Microsoft has announced enhanced OPC UA support for Windows, iOS, Linux and Android. The company plans to contribute a .NET Standard reference stack to the OPC Foundation GitHub open-source. The stack works on most common software platforms and allows the creation of OPC UA clients, servers and as well as “OPC Publishers” (for sending telemetry data to the cloud) on Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, iOS, Linux and Android platforms. In addition, OPC clients and servers can run directly on Azure using this stack.
Microsoft has announced the acquisition of Solair, an Italian company providing Internet of Things (IoT) services. Solair’s IoT customisation and deployment solutions are built on the Azure cloud platform and will be integrated into Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite.
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.
Microsoft has announced the general availability of Azure IoT Hub. The Hub provides a secure way to connect provision and manage IoT devices sending and receiving messages. IoT Hub supports open protocols such as MQTT, HTTPS and AMQPS and simplifies integration with other Azure services, such as Azure Machine Learning and Azure Stream Analytics.
Microsoft has announced that the Azure IoT Suite is available for purchase. The suite facilitates the deployment of IoT solutions and includes support for a variety of devices and systems, interactive dashboards and visualisations as well as preconfigured solutions.
Microsoft racked up six awards at Mobile World Congress 2015, including Best Mobile Tablet (Surface Pro 3), Best of Mobile World Congress 2015 (Lumia 640) and Top Pick of Mobile World Congress 2015 (Lumia 640 XL).
The company has released a new Universal Foldable Keyboard, which is designed to work with iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Windows tablets and select Windows Phones. They also released the Designer Bluetooth Desktop keyboard and mouse set.
Microsoft also announced their new Surface 3, which is a smaller less powerful version of the Surface Pro 3 and has been priced at $499.
The company continues to expand its cloud service data centres, with announcements of Dynamics CRM Online served from datacentres located in Japan as well as Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online from datacentres in Australia.
CRM has been a key area for Microsoft’s strategy and the company announced its Spring ’15 release of Dynamics CRM, which focuses on providing enhancements and features in productivity, social, mobility, analytics, and knowledge.
The “Microsoft on non-windows platforms” initiative continues with an expanded global partnership with Samsung to deliver Microsoft mobile productivity services to both consumer and business customers. The company has also expanded strategic agreements with global OEM Dell, and regional OEMs including TrekStor of Germany, JP Sa Couto of Portugal, Datamatic of Italy, DEXP of Russia, Hipstreet of Canada, QMobile of Pakistan, Tecno of Africa, and Casper of Turkey, as well as original device manufacturer Pegatron. These 11 hardware partners will pre-install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype on Android devices coming to market later this year.
Microsoft has announced that the Azure IoT Suite will be released in preview later this year. The suite is an integrated offering incorporating all the relevant Azure capabilities to connect devices and other assets (i.e. “things”), capture the diverse and voluminous data they generate, integrate and orchestrate the flow of that data, and manage, analyse and present it as usable information as well as intelligently automate operations.
Windows 10 will include a new IoT edition for small devices that is tuned to run Windows universal apps and drivers and will be royalty free to makers and device builders.
On the Windows 10 front, Microsoft has introduced Windows Hello, a biometric authentication which can provide access to Windows 10 devices using face recognition or fingerprints. For independent hardware vendors (IHVs), a single universal driver that can be deployed across all Windows 10 device families (e.g., PCs, phones, IoT). Microsoft also provided information on their Windows 10 universal app platform, which is designed to take the pain out of accommodating a range of form factors and devices.
Microsoft has also released their latest build of Windows 10 as part of the Windows Insiders programme. The release is focused on Microsoft’s new browser, Project Spartan, and is the first time the new browser has been included in Windows 10. The company will include IE 11 and Spartan in Windows 10, but Windows 10 Mobile will only run Spartan.
Finally, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages.
eSmart Systems provides an automated energy management system based on Microsoft cloud services, including Microsoft Machine Learning. Utility companies can connect sensors, smart meters, and software to forecast consumption, reduce outages, and monitor assets to improve efficiencies.
Takenaka Corporation, a Japanese architecture, engineering and construction firm, has created an IoT “smart” energy management solution based on Microsoft Azure. The system collects and analyses data from equipment such as air conditioners and lighting, and also on the flow of building occupants. The data is analysed using Azure Machine Learning to create predictions and trigger actions, turning the heat on, for example, when rooms are in use; choosing the right time to turn down the thermostat to prevent waste. The solution is being field tested at Takenaka’s main office in Tokyo and is expected to be introduced in about 20 buildings in 2015.
WASH Laundry has integrated IoT technologies into their coin-op washing machines. WASH connected its machines to the Internet, and then mined data on price and machine use, analysing it with Power BI. This enables them to fine-tune the price set on each machine in near-real-time, to find the sweet spot between maximizing profit and keeping customers from washing elsewhere.
Microsoft makes the Office 365 ProPlus Benefit available to all students and educators on a worldwide basis. Eligible organisations can provide Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions at no extra cost for all students, faculty and staff. Yammer Enterprise is now included in the Office 365 kiosk plan.
Microsoft will be providing Dynamics CRM services in Japan from local datacentres and are planning to offer Office 365 Dynamics CRM Online from datacentres in Australia by the end of March 2015. Microsoft has also announced the U.S. general availability of Azure Government and upcoming availability of Dynamics CRM Online for Government.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been getting Microsoft’s attention. The company has been offering half-day IoT Quick Start workshops in partnership with Aditi, CGI, Cognizant, Rockwell and Tata to help galvanize industry activity that utilises Microsoft’s Azure IoT Services.
January will see changes to Visual Studio Online pricing and licensing. From 1 January, Visual Studio Online users will no longer have to pay any per-processor (or any other per deployment environment) charge for Release Management.
Microsoft has said that that there over 1.5 million registered Windows Insiders and have hinted that the next preview release of Windows 10 in 2015 will include a range of new features.
In with the new and out with the old – Windows Server 2003 extended support ends on 14 July 2015 and extended support for SQL Server 2005 will end on 12 April 2016.
The Windows Store now enables carrier billing for app purchases in China through China Mobile, India with Idea and Brazil via Claro. U.S, Verizon Wireless, has also added Windows Phone to the platforms it supports with carrier billing.
Bitcoins gain Microsoft’s support. You can exchange bitcoins to buy apps and games for Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox. In the U.S. you can use BitPay to trade-in bitcoin (at current market value) and add it to your Microsoft account. Those funds can then be used to purchase content in the Windows Store, or in stores that house Xbox Games, Xbox Music or Xbox Video.