsoft’s Cloud Platform product portfolio that included releases and previews covering the GS-Series virtual machines, Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA, Revolution R Enterprise in Azure Marketplace, SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.3, new JDBC 4.2 for SQL Server Driver, Visual Studio 2012 Update 5, Power BI content packs for Adobe Analytics and Azure Mobile Engagement, Azure SQL Database as well as previews of Azure SQL Database Elastic Database Basic and Premium tiers.

Microsoft has announced upcoming previews of its Azure Data Lake offerings, which will include Azure Data Lake Store (a single repository to capture data of any size, type and speed), Azure Data Lake Analytics (a service built on Apache YARN that dynamically scales and introduces U-SQL) as well as Azure HDInsight (a fully managed Apache Hadoop cluster service). Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio will support development projects for Azure Data Lake.

While we are on topics of interest to developers, Microsoft has issued an updated Developer’s Guide to Windows 10 video series with a focus on building Universal Windows apps. The Virtual Academy training courses also allow downloading of source code from GitHub.

Under the auspices of focusing on core Windows 10 Camera and Photo apps, Microsoft has announced the end of support for some of the Lumia apps, which have been removed from the Windows Phone Store.

The apps include Lumia Storyteller, Lumia Beamer, Photobeamer, and Lumia Refocus (which will no longer work due to the termination of the online services) as well as Lumia Panorama and Video Uploader (which will continue to work).

The company continues its strategy of embracing non-Microsoft platforms and has even developed its own Linux distribution for Azure networking, which will be made available as the Azure Cloud Switch (ACS). OneNote now provides support for multitasking, Spotlight search and Apple Pencil on iOS 9 and iPad Pro. There were also demonstrations of a number of enhancements for Office running on the iPad Pro. In addition, Microsoft released HDInsight on Linux.

On the hardware front, Dell is to sell Surface Pro and Surface accessories in the United States and Canada followed by expansion into other worldwide markets. Acer has unveiled PCs and phones designed for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile respectively. Lenovo and Toshiba have also announced their hardware line-up for Windows 10.

For residents in the UK, Microsoft has introduced the display of UK Ordnance Survey Maps to Bing Maps.

Microsoft Office 2016 has been released and focuses on productivity and integration rather new product specific feature additions. The installation has been simplified to the point of creating great frustration (for me), in that you are not even able to specify where it should be installed. So be careful if you have a multiple drive system and your C drive is a small SSD with limited space.