Microsoft news this week included updates to Azure, SQL Server 2016, Office for Android and, of course, Windows 10.
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Windows 10 is this summer, and with it Microsoft is looking is looking to bring along as many partners as possible, even trying to woo Android users. However, let's talk security first.
This week kicked off with a Microsoft security update. The company has announced a new security appliance called Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) that is designed to monitor and detect account threats in different forms.
The ATA has three unique functionalities, reports Microsoft. It can detect harmful threats like brute force executions, pass-the-ticket (PtT), reconnaissance, and pass-the-hash (PtH) in real-time. It can build a foundation of "normal" user behavior by monitoring user authentication and network access. It can also be used as an audit tool to ID system authorization flaws by scanning the network.
On the mobile front, we learned that Microsoft has sealed a deal with 20 OEMs that will now install its Office platform on Android tablets. Among these companies are industry giants like LG, Sony, Haier, and Prestigio.
Microsoft's 20 newest tablet partners will join 11 other businesses, including Samsung, Dell, and Pegatron, all of which formed similar agreements earlier this year. Their hardware will soon come equipped with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Skype, and OneDrive.
In other Microsoft meets Android news, we learned that the upcoming Windows 10 will accommodate both Android and iOS devices with a built-in Phone Companion app. The app is designed to help iOS and Android users download the features they need to make their smartphones fully compatible with Windows 10.
Among the apps available for download will be Cortana. Microsoft's digital personal assistant will be making its debut in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Once users download, they can access Cortana features across their PC and smartphone.
The Cortana app will be able to help with setting reminders, tracking flights, and completing tasks that were started on a Windows PC. Content and edits will also be stored in Cortana's Notebook across devices.
Microsoft does note that Cortana will have limited functionality on Android and iOS, since it does not have the system access to integrate certain functions. Users will not, for instance, be able to prompt Cortana hands-free with a "Hey, Cortana" greeting, nor will they be able to toggle settings or open apps using Cortana. A preview of the app is coming in a future Windows 10 Insider Preview build.
News of cloud and big data updates also came from Redmond this week. Microsoft announced the public preview of SQL Server 2016, which it first mentioned at this year's Ignite conference. New features are designed to better protect dormant and active user data, help apply In-Memory OLTP to more applications, and stretch warm and cold transactional data to Microsoft Azure.
Microsoft also released the public preview of Live Encoding for Azure Media Services. The cloud-based workflow simplifies the process of streamlining videos so that customers can run live events from remote locations with only a strong WiFi or mobile network.
Later in the week we learned that Windows 10 is on track for its predicted July release, which first slipped back in April. Neowin reports that mid-July is indeed the targeted sign-off window for the new OS, an update confirmed by "two insiders familiar with the company's plans."
Based on the updates and previews we've seen so far, it looks like Windows 10 will mark a new era for Microsoft. Industry experts agree, as indicated by a new whitepaper from Juniper Research highlighting the top 10 tech leaders of 2015.
In predicting which tech visionaries would prove most influential over the next year, Juniper put Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella in the top slot. No doubt it'll be exciting to see where Nadella's mobile-first, cloud-first strategy takes Microsoft in 2015 -- let's see if he can meet these increasingly higher expectations.
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Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio
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