Dan Bremner, President, Castema Technology Services, Inc.
Microsoft's Ignite conference is going on this week in Orlando, and as always, there are new features, new products, and new initiatives being announced. We've picked a few to highlight that we think may be important for small businesses in the coming year.
Windows Virtual Desktop - Windows 10 in the Azure Cloud
While third-party solutions have existed for this, Microsoft has announced that it will begin offering Windows 10 desktops running in Azure, so organizations will be able to quickly deploy and scale a remotely available, secure desktop experience with pay-as-you-go pricing based on actual usage of Azure computing resources, plus an existing Windows Enterprise E3 or E5 (or Microsoft 365 E3 or E5) license subscription.
Use Microsoft Authenticator App in Place of Passwords
I've written before in this space about the problems that passwords present for identity security. Microsoft is introducing an option to log into their services (plus third-party apps that take advantage of Azure Active Directory single sign-on) without requiring a password at all. The Microsoft Authenticator App for iPhone and Android, which can already be used for multi-factor authentication, will now let you log in just by tapping a notification on your phone.
Surface Hub 2.0 Releasing next year (Q2 2019)
We think every conference room could use a 50-inch touchscreen display with built-in 4K camera, improved microphones, and built-in support for conferencing through Microsoft Teams. Microsoft is certainly hoping so, and if you have a few thousand in your budget to upgrade your conference room, these devices will certainly be worth a look.
Microsoft Teams offers Meeting Recordings with Transcripts
Teams continues to get new features added, and for those who hold meetings and want to be able to go back and review them, the recording feature will be a great benefit. Even better, Microsoft's AI capabilities are being employed to create real-time transcriptions of the meetings, with the ability to distinguish between speakers and provide a time-coded transcript, including who said what, when. If you're more into the aesthetics, another announced feature of Teams Meetings is a bokeh effect which recognizes speakers on camera and keeps them in focus while blurring the background behind them.
OneDrive Sync Client for Mac gets Files On-Demand Feature
One of the highlights of the Windows 10 Creators update last fall was a new OneDrive client capable of syncing personal OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint document libraries without requiring a full sync of all files to each device. To save space, users can see in their file explorer all the files and folders in the cloud space, but files are only downloaded on demand when they are needed, automatically, just by double-clicking to open them. Of course, if you need to work offline, you can choose to sync specific files or folders to your local device before you disconnect, with changes automatically synced back when you reconnect. Now Mac users get the same benefit in the Mac Finder, which should help make OneDrive and SharePoint a more compelling storage option for businesses with mixed PC/Mac environments, especially since that cloud storage is already included with many Office 365 subscriptions.
There were many other announcements at Ignite on Day 1. Among these is a partnership between Microsoft, Adobe and SAP to establish an Open Data Initiative to help standardize a data model for customer data, helping that data to be more easily shared between systems. Microsoft Office will also be gaining some new AI tools, which we hope to test out and give more detail on in a future post. For now, I hope you found these highlights to be of interest. If you'd like to discuss these or any other capabilities in further detail, please let me know.