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Microsoft highlights cloud, AI and mixed reality progress at ‘Ignite’

After more than a decade in R&D, Microsoft shows off its quantum computing efforts

Microsoft highlights cloud, AI and mixed reality progress at ‘Ignite’
Nadella says Microsoft is pushing the frontiers of what’s possible with mixed reality and AI infused across its products.

Microsoft on Monday welcomed over 25,000 business customers to its annual IT event, Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, Florida, where the company showcased how it is infusing cloud, AI and mixed reality across its product lines.

Microsoft also shared how quantum computers could help solve some of our planet’s biggest challenges.

Announcements spanned Microsoft’s commercial businesses — Office 365, Windows 10, Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft AI. “Digital technology is impacting all aspects of our society and economies, creating unprecedented opportunity for organizations of all sizes,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.

“I’m optimistic and inspired by the ingenuity of customers, partners and developers everywhere that are pushing the frontiers of what’s possible with mixed reality and artificial intelligence infused across Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure, to transform and have impact in the world,” Nadella added.

The next frontier of computing

Following 12 years of research and investment in quantum computing, Microsoft announced the creation of a new programming language optimised for exploiting scalable quantum computers and deep integration of the programming language into Visual Studio, providing developers debugging and other support, as well as simulators that can run locally or on Microsoft Azure. The tools will be available to developers for free by year’s end.

Microsoft announced the expansion of Microsoft 365 with two new solutions - Microsoft 365 F1 and Microsoft 365 Education-giving users what they need to create and collaborate securely.  New intelligent search capabilities, a vision for intelligent communications centering on Microsoft Teams, and security and IT management enhancements to help customers stay secure and compliant, including meeting the General Data Protection Regulation.

Also introduced was New LinkedIn in Microsoft profile cards that now provides the ability to see information from LinkedIn profiles in Microsoft apps and services. This new experience, rolling out now for first release customers enhances the way users collaborate and build relationships by providing insights about the people you’re working with, inside and outside your organisation, right from within Office 365.

Dynamics 365 and AI

Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI solutions are designed to tackle high-value, complex enterprise scenarios and tailored to existing processes, systems and data. The first solution includes an intelligent virtual agent for customer care, an intelligent assistant for customer service staff and conversation management tools, all powered by Microsoft AI.

Modular apps for Dynamics 365 help customers quickly transform high-impact processes by integrating with existing systems and augmenting them with workflow and insights from Dynamics 365, LinkedIn and Office 365. The first two modular apps, Attract and Onboard, will help companies recruit the most qualified candidates and ensure their success with personalized onboarding. Both will be available as part of Dynamics 365 for Talent later this year.

Deeper integration between PowerApps, Microsoft Flow and Office 365 and Dynamics 365. Now, any business user familiar with InfoPath forms, Access databases or SharePoint can build apps that extend and automate their business processes with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow.

Microsoft Azure is now powered by Azure Machine Learning and delivered via a hybrid cloud approach across data, apps and infrastructure, whether on-premises or in the cloud.

The announcement includes shipping of Azure Stack through OEM partners including Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo. Also made available was SQL Server on Linux, Windows and Docker availability with SQL Server 2017 GA.

SQL Data Warehouse delivers a new optimised-for-compute performance tier, significantly improving performance of analytics in the cloud. This new compute-optimised performance tier also scales further than before, up to 30,000 compute Data Warehouse Units. The preview will be available in the fall. Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server will let customers maximize existing license investments with discounted rates. Azure Cost Management services by Cloudyn will help manage and optimise cloud spend via a single, unified view across multicloud environments. Customers and partners will be able to use the service to manage their Azure spend for free. 

Microsoft also made Updates to Microsoft Cognitive Services, a collection of intelligent APIs that allows developers to easily add AI capabilities to their applications. Today’s updates include the general availability of text analytics, a cloud-based service for language processing, such as sentiment analysis, key phrase extraction and language detection of text. Next month, we will also make generally available Bing Custom Search, a customized search experience for a section of the Web, and Bing Search v7, which will provide more relevant results using Bing Web, news, video, image search, as well as a new version of autosuggest and spellcheck. More information on Microsoft’s enterprise cloud solutions is available here.

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