Monday, May 4, was the start of Microsoft Ignite, the tech giant's second conference in as many weeks. Executives spoke from Chicago after a week in San Francisco for its developer-oriented Build event.
In a similar format to last week's Build, the enterprise-focused Ignite started with a long keynote from company officials, including CEO Satya Nadella, all of whom overwhelmed attendees with a deluge of updates on how Microsoft plans to alter the future of productivity.
Windows 10 took center stage for a chunk of the morning's discussions. We learned about an upcoming build that will feature new Start menu buttons and faster access to essential apps. Cortana got another revamp. The digital assistant will also answer questions about tech support. Windows 10 users will also be able to remove content from Cortana.
Microsoft Edge, the browser poised to replace Internet Explorer in Windows 10, also received some updates. Company officials reported expanded integration with Cortana, object RTC, and extensions. The extensions won't be built into Edge upon its release, but three extensions that will work with the browser include Pinterest, click-to-call Skype, and the Reddit Enhancement Suite, reports PC World. A full list of potential features can be found on Microsoft's developer website.
The cloud got plenty of attention during the keynote as well. We learned that Microsoft is getting ready to preview Azure Stack, a next-gen hybrid cloud offering that bundles Azure Service Fabric, Azure Portal, and Azure Resource manager on top of Windows Server and Systems Center. The goal here is to give companies a secure means of testing Azure.
Officials also turned their focus to security this week, highlighting new tools that are based on machine learning and integrated with Azure Active Directory. The Advanced Threat Analytics software and service can be used to evaluate whether Active Directory information is being used in a malicious way. After altering to the activity, ATA can share the location where it happened.
In other security news, we learned about Windows Update for Business, a new method for receiving Windows 10 updates. Business users running Windows 10 can better manage which updates they receive and when they receive them, with the option to receive automatic updates from Microsoft if that best suits them. This news marks the eventual decline of Microsoft's Patch Tuesday.
The crux of Ignite was productivity, which was evident in the many updates we saw coming to Office and Office 365. To accommodate a more mobile and cloud-based audience, Microsoft is making some major changes to its Office suite to enhance team collaboration, mobile meetings, content co-creation and intelligence.
The myriad of Office news items included the public preview of Office 2016, group collaboration tool Office 365 Groups, and the upcoming launch of Sway for business and education subscribers. Meetings in Office 365 will automatically be conducted via Skype for Business, and a new organizational view in Office Delve will offer personalized views of how individuals and teams are interacting across the business.
Microsoft announced the second iteration of its Windows Server Technical Preview, which delivers more storage, flexible networking, simplified server management and updates, and better security. Coming later this year, we'll see previews for SharePoint Server 2016, Exchange Server 2016, and SQL Server 2016.
Speaking of the future, we got some insight on the future of OneDrive in a year-long roadmap that combines Microsoft's OneDrive consumer and OneDrive for Business offerings, pictured on ZDNet. The current quarter will bring mobile PDF capabilities to Android and iOS and the ability to save to OneDrive for Business via Outlook Web Access.
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