The wait for a functional and supported integration between the Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana digital voice assistants is over.
It took a little longer than the companies originally anticipated. An end of 2017 planned release came and went without comment, but Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana did appear together on stage for a successful demo at the Microsoft Build conference in May.
Officially, the integration that was announced on Wednesday is a "public preview," although what that term means anymore in this age of cloud services telemetry and constant feature upgrades is up for debate. Essentially, the integration is here.
Practically, the public preview has some limitations that will be expanded upon over time, in addition to the usual adding of new services and skills. It's only available for U.S. customers to start, and won't support music streaming, audio books, flash briefings or setting alarms. The public preview version will also query users about their experience with the integration.
What U.S. customers will be able to do during the public preview is call up Cortana from Echo devices or call up Alexa from Windows 10 PCs and Harman Kardon Invoke speakers. Each digital voice assistant is enabled as a skill on the other's platform.
To start off on an Echo device, users need to say, "Alexa, open Cortana." That command will bring up instructions and a requirement to sign into the Microsoft account that includes Cortana. Conversely, from a Windows 10 PC, a user will say, "Hey, Cortana, open Alexa," and follow the prompts on screen to sign into Alexa.
According to Amazon's announcement blog post, from Cortana within Alexa, users can say things like:
- "What new e-mails do I have?"
- "What's on my calendar for tomorrow?"
- "Add 'order flowers' to my to-do list."
While going from Alexa within Cortana, a user can say:
- "Turn on the lights."
- "Play Jeopardy."
- "What's my order status?"
- "Add milk to my shopping list."
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 15, 2018 at 10:06 AM0 comments
In a move that could significantly reduce Azure Stack's attack surface and simplify network integration, Microsoft is consolidating a number of ports for the hybrid cloud platform.
Specifically, Microsoft plans to collapse port requirements for various Azure services running on Azure Stack from 27 different ports to just one. The services will communicate via Port 443, the standard port for HTTP over TLS/SSL. The change will take effect in an upcoming release, according to a Microsoft announcement last Friday.
Microsoft positions Azure Stack as a key differentiator versus other major public cloud providers, in that customers can run an integrated hardware and software system that is supposed to offer the exact same platform as Microsoft's Azure public cloud, but in a private datacenter. The approach enables customers to use the same application code in the public cloud and on the private cloud.
Early demand for the technology includes edge environments, disconnected environments, customers with specialized security requirements and those with specific compliance concerns. Hardware partners currently offering the 4-12 node integrated systems include Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei and Lenovo.
Because it runs the same underlying code as Azure in the public cloud, Azure Stack supports a number of Azure services. Up until now, Microsoft has added the functionality for each service to its Azure Stack portal via a portal extension using a separate network port.
In the announcement, Thomas Roettinger, senior program manager for Azure Stack, acknowledged customer pushback for managing and securing multiple ports. "As the number of Azure services increases, so do the number of ports that must be opened on a firewall that supports Azure Stack," Roettinger said.
Following in Azure's footsteps, the Azure Stack will soon adopt a so-called Extension Host technology to funnel all the ports through Port 443. "In its first release, the User and Admin portal default extensions have moved to this model, thereby reducing the number of ports from 27 to one. Over time, additional services such as the SQL and MySQL providers will also be changed to use the Extension Host model," Roettinger said.
The change will be fully implemented with the 1810 update of the Azure Stack. In preparation, Azure Stack customers will need to import a pair of wild card SSL certificates, one for the admin portal and one for the tenant portal.
The current build, 1807, was only released a few days ago, and Roettinger suggested users have some time to prepare. New deployments of Azure Stack will require the wild card certificates sometime in September, he said.
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 13, 2018 at 12:28 PM0 comments
In a lively panel discussion this week on "The Future of Windows," expert speakers from the TechMentor conference in Redmond touched on controversies surrounding the Windows 10 update cycle, looked ahead to features coming in Windows Server 2019, and exchanged best bets for IT pros to keep their skills current.
TechMentor co-chairs Sami Laiho and Dave Kawula moderated the panel on Wednesday that featured session presenters Peter De Tender, Petri Paavola and Orin Thomas, all of whom are current or recent Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs).
Laiho steered the discussion into the recent controversies over the Windows 10 update and patch process, where simmering discontent among administrators responsible for patching systems came to a head with the problematic July security updates.
Several panelists agreed that Microsoft's fast cadence of security fixes and feature updates was great in theory, but that IT pros justifiably lack confidence in the updates due to recent events.
"The goal has to always be that the update needs to be fast. It should be just, 'OK, now I have the big update, this may take a few minutes more time, but everything is working.' In real life, we have been seeing many problems with the new versions," Paavola said. "Hopefully in the next one or two years, we won't need to have these conversations."
Thomas argued that in addition to improving the patch release quality over time, Microsoft needs to improve its messaging for enterprises about the importance of features in the twice-a-year Windows 10 releases.
"If the messaging was getting there as to why these new features are important, that would be good. The reality is, most organizations aren't necessarily using all of the existing features, so giving them new features isn't necessarily a win," Thomas said. "I think on the enterprise side, we've still got to get people using things like Credential Guard and Device Guard and Windows Defender ATP."
Thomas also believes Microsoft could reduce resistance by making the current update process more flexible. "One of the other challenges around updates has been also the feeling of lack of control over when the updates install," he said. While Thomas says Microsoft is justified in its concern for keeping users updated, especially on security fixes, the current attitude is grating: "You're getting this update and we're going to install it when we want, and you've got no choice in the matter." Swinging the pendulum back a little bit so users have a notification icon in their taskbar, where they can slightly delay an update, might go a long way, he said.
Earlier, moderator Kawula queried Thomas about what elements of the on-premises Windows Server 2019 release, scheduled for later this year, he was most excited about.
Thomas highlighted improvements to the Guarded Fabric/Shielded Virtual Machine features and container features that first appeared in Windows Server 2016.
"Not only are you going to be able to run shielded Windows VMs and encrypted Windows VMs, you're going to be able to better run shielded VMs running Linux and encrypted VMs running Linux," he said. "We're going to see much more of this story about Windows Server being the fabric on which you can run your heterogeneous workloads. Windows Server 2019 is very much going to be a great environment if you want to run on-prem Linux virtual machines. Not only that, you can install Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows Server 2019, and you're going to be able to run Linux containers side-by-side with Windows containers."
Those types of improvements represent an important way to think about future on-premises releases of Windows, Thomas suggested. While he predicted Microsoft will continue to release robust Windows Server products for years, expect them to be evolutionary. The revolutionary new features will probably be reserved for Azure.
Discussing skills that IT professionals need to hone to keep current, Laiho emphasized that the critical technical abilities for forward-looking administrators are PowerShell, PKI and IPv6. "And you have to accept the cloud," he said.
De Tender agreed that IT jobs will remain relevant, so long as those who hold the jobs tweak their on-prem skills for the cloud. "You still need architecture design. If you're the network expert today, if you deploy workloads in Azure -- no matter what virtual machines, PaaS, IaaS -- you still need networking concepts. If you're the SQL DBA or any flavor DBA...if you move your database to the cloud, you still need to have your database knowledge," he said. "It's not that your job will somehow all of a sudden stop, but you need to be flexible, you need to adapt."
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 09, 2018 at 3:26 PM0 comments
A major new feature of Microsoft OneDrive represents an important new option for moving customer data from desktops into the cloud, according to a senior Microsoft product manager.
Stephen Rose, senior product manager for OneDrive for Business, provided an update on the file hosting service's roadmap during the main keynote at the TechMentor conference, being held this week at Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash. The TechMentor conference is hosted by Redmond Channel Partner's parent company, 1105 Media Inc.
The feature is called Known Folder Move, or KFM, and it is a major component in Microsoft's strategy for helping IT back up or migrate end users' desktop data to the cloud.
"With the [Known Folder Move] update, what you'll see is a new tab called Auto Save," Rose said Tuesday. If IT enables the Auto Save option, end users can go in and start the process themselves, or IT departments can use a Group Policy Object (GPO) to push out a request for end users to protect their folders. Either way, KFM creates the Desktop, Pictures and Documents folders in the cloud and synchronizes the users' content in both places. Users can continue to work while the content synchronizes.
Rose put KFM's role in data migrations to OneDrive in context for the IT administrators and consultants in the audience. "This is great for small business or smaller organizations," Rose said. "For small to midsize businesses, or if you're just rolling it out in small groups, this becomes an ideal way to set that up."
As for enterprises, Rose said KFM could work, but Microsoft wouldn't recommend it. "If it's a large amount -- I have a company that had four petabytes of data -- we probably want to get a partner or FastTrack. We do have a free service if you're on Box or Dropbox that can migrate you. We have our SharePoint Toolkit which can move your OneDrive from a dedicated on-prem store to the cloud. So we have lots of tools that can help you do it," Rose said.
Just before the KFM discussion, Rose presented OneDrive in the broader context of Microsoft's overall Microsoft 365 push, which is an effort to move customers from Windows 7, Office clients and on-premises file server environments to Windows 10, Office 365 and OneDrive.
In that light, Rose talked up other advantages that would result from using KFM or other means to get users onto OneDrive. "Now that content is being backed up and it can be managed...you can use all of the Office 365 tools," he said. "You can say any content that contains these words has to be kept for five years and part of a lockbox or can't be deleted or cannot be shared externally," he said. "The same policies that you use in Exchange can be extended to SharePoint can be extended to OneDrive."
Microsoft has already pushed KFM to all managed devices for users with less than 10GB of total files, which Rose said was about 30 percent of users. "We're going to open it up to everybody by the end of September," he said.
A lot of other features have either just arrived or are coming to OneDrive in that timeframe, said Rose, who described OneDrive as a central element of Microsoft's productivity and collaboration stack. "We look at [OneDrive] as the place to share and work with all of your files. It is the backbone for SharePoint, for Office, for Teams, for Stream, for all of those apps as the way to integrate and move," he said.
Features that Rose discussed Tuesday on that near-term roadmap included:
- Camera Upload allows a user to pick a business account for a camera upload from a smartphone. In addition to more storage room and Office integration, the feature allows companies to store and own pictures that are company property, rather than relying on users to manage the images in their personal device photo collection. Microsoft has also added support for SD cards in Android.
- Customization of Sharing Emails is a benefit for customers with E1, E3 and E5 plans. They can display their tenant logo when sharing through OneDrive.
- Transfer Ownership is a feature for when an employee leaves the company or their current role. Rather than having the employee's OneDrive files go to their supervisor, organizations can now choose delegates. The feature has also been introduced for SharePoint and Exchange.
- Users will get more control over securely sharing files externally. "We've had some requests because the external sharing with the password protection is great, but we've had some folks saying I want to be able to set my own password when I'm sharing something externally," Rose said. A feature called Password Protected Links will allow an end user to pick a password and share it via instant message, text or by phone. Another feature called Block Download, which can be turned on by an administrator, can allow the user to prevent the person their sharing the file with from downloading or printing the file.
- Administrators and managers will be able to audit the external sharing trail, as well, with a feature called External Sharing Reports. Running the report shows everything that's been shared externally, who shared it, what the rights were and what the access was.
- The OneDrive team is working with the Microsoft Intune team on a set of Intune policies, so that administrators can conduct administration on OneDrive through that management tool rather than through GPOs, if they choose.
- Additional work is being done to make the sharing user experience through OneDrive Mobile more exactly match the experience on the desktop, the Web and the Mac.
- A new scan experience leveraging the Microsoft Office Lens tool is being added to allow for better scanning and being integrated with Flow for processes, such as connecting receipts to expense approvals.
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 08, 2018 at 3:45 PM0 comments
Three weeks after unveiling the Surface Go, Microsoft on Thursday made the smallest of its 2-in-1 devices available in the United States and Canada.
Sold in Microsoft Stores, Best Buy and through reseller partners, the Surface Go sports a 10-inch screen, weighs 1.15 pounds, is a third of an inch thick and runs a 7th Generation Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y.
The unit ships with Windows 10 S and a 30-day home trial of Office 365 Home, and its ports and jacks support USB-C, Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover, headphones and a microSDXC card.
The entry-level model comes with a 64GB eMMC drive and 4GB of RAM for $399. The higher-end version has a 128GB solid-state drive and 8GB of RAM for $549. Much of the signature functionality of Surface devices requires additional purchases, such as the Surface Go Signature Type Cover for $99 and the Surface Pen for $99.99. A new Surface Mobile Mouse costs $34.99.
The two versions showed up in stock at Microsoft Stores around the United States and Canada, but the release represents the first phase of a multi-stage release plan. In a blog, Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, said Surface Go would be available in other countries later this month.
Much of Mehdi's post focused on how people are more comfortable knowing that a laptop is nearby when they're on vacation, and that satisfaction with straightforward tablets is on the decline.
When the pricing is taken into account, Microsoft is basically selling a tablet for as little as $400 with Surface Go, but pitching the base capability delivered by that tablet with the keyboard/cover for a real base price of $500. The full configurations with keyboard/cover, pen and mouse will run either $635 for the 64GB model or $785 for the 128GB model.
The flagship version that CEO Satya Nadella called attention to last month at the Microsoft Inspire conference won't be available until later this year. That version will include LTE connectivity, in addition to the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in to the other models. Pricing has not been disclosed for the LTE Surface Go. Discussing his home and work productivity setup at Inspire, Nadella said he had an early-access version of the LTE model.
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 02, 2018 at 2:57 PM0 comments
Microsoft licensing changes coming next quarter will tilt the playing field further toward cloud subscriptions versus on-premises licensing, especially for Office 2019.
Microsoft announced several licensing changes this week that will go into effect on Oct. 1.
The clearest change is a 10 percent hike in Office 2019 commercial prices, to include the Office client, Enterprise CAL, Core CAL and server products. Office 2019 is expected to ship later this year. Microsoft also released preview versions of several Office 2019 servers earlier this week.
The pricing change is one of several ways that Microsoft has been constraining the on-premises version of Office as it tries to steer customers to the subscription- and cloud-based Office 365. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a shorter support lifecycle for Office 2019, which will have five years of mainstream support and two years of extended support. The regular Microsoft support cycle calls for five years of extended support, so 10 years of total support rather than the seven being offered for Office 2019.
Additionally, Microsoft has said Office 2019 will only be supported on Windows 10, not Windows 7. That limitation occurs even though the Windows 7 lifecycle doesn't end until January 2020, a full year after the Office 2019 release.
There is also a price increase in Windows 10. Microsoft announced it is renaming the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 offers and raising the price of the per-device version to match the per-user version. The E3 name will now refer only to the per-user offer. That means Windows 10 Enterprise E3 per User becomes Windows 10 Enterprise E3, and Windows 10 Enterprise E3 per Device becomes Windows 10 Enterprise.
Microsoft unveiled several other broad changes to its volume licensing programs:
- Establishing a single, consistent starting price across all programs aligned to web direct for online services (OLS)
- Removing the programmatic volume discounts (Level A and Open Level C) in Enterprise Agreement (EA)/EA Subscription, MPSA, Select/ Select Plus, and Open programs (Open, Open Value, Open Value Subscription)
- Aligning government pricing for on-premises and online services to the lowest commercial price in EA/EAS, MPSA, Select Plus, and Open Programs
- Delivering a newly designed Customer Price Sheet that better outlines how a customer's price was derived (direct EA/EAS only)
With its announcement post, Microsoft positioned the changes as part of a "Modern Commerce" strategy. "These changes will highlight the benefits of our pricing for a cloud-first world, help us move from program-centric to a customer-centric pricing structure, and create more consistency and transparency across our purchasing channels," read the post, which was attributed to the MPN (Microsoft Partner Network) team.
In a series of Tweets, Directions on Microsoft analyst Wes Miller called the Office licensing adjustment an important change to note.
"If you add all of these motions up, and look at other lightly announced price increases, it clearly points toward encouraging customers that have avoided licensing Office 365 (or now Microsoft 365) to look again," Miller wrote under his Twitter handle @getwired.
Additionally, Miller, who follows licensing closely at Directions, called the newly released Office price changes, along with the shorter support lifecycle, the first two shoes to drop, with two other changes likely later.
"Possible shoe 3: Highly likely that Office 2019 Professional Plus won't feature roaming rights, and that it will drop them over the next 3 years, as Windows 10 did (a process that completes in early 2019). Meaning if you have server-based desktops of any kind, it's ProPlus time," Miller wrote. "Possible shoe 4: Will there even _be_ an Office 2019 Standard? Less and less differentiating value between it and Professional Plus - we've long thought it might be dropped."
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 27, 2018 at 8:57 AM0 comments
Just as it beat the drum around Windows XP's end of life a few years ago, Microsoft is now starting to warn its partners and customers that a popular desktop configuration is nearing the support cliff.
The new focus of the upgrade talk is Windows 7 and Office 2010. Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, started the Windows 7/Office 2010 conversation during a keynote last week at Microsoft Inspire.
"This move over the next three years represents a $100 billion opportunity for all of our partners," Markezich said at Microsoft's biggest annual gathering for partners from around the world.
The deadlines for extended support on the two products are Jan. 14, 2020 for Windows 7 and Oct. 13, 2020 for Office 2010.
The last big refresh cycle was around the extremely popular Windows XP desktop, which went out of extended support in April 2014. End of support for XP's follow-on, Windows Vista, arrived three years later, but was not a big deal given Vista's comparatively low adoption.
It makes sense for Markezich to be the one to start the drumbeat this time around. When XP was hitting end-of-life, the biggest issue was security and compatibility. While XP was incredibly stable for a Windows release and offered solid performance on many applications until late in its lifecycle, Microsoft was having trouble keeping the aging code up to date with evolving security threats, and compatibility with newer devices and applications was becoming problematic.
For this cycle, the move from Windows 7 represents a shift -- should users stick with Microsoft -- to the constantly upgraded Windows 10 on the OS side. On the Office side, the push will be to get users from the desktop Office paradigm into an Office 365 subscription and the cloud.
Both are under Markezich's purview. He runs the Microsoft 365 business, which is the core of Microsoft's Modern Desktop initiative and includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS).
Expect a hard sell from Microsoft from now through 2020 to get those desktops moved to Windows 10 and Office 365.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 25, 2018 at 11:39 AM0 comments
Microsoft's annual partner conference, Inspire, just wrapped up in Las Vegas, where it was combined for the first time with the Microsoft Ready internal sales event.
Here are some key moments from the Inspire keynotes that illustrated some of biggest themes from the show, which also represented the unofficial start of Microsoft's fiscal year.
Intelligent Cloud/Intelligent Edge
"The opportunities for us to serve our customers in this new era of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge is far greater. I've sort of lived through the client-server, the Web, mobile, cloud, but what we're going to see going forward is going to be even more profound." --Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
During his keynote last Wednesday, Nadella walked attendees through a number of customer scenarios that hit on the intelligent cloud or the intelligent edge. The messaging covers the Azure platform in all its iterations from the public cloud to Azure Stack to Azure Sphere, and includes the artificial intelligence (AI) that is built into many Azure services.
Focus on Privacy
"Privacy is a fundamental human right. ... Our fundamental value proposition for our customers, not just as a company, but as a community, that we will help them better protect the privacy of their customers." --Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft
In a keynote, Smith reiterated Microsoft's commitment to improving privacy and security for customers, while also trying to take a thought leadership role in the ethics of AI.
Modern Workplace Refresh
"This move over the next three years represents a $100 billion opportunity for all of our partners." --Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft 365
Markezich runs the Microsoft 365 business, which is the core of Microsoft's Modern Desktop initiative and includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). Markezich was describing the opportunity to sell Microsoft 365 and associated devices due to the upcoming upgrade cycle around end of support for Windows 7 and Office 2010.
"I was very excited to welcome the Windows team into Azure, and we're one unified group now. So, everything from silicon at the base level, firmware, operating systems, everything in the middle of the stack up through app stack to tools, we've got everything on one team to go deliver on this vision." --Jason Zander, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Azure
During his keynote about Azure for partners, Zander made the case for why the Windows team was consolidated under his engineering unit.
"We've built over 28,000 solutions, services and applications with you this past fiscal year. We have generated over 3 million leads out to partners and jointly developed over 100,000 co-sell opportunities. And, get this, we have landed over $5 billion in partner sales. That's your sales, not Microsoft's sales, $5 billion. And the best thing about that is that that is with 87 percent of IP co-sell ready partners participating in that motion." --Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft
From being announced a year ago, the Microsoft co-selling program with partners gained a lot of steam in fiscal year 2018. Schuster said Microsoft will continue to reward Microsoft sellers for selling partner solutions at 10 percent of partners' contract value at least through June 2019.
"The amount of interconnect cable we have across Azure datacenters is enough to go to the moon and back three times over. It's crazy." --Satya Nadella
The Inspire keynotes are always a time for metrics about the scale of Azure. Nadella talked about the cabling in the context of Microsoft having added 14 datacenter regions over the last fiscal year to bring the total to 54 worldwide. Elsewhere during the show, Microsoft shared that its private network includes over 4,500 peering locations and 130 edge sites.
"Today is a momentous milestone for us, bringing together these two communities, Inspire and Ready, because that's how our customers see us, as one. And to be able to kick off our fiscal year is something that I think is going to really mark a real difference in how we as this tech community are going to serve our customers going forward." --Satya Nadella
This statement during Nadella's Wednesday keynote captured the main reason for combining the two conferences for the first time.
"I always say this to any student who is joining Microsoft or looking to join Microsoft. I say to them, 'Look, if you want to be cool, go look for someplace else. But if you want to join a company that is committed to making others cool, join Microsoft.'" --Satya Nadella.
After decades in Redmond, Nadella really put his finger on the pulse of what it means to work at Microsoft or be in the Microsoft ecosystem. The statement was a big applause line in Las Vegas.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 23, 2018 at 11:03 AM0 comments
Microsoft blasted past the $100 billion revenue milestone for its recently finished fiscal year.
Financial results released after markets closed on Thursday showed revenues of $110.36 billion for the full year ended June 30, a 14% jump compared to the $96.57 billion in revenues the previous year.
"We had an incredible year, surpassing $100 billion in revenue as a result of our teams' relentless focus on customer success and the trust customers are placing in Microsoft," said CEO Satya Nadella in a statement accompanying the financial results. Nadella called out the company's early investments in intelligent cloud and intelligent edge as paying off.
CFO Amy Hood added that sales execution and commercial cloud revenue growth were key to strong results in the fourth quarter.
For Q4, Microsoft reported a 17% revenue gain to $30.1 billion and earnings per share of $1.13. Both figures beat analyst expectations and the stock was up slightly in after-hours trading.
Earlier in the week at the Microsoft Inspire conference for partners, company officials modeled estimates of total Microsoft ecosystem value, including partner revenues, based on a Microsoft annual revenue base of $100 billion.
By major business units, the fourth quarter revenue was up 13% to $9.7 billion in Productivity and Business Processes, up 23% to $9.6 billion in Intelligent Cloud, and up 17% to $10.8 billion in More Personal Computing.
Among the more granular product and service highlights:
- Commercial cloud gains were slightly less impressive than the previous sequential quarter. This business was up an impressive 53% year over year, but the figure was 58% for the third quarter. Commercial cloud revenues totaled $6.9 billion and include commercial versions of Office 365, Dynamics 365 and the Azure public cloud.
Azure revenues on their own were up 89%, Dynamics 365 revenues were up 61% and Office 365 commercial revenues were up 38%.
- Windows OEM revenue was up 7%, driven by 14% growth on the OEM Pro side and offset by a 3% drop on the non-Pro side. Revenues for Surface shot up 25%, with Microsoft noting that new editions are faring well against a low prior-year comparable. For the full year, the Surface unit generated $4.6 billion in revenues.
- Enterprise services revenues also tell an interesting story in the fiscal year. Always a point of interest for channel partners who often compete with Microsoft consultants, the service business over the past fiscal year has seen steady growth. In fiscal year 2017, enterprise services posted a 2% decline in revenues compared to the year before. Yet for FY18, revenues were up 1% in Q1, 5% in Q2, 8% in Q3 and 8% again in Q4. For the full year, enterprise service revenues increased 5%.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 19, 2018 at 2:46 PM0 comments
Microsoft Inspire 2018 wraps up today, and partners are heading home from Las Vegas with a dizzying amount of news buzzing between their ears.
There were a lot of announcements around Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 on the product side, but Microsoft also rolled out significant changes to the way that it works with partners.
With Microsoft's fiscal year 2019 just getting underway, it's critical for partners to understand those changes if they want to stay aligned with Redmond.
We've collected the top programs, priorities and payments for partners that Microsoft unveiled at Inspire and in the lead-up to the show. Download RCP's exclusive "Partner's Guide to Microsoft's Fiscal Year 2019" for details.
You'll get the lowdown on the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program changes, the new Azure Expert MSP program, Microsoft AppSource, investments in the co-selling program and more.
Don't miss this opportunity to get a jump start on FY '19. The guide is available here (registration required).
P.S. While you're on RCPmag.com, be sure to check out the "Partner's Guide to Making the Most of Dynamics 365 IUR." It's full of tips and tricks for unpacking the value of Dynamics 365 for your partner business and saving money on CRM/ERP functionality by using Internal Use Rights (IURs) rather than paying for subscriptions.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 19, 2018 at 12:41 PM0 comments
There used to be a regular saying that Microsoft's IT department was the company's first, best customer.
The idea was the department was always at the ready to dogfood technical previews and beta versions of Microsoft's enterprise software and services. Using the software to run a 100,000-person company with nearly $100 billion in revenues and global-scale operations is a great way to kick the tires and prove the scalability of new software.
When it comes to the company's flagship productivity software and services, there's a similar idea -- how does the CEO of Microsoft use Office, Windows and other tools to get more done every day? It was a source of fascination for customers and partners in Bill Gates' day and in Steve Ballmer's day. Now the company's third CEO is sharing his tips and tricks.
During his Microsoft Inspire keynote on Wednesday, Satya Nadella shared some details about how the company's highest-profile internal user personally leverages Microsoft 365 in his daily work.
As such demos are effectively an advertisement for Microsoft's latest-generation products, Nadella first sought to create some device envy among the thousands of Microsoft partners and employees in attendance. "I have a Surface Studio at work and at home. In fact, Surface Go has really been a game changer for me. I have this early access Panos [Panay] gave me over LTE, it's just awesome," Nadella said. While pre-orders are currently being taken for the first models of the Surface Go, which is a smaller and lighter version of the Surface 2-in-1, they aren't shipping until Aug. 2. But for the LTE version that Nadella says he is using, a release timeframe hasn't been discussed yet.
Most of Nadella's demos involved an Android phone, an iPhone and a Surface as a computer. About both phones, Nadella joked that to him they were just "Microsoft 365 endpoints." To support that idea, he showed how the screens for both the Android device and the iPhone were filled with icons for Microsoft apps.
To the common question of whether customers should use Teams or Yammer, Nadella's workflow provided an interesting answer: both.
"What I want to start with is my communications diet," Nadella explained. "I use three things throughout the day. I use Outlook as my open loop. This is my ability to communicate with any one of you, or anyone inside the company. Microsoft Teams, that's my inner loop. That's how I stay in touch with the groups, as well as the projects that I'm closely working on and closely working with. Then Yammer, that's my [outer] loop. That is my ability to make sure I'm in touch with [what] the 100,000 [Microsoft employees] are really buzzing about."
While using the Android phone, Nadella gave a hard sell for Microsoft's Outlook app. "By the way, if there's one thing I will ask all of you to do, it's download Outlook, it will change your life. It's super helpful in your ability to stay productive," said Nadella, adding later, "Outlook is the best Gmail client. If you don't trust me, check it out."
He showed how he uses the Outlook app ability to triage e-mail with flags, relies on Focused Inbox heavily, and uses new "do not disturb" functionality for events like Inspire. "The other thing that we just added recently is do not disturb. Especially when you're at an event like this, and you're getting all these e-mail notifications that are trying to attract your attention, you can make sure that you're not distracted," he said. He also showed how he uses Outlook as a universal client for his Outlook.com e-mail, his Office 365 e-mail and his Gmail.
Aside from using Outlook, Teams and Yammer to monitor his three "loops" throughout the day, Nadella called out his own use of LinkedIn, Cortana, To Do, Bing, Edge and Stream.
He presented LinkedIn as almost a fourth information loop, where he goes regularly to get industry-specific news and updates from his professional contacts. For Cortana, he highlighted Cortana Commitments, calling it a feature that "saves me" every day. "I send mails to somebody saying I'll follow up tomorrow. And then, of course, I forget to put it in To Do. But the one thing that Cortana does is it remembers."
While Bing and Edge are likeliest to get eyerolls, Nadella brought up interesting use cases for both Microsoft's Google-lagging search engine and its also-ran browser. In a better-together scenario, Nadella showed the power of being logged into Azure Active Directory with Bing's new indexing capability. Nadella conducted a Bing search for Microsoft channel chief Gavriella Schuster, and Bing displayed her internal corporate profile and presented a Microsoft campus map with a pin in Schuster's office on a floor plan of her building. With Edge, meanwhile, he demonstrated the ability to view a news article on his phone and then move that page to display on his Surface device.
Use of Power BI represents an organizational shift at Microsoft that affects individual users' daily work. "If there's one tool that's changed the culture inside the company, perhaps Power BI is the one I'll point to. Because one of the things that we're trying to do is, how do we move away from all these lagging indicators of success but fall in love with leading indicators of success, like usage or consumption or satisfaction?" Nadella said in demonstrating the app's graphical displays.
Finally, Nadella demonstrated Microsoft's Stream technology as one of his tools for quickly reviewing company video events for points of interest. On stage at Inspire, Nadella used Schuster's Tuesday keynote, which had been transcribed and timecoded in a searchable section next to the video display.
After describing his daily use of Microsoft 365, Nadella challenged partner and Microsoft field sales employee attendees to take the bundle to the market: "The opportunity for everyone here is to take Microsoft 365 and apply it for cultural transformation in large enterprises; for productivity in small businesses; to be able to really do industry-specific workflows in health care, in manufacturing, in financial services; to be able to take it to firstline workers; [and] to extend it to business processes with Dynamics 365."
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 18, 2018 at 9:07 AM0 comments
Ever since last July, Microsoft has been bandying about the number $4.5 trillion.
Microsoft got that sky-high figure from analysts at IDC. Supposedly it's the size of the digital transformation market opportunity by 2023.
Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster touted the figure at Microsoft Inspire, a year ago in Washington, D.C., and it's been a staple of Microsoft partner presentations since.
Kicking off Inspire 2018 on Monday in Las Vegas, Schuster trotted the number out again, but basically admitted that she wasn't originally totally sold on a figure that would represent more than 5 percent of global GDP.
Of course, to be able to acknowledge earlier doubts, she now has to say she is sold on the math. So in the course of repeating the $4.5 trillion stat on Monday, Schuster said, "A few weeks ago, I started to do a little math, and I realized that maybe this number was not quite as crazy as it sounded to me last year."
The first part of Schuster's math involves Wall Street estimates that Microsoft revenues will hit $100 billion for fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30 and will be formally reported on Thursday. Schuster made a point of clarifying that her estimate did not represent advance intel from Microsoft CFO Amy Hood. It doesn't take a data scientist to say $100 billion would be in the ballpark for FY 2018 revenues; Microsoft reached north of $90 billion in the previous fiscal year. Low double-digit growth would easily clear $100 billion this time.
The next part of Schuster's math involves another IDC figure -- that for every $1 of Microsoft revenue, partners rake in $9.64 in services revenue.
"So if you just do that simple math, that's $9.64 times $100 billion is nearly a trillion dollars just this past fiscal year of Microsoft services," Schuster said. "You add to that a predicted continued double-digit growth in cloud this coming year, and the fact that we're not just attaching to 1 or 2 billion PCs around the world but to over 10 billion IoT devices and climbing, and that makes the $4.5 trillion of total addressable market in five years feel addressable."
In general, it was a relatively slow first day for Inspire when it came to news. The company made a score of Inspire-related partner and news announcements last week in advance of the conference. Those included the Azure Expert Managed Service Provider program, new competency-related advanced specializations, expanded core benefits for partners, new business development materials, as well as several Azure and Microsoft 365 announcements. See our Inspire preview for details.
Schuster is scheduled to return to the main stage on Tuesday morning with a keynote about the company's plans for partners, and she will be followed by executives detailing Azure, Microsoft 365 and business application opportunities. CEO Satya Nadella will take the stage on Wednesday to give the keynote that closes the partner conference and opens Microsoft's co-located internal sales conference.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 16, 2018 at 11:45 AM0 comments