Category Archives: Microsoft Blog

Microsoft Blog

Your free upgrade is here: Windows 10 launches with worldwide fan celebrations, #UpgradeYourWorld and more

On July 29, Microsoft will make Windows 10 available, across 190 countries, as a free upgrade or with new PCs and tablets. “We are excited to bring Windows 10 and its many innovations to the world,” Windows and Devices Group Corporate Vice President Yusuf Mehdi said in a blog post. “Windows 10 is the best Windows ever and was built to empower people to do great things. It has new innovations like Cortana, Microsoft Edge and the Xbox app. It’s fast, more secure and compatible. It’s familiar and easy to use. It’s automatically up to date. And you can upgrade for free beginning on July 29.” To find out all about the launch celebrations at special events all over the world, a new global advertising campaign and the #UpgradeYourWorld initiative to those who inspire and empower others, head over to the Windows 10 launch site. Steve Clarke Microsoft News Center Staff

On July 29, Microsoft will make Windows 10 available, across 190 countries, as a free upgrade or with new PCs and tablets.

“We are excited to bring Windows 10 and its many innovations to the world,” Windows and Devices Group Corporate Vice President Yusuf Mehdi said in a blog post. “Windows 10 is the best Windows ever and was built to empower people to do great things. It has new innovations like Cortana, Microsoft Edge and the Xbox app. It’s fast, more secure and compatible. It’s familiar and easy to use. It’s automatically up to date. And you can upgrade for free beginning on July 29.”

To find out all about the launch celebrations at special events all over the world, a new global advertising campaign and the #UpgradeYourWorld initiative to those who inspire and empower others, head over to the Windows 10 launch site.

 

Explore Hugh MacLeod’s illustrated guide to life inside Microsoft


Drawing for me is a way of processing thoughts,” said cartoonist Hugh MacLeod. “I use lines to join the dots in my mind.” Those dots he refers to cut to the core of office environments. They help capture, within a drawing, the essence of a company’s aspirations. It’s “motivational art that doesn’t suck,” or so says his company’s website. Prescriptive and inspiring is what pops into my head. You kind of have to be if you’re striving to change the business culture within an organization.

Typically artists and business people operate in different worlds, where never the twain shall meet. MacLeod however is an artist obsessed with the business environment. He provides a right hemisphere brain perspective of the left side. “I find business interesting,” said MacLeod “It’s the art of getting stuff done, of creating something out of nothing. You’re building possibilities.”

Recently, MacLeod has made it his mission to document a moment of major transition at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, where a new CEO and fresh thinking across the company are quietly transforming the 40-year-old organization.

Every day is a moon shot.

“Attaching art to business outcomes can articulate deep emotions and bring things to light fast,” said MacLeod. To get there requires MacLeod immersing himself within a company, so he can look for what he calls “freaks of light”—epiphanies about a company that express the collected motivations of its people. “My cartoons make connections,” said MacLeod. “I create work in an ambient way to tweak people in the right direction.”

Talking to MacLeod, I get the sense that inside he’s floating in a sea of abstractions—about people, the way they operate, and how they do business. Oftentimes, he’ll jump ahead to the next thought before completing the current one. He’s like a master detective in an Agatha Christie novel who switches cases without identifying the murderer. Some might find that maddening, but with his personality and Scottish accent, I find it an endearing quirk.

Read the full story.

Building up to the Windows 10 launch, Special Olympics, //oneweek Hackathon and Imagine Cup – Weekend Reading: July 24 edition

Welcome back to another edition of Weekend Reading, where we bring you stories about Special Olympics athletes, the upcoming //oneweek Hackathon and Imagine Cup projects.

Swimmer Andy Miyares and sprinter Matthew Pascoe are two of four athletes Microsoft is following as they train, travel to and try to achieve their personal best in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles. Opening ceremonies are July 25 and will be broadcast live on ESPN, which will also present daily coverage of the Games. In October, Microsoft announced a three-year, multimillion dollar partnership with Special Olympics to modernize the nonprofit’s software and games management system and elevate it to the cloud.

Krista Conner and James O'Gorman of Microsoft work with the bee hives at the apiary at the Washington Arboretum on July 20, 2015. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

Krista Conner and James O’Gorman of Microsoft work with the bee hives at the apiary at the Washington Arboretum on July 20, 2015. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

The //oneweek Hackathon, which takes place the week of July 27, gives Microsoft employees the opportunity to think outside the box, dream big and try to make their ideas a reality. For James O’Gorman, whose family raises bees back in the U.K., the Beekeeper project is a chance to work with a team to conceptualize solutions to help sustain crop production and ensure a longer life for honeybees. The HackForHer initiative is also part of this year’s Hackathon. It encourages all hackers to keep the needs and concerns of women and girls in mind as they tinker on their projects.

Team PROGNOSIS, from Greece, is among the 33 teams from all over the world that will compete in the 2015 Imagine Cup World Finals next week.

Team PROGNOSIS, from Greece, is among the 33 teams from all over the world that will compete in the 2015 Imagine Cup World Finals next week.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, which affects between 7 million and 10 million people worldwide. But there are ways to help people deal with the effects of the disease. That’s the aim of Team PROGNOSIS, which is determined to help  via the Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 apps they designed to detect the early signs of Parkinson’s and provide support for patients and their families. And they are using Microsoft Azure to do it. They’re one of 33 teams from around the globe that will be in Seattle on July 27 to compete in the 2015 Imagine Cup World Finals, Microsoft’s global student technology competition. “Silicon Valley” star Thomas Middleditch will round out the trio of judges for this championship. Four Imagine Cup alumni teams – including last year’s overall World Champion – are also sharing their experiences in turning their projects into startup businesses.

As the company gears up to the July 29 launch of Windows 10, Blogging Windows began a series of posts with videos summarizing all you can do with the new operating system, as well as details on next week’s celebrations.

S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft

S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft

The recent releases of Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 4.6 are the next big step in the journey outlined in November to bring the productivity of Visual Studio and .NET to any developer working on any kind of application, while also delivering a new level of innovation in developer productivity for all Visual Studio developers. S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, provides all the details on these downloads.

Flipagram

Flipagram

In the world of apps and games, we found the App of the Week, Flipagram, which turns photos into custom music videos. There were also new and improved features on the Xbox App on Windows 10, “Jigty Jigsaw Puzzles,” “Gardens Inc. 2 – The Road to Fame,” “My Talking Ginger 2” and the updated Skype 5.6 for Android app.

From Redmond

As you can see by the news above, next week is going to be big. We’ll see the worldwide launch of Windows 10, //oneweek (where Microsoft employees worldwide gather for hackathons, celebrations and product expos), the world finals for the global student competition Imagine Cup and topping things off, the opening of the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles on Saturday. Microsoft is the event’s Official Technology Sponsor.

So, stay tuned. We’ve got an epic week planned.

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

A week to soar: Innovation on display at Worldwide Partner Conference, parties planned for Windows 10 release and Special Olympics athletes on the move – Weekend Reading: July 17 edition

It was a high-flying week at Microsoft, and if you blinked, you missed it. That’s why we’re here, to give you a recap of some of the week’s most important (and fun) goings-on, so let’s get to it:

The Worldwide Partner Conference got down to business. New technology innovations were showcased, including Project GigJam and the Cortana Analytics Suite, demonstrating Microsoft’s ambition to reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud and create more personal computing. Attendees got a peek at how one of Microsoft’s partners, Autodesk, will use HoloLens to fundamentally change how design professionals create, communicate, visualize and work. With many partners transitioning their businesses to the cloud, Microsoft is also making investments to make those transitions more seamless.

Satya Nadella at WPC 2015

Get ready to party with the launch of Windows 10. On July 29, when Windows 10 is released, festivities around the world are planned, with thousands of retailers participating, including all Microsoft store locations. Microsoft will also begin a year-long initiative, “Upgrade Your World,” to celebrate the people and organizations making a difference around the world. Microsoft will partner with 10 global and 100 national nonprofits as part of the initiative. The global nonprofits include CARE, Code.org, Keep a Child Alive, Malala Fund, Pencils of Promise, Save the Children, Special Olympics, The Global Poverty Project and The Nature Conservancy.

Windows 10

It’s time to shine for the stars of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, which start July 25 in Los Angeles. This week we met two outstanding athletes: 21-year-old Daniel Wolff of Great Britain, who will run the 4×100-meter relay; and 23-year-old Xing Le of China, who will compete in rhythmic gymnastics. Microsoft is sponsoring both the summer games and the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria. Last fall, the company announced a three-year, multi-million dollar partnership with Special Olympics to modernize the nonprofit’s technology and elevate it to the cloud.

Changing the face of coding, even as you read this. Women in U.S. colleges and universities earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. That’s why Microsoft YouthSpark supports Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization that aims to close the gender gap in technology in the United States. Microsoft sponsors and helps implement the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, happening this year in 60 locations across the country and reaching 1,200 girls who are learning computer science skills, and everything from robotics to mobile development to HTML coding.

Girls Who Code, Changing the Face of Coding

Microsoft’s PhotoDNA technology, a free service that helps identify and remove online child sexual abuse photos, is now available in the cloud. It’s a major advance that gives companies like Flipboard a powerful way to help protect young victims while helping make the Internet safer for everyone. PhotoDNA has already helped detect millions of illegal photos on the Internet, with more than 70 companies and organizations – like Facebook and Twitter – already using it. But the previous, on-premise version required time, money and technical expertise to get up and running and keep up-to-date. The new PhotoDNA Cloud Service takes away those hurdles for smaller companies and other organizations that want to give users the freedom to upload content while ensuring the integrity of their platforms.

U.S. Air Force chooses Office 365, and Microsoft acquires FieldOne. The U.S. Air Force, in partnership with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), is awarding more than 100,000 seats of a Department of Defense-dedicated version of Office 365 to Microsoft, Dell and General Dynamics. The agreement, expected to help the Air Force and DLA reduce costs significantly over the next three years, is one of the largest commercial cloud contracts in DoD history. Meanwhile, Thursday it was announced that Microsoft has reached an agreement to acquire FieldOne Systems LLC, a world-class provider of field service management solutions that allow organizations to better manage and deliver service to their customers in the field.

government, Office 365, U.S. Air Force

Are you air-borne yet? No? Strap into an anti-gravity vehicle and race to glory in the futuristic and free game, “Fast Side of the Moon.” You can play alone, or compete with up to 20 other racers in multiplayer mode. Zoom to exotic planets and take on challenging courses. You’ll find “Fast Side of the Moon” in the Windows Phone Store.

"Fast Side of the Moon" game, Windows PhoneThis week on our journey to find people who #DoMore, we met Neal Sales-Griffin, who runs the Starter School in Chicago. In just nine months, Neal gives students the power of coding – turning them from consumers of technology to creators of technology.

#DoMore, Instagram

Thanks for joining us for Weekend Reading. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you back here next Friday!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

Microsoft acquires FieldOne, global provider of field service management solutions for the enterprise

I’m pleased to announce that Microsoft has reached an agreement to acquire FieldOne Systems LLC (“FieldOne”), a world-class provider of field service management solutions that allow organizations to better manage and deliver service to their customers in the field.

In today’s connected world, people expect to engage and be engaged by organizations in new ways, in ways that are most convenient for them. To help businesses respond to these changing expectations, we are committed to providing the most comprehensive customer service offering, and this includes the best field service capabilities. Field service management is a specific but critically important area of customer service, providing companies with the ability to deliver end-to-end field service. This is a unique, and transformational point in time for these solutions as enterprises look to improve their responsiveness to customers with service in the field – taking service directly to the customer anytime a service cannot be managed by phone or other channels.

In this critical area, FieldOne really stands out. They have the baseline functionality that organizations need to drive a more effective field service operation. They are a leading provider of end-to-end solutions that enable businesses to drive revenue, reduce costs and deliver great customer service. Their industry-leading solution specializes in delivering a full set of capabilities that include work order management, automated scheduling, asset contract, inventory and procurement management, workflow capabilities and mobile collaboration – providing enterprises with a comprehensive modern field service solution. This gives companies the ability to do things such as adjusting routing on the fly and delivering service arrival estimate times within a smaller window, which is essential for more personal customer engagement.

FieldOne is a great fit for Dynamics CRM adding to our extensive customer service capabilities – which includes chat, knowledge management and self-service functionality from Parature which we acquired in January of 2014.  Like Parature, FieldOne is offered to customers as a cloud service. It’s built on Microsoft technology for fast integration, it already works great with other Microsoft productivity offerings like Office 365 and SharePoint, and has cross-platform capabilities meaning it can work on different devices enhancing the mobile experience which is so critically important in field service management. FieldOne was built from the ground up to leverage Dynamics CRM, and this means that our customers can take advantage of its capabilities right away.

Today’s announcement also reflects the investments we are making to deliver true systems of intelligence – enhancing our current offerings with predictive learning and analytics to deliver an intelligent, proactive customer engagement solution. Field service businesses are aggressively trying to move away from a reactive break-fix model to a predictive service based model. With this acquisition, Microsoft can help companies tap the potential of predictive service by bringing together the powerful combination of FieldOne, Azure IoT and Cortana Analytics. That means that organizations can use insights that effectively provide servicing proactively while streamlining the provisioning of service to significantly reduce costs.

Microsoft is dedicated to providing customers with complete and comprehensive solutions that address their end-to-end service needs. Today’s acquisition is a major step forward in providing the most complete customer service offering in the market through Dynamics CRM. And with the potential to enhance these capabilities through machine learning and predictive analytics, we are changing the game in customer service.

Changing the face of coding

Ten days ago, the United States women’s national soccer team became the most successful team in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup by winning the top prize for the third time. However, despite the fact that soccer is not as popular in America as in the rest of the world, it is not surprising that the U.S. women have been dominant in the sport in recent years. The explanation for that success lies in the talent pipeline. With over 1.5 million girls registered in youth leagues, close to 50 percent of all youth players in the U.S. are female and soccer is one of the top three most popular sports among girls ages 5-19.

Said another way, many girls in the U.S. have the opportunity to learn how to play soccer and, as a result, they benefit from the teamwork, skill development and fun involved. That’s the kind of opportunity I would like to see develop for the technology sector, which presents a different, yet perhaps even more significant, set of opportunities for girls and young women.

Unfortunately, the strength in the talent pipeline that we see in female soccer today is not the reality for technology. The U.S. is facing a shortage of Computer Science (CS) graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every year there are close to 140,000 jobs requiring a CS degree, but only 40,000 U.S. college graduates major in CS, which means that 100,000 positions go unfilled by domestic talent. Even more dramatic is that women in U.S. colleges and universities earn only 18 percent of CS degrees. In middle school, 74 percent of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, only 0.4 percent of high school girls select computer science.

The true potential of future innovation will only become a reality if more women are part of it. A rich, diverse community of innovators is key for new technologies to address the needs of modern society. That is why Microsoft YouthSpark – a global initiative to create opportunities for all youth to learn computing – supports Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization that aims to close the gender gap in technology in the U.S.

Girls Who Code inspires, educates, and equips girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. Microsoft sponsors and helps implement the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, which this year is happening in 60 locations across the country reaching 1,200 girls who will be part of this deep CS learning experience.

In addition to supporting the overall program, Microsoft is hosting the Summer Immersion Program at our campuses in the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, New York and Redmond as the participants turn their innovative ideas into reality using code, network with mentors and find camaraderie with other young women who share their curiosity and passion for technology. Over the course of seven weeks, these girls will learn computer science skills and everything from robotics to mobile development to HTML.

By supporting organizations such as Girls Who Code, we can help girls become the new face of coding and develop innovations that will drive positive change in the world. Perhaps four years from now, as the world gets ready to watch the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, we’ll be able to talk not only about a healthy pipeline of female soccer players, but also of a surging number of female computer science students and professionals.

Microsoft partner Easydom is bringing smart homes to the masses

Sergio Tucci was vacationing in the little Italian seaside town of Alba Adriatica in 2004 when he had the vision of controlling his home from his smartphone. Wireless access and smartphones were just beginning to reach the masses.

“He was on the beach reading a technology magazine, and he said, ‘Why can’t I manage and control my home from my cellphone or with a PC connected to the Internet?’” recalls Romina Panella, Tucci’s wife. “From that moment, his vision was clear, and all the work was focused on finding a way to manage the home from anywhere in an easy way.”

Tucci, an electrician who already worked in the field of building automation, returned home to Milan and started tinkering in a garage with software programs that could speak to automation hardware.

“I was in this field, and I knew it could be adapted to houses,” Tucci said. “I thought, ‘Why not make it accessible to everyone worldwide?’”

Soon, Easydom was born.Easy Dom Graphic 1

A combination of “easy” and “domotics” (home automation), Easydom has been installing home automation systems across Italy since 2011. The company has become a European leader in the growing world of ubiquitous computing, also known as the Internet of Things. This month, it prepares to launch its first wireless solution, Easydom Next. Subscribers will be able to control their home’s security system, climate, lighting and just about everything else, on nearly any device and platform, from the comfort of beach chairs anywhere in the world. For this, Easydom was named an innovation award honoree at CES 2015 in Las Vegas in software and mobile apps. The company of 11 employees is preparing for its reach to extend dramatically and beyond its mostly Italian market as it shifts from business-to-business to business-to-customer.

Read the full story.

Microsoft announces new innovations and partner opportunities at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference

By Phil Sorgen, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Partner Group, Microsoft

At our Worldwide Partner Conference today we showcased new technology innovations that demonstrate our ambition to reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud and create more personal computing. We also discussed investments the company is making in programs for our hundreds of thousands of global channel partners at the center of business transformation taking place in the industry. These innovations and investments will help Microsoft and our partners achieve our new mission together on a global scale, making a difference in lives and organizations in all corners of the planet.

Project GigJam: reinventing productivity and business processes

As part of the company’s ambition to reinvent productivity and business processes, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduced Project GigJam, an unprecedented new way for people to accomplish their business tasks and transform business processes by breaking down the barriers between devices, apps and people.  GigJam empowers business workers to summon information from their line of business and SaaS apps, spontaneously divvy up the specific information and actions needed to get work done, keep track of each part, and bring it all to closure immediately.  Visit www.gigjam.com to learn more and register for the upcoming preview.

Cortana Analytics Suite: building the intelligent cloud

We also announced the Cortana Analytics Suite, a fully managed and comprehensive set of services to help businesses transform data into intelligent action. The growing adoption of machine learning, big data combined with the power of unlimited storage and compute in the cloud presents a unique opportunity for organizations to anticipate what will happen and to automate business outcomes. Cortana Analytics Suite brings together leading technology infrastructure including machine learning, big data storage and processing with perceptual intelligence such as vision, face and speech analysis, extending predictive and prescriptive capabilities to businesses for a range of industry scenarios. Cortana Analytics Suite integrates with Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant.  Cortana works with the Cortana Analytics Suite to enable businesses to get things done in more helpful, proactive, and natural ways. Availability will be this fall through a simple monthly subscription. For more from one of our customers, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Systems, check out the Business Matters blog.

Microsoft HoloLens: enabling more personal computing

The third area of innovation we showcased was around commercial momentum in response to HoloLens – the world’s first fully untethered holographic computing device powered by Windows 10. On-stage at WPC today, Satya showed how one of our partners, Autodesk, will use HoloLens to fundamentally change how design professionals create, communicate, visualize and work. HoloLens is already making an impact across a number of industries, examples include the work we are doing to help architecture and construction industry professionals through Trimble, working on Mars exploration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and helping Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic transform teaching for the future. This is just the beginning of what holographic computing can help customers do more and achieve more.

Creating new partner opportunities across cloud and mobility

We know that many of our partners are investing in transitioning their businesses to the cloud, in part to take advantage of the types of cloud-based innovations as mentioned above. So, we’re making several partner investments to make their transition more seamless.

We are expanding the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program to help partners continue to build and grow profitable cloud services businesses using Microsoft Cloud. Beginning today, Microsoft will expand CSP to additional markets, bringing the total number of markets in which CSP is available to 131. Additionally, Azure and CRM Online will join Office 365, Windows Intune and Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) as available services in the CSP.

In addition, as a result of the overwhelming interest from partners and positive feedback we’ve received from customers over the past two years, we are delivering on our promise to grow the opportunity for more partners to sell Surface – taking the number of resellers from a few hundred to a few thousand globally in the coming months. Surface is an integral part of our Windows strategy, and the expansion of this program coinciding with the upcoming launch of Windows 10 creates exciting opportunities for partners. We’re also investing in helping partners unlock customer mobility opportunities with new competencies for Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) that will enable them to differentiate their expertise and grow their business.

Today we’ll share that we are introducing a new premium Office 365 enterprise suite called E5 before the end of this year. E5 will encompass the core value of Office 365 productivity and collaboration capabilities, as well as significant new innovations, including newSkype for Business services such as Cloud PBX and Meeting Broadcast; Power BI & analytics features, like Power BI Pro and Delve Organizational Analytics; and new advanced security features, such as eDiscovery, Customer Lockbox, and Advanced Threat Protection. The E5 suite will provide a significant new opportunity for partners to build new service offerings around real-time communication and analytics, and to reach new customers with important new security features.

Microsoft’s partners have always been and will always be a driving force in business transformation, and our collective innovation has never been stronger for our mutual customers. That’s because they’re depending on us. In this mobile-first, cloud-first world, those businesses that embrace technology to reinvent themselves and their industries will thrive, and those who embrace status quo risk extinction. Its Microsoft’s hundreds of thousands of global partners that will bring about this transformation, help our mutual customers through this change and forge the next industrial revolution. So, I’m thrilled to come together this week at the 2015 Worldwide Partner Conference to talk about how we can collectively help businesses through the business transformation needed to be successful.

For more details on these and other investments we’re making in ensuring our partners can meet customer demands in this new world of business, visit our WPC News Center or check out my blog on the MPN site.

Over 500,000 unique users from 45,000 companies across 185 countries helped shape the new Power BI

Following just over six months of public preview and a continuous flow of user-driven enhancements from our rapidly growing community, I’m excited to announce the new Power BI will be generally available on July 24. But the news doesn’t stop there – we’re making four big announcements today:

  • The Power BI business analytics service (“Power BI 2.0”) will exit preview status, becoming a generally available service on July 24. This supersedes the Power BI for Office 365 service (“Power BI 1.0”), which we will continue to operate during a transition period as users migrate to the updated service.
  • Power BI Desktop, (known before today as Power BI Designer), will also exit preview and become generally available on July 24. We’ve renamed the product to better reflect the power and intent of this world-class business analytics tool.
  • Today we contributed the Power BI visualization framework and its complete library of visuals to the open source community under an MIT license – source code and more is available today on GitHub.
  • T. K. “Ranga” Rengarajan announced a new data service today, Apache Spark for HDInsight, our Hadoop service on Azure. Spark leverages main memory in contrast to the two-stage, disk-based MapReduce paradigm often used with data stored in Hadoop. Query performance over a Hadoop dataset can be 100 times faster with Spark. Last night we updated the Power BI service adding direct support for this new service enabling users to monitor, explore and visualize their HDInsight data in Power BI.

Throughout the Power BI preview period we’ve sustained a blistering pace of innovation. We update the Power BI service every week, adding new features, capabilities and at least one new third-party content pack – plus Power BI Desktop is updated each month.

The extensive list of new features and capabilities delivered over the six month preview period provides some indication of the scale of our investment in Power BI. It is evidence of our commitment to relentless execution to delivering value to our users with unmatched speed and agility.

Though our innovation pace has been high, it is more than sustainable and it is reasonable to expect acceleration. A meaningful percentage of our energy over the last year has been directed toward laying a solid foundation for a global-scale service that can support over a billion users – our aspiration. Laying that foundation was an exit criterion for declaring Power BI generally available. With the foundation in place, more energy will now flow to user-visible product and service enhancements.

Power BI and the disruptive nature of SaaS

We hung a banner in our building when we began work on the new Power BI service that says “5 seconds to sign up. 5 minutes to wow!” As a cloud-hosted, business intelligence and analytics service (“SaaS”), Power BI permits business users to directly connect with and gain insight from their business data.

This is game changing.

In the past, business intelligence solutions started with the installation and maintenance of servers and software. Then, BI professionals would build corporate BI solutions and business analysts would employ “self-service” BI tools to explore and analyze data. These would be published as interactive and operational reports, spreadsheets, dashboards and other analytical artifacts. They would (finally!) hold the potential to deliver value to the ultimate consumers – the business end users who make better business choices based on insights gleaned. That is not five minutes to wow.

This complex flow was mostly inevitable. Business data was locked up in applications and database systems controlled by IT, so any solution had to start with them. This is changing. Increasingly, and I would argue inevitably, business data is contained in SaaS services – Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Workday, Marketo, MailChimp, Google Analytics, Zendesk and countless others. With their login credentials, business users have direct access to this data. The growth of SaaS has itself made it possible to offer business intelligence and analytics software, as a service.

We believe Power BI is, by a very wide margin, the most powerful business analytics SaaS service. And yet even the most non-technical of business users can sign up in five seconds, and gain insights from their business data in less than five minutes with no assistance, from anyone.

While even some legacy business intelligence solutions provided “connectors” for SaaS services, Power BI takes it a few steps further by providing complete, “out of the box” content packs for Power BI for these services. When a Power BI user connects to their Google Analytics data, for example, they get a curated collection of dashboards and reports that continuously update with the latest data from the user’s Google Analytics account. We are effectively acting as a team of IT, BI and business analysis professionals on behalf of the user.

The result is that more people can connect with and gain insight from their data, faster and more simply than ever before. What used to take days, weeks, months or even years of complex coordinated work now happens quickly.

Dozens of services have committed to delivering content packs for Power BI. Sixteen are available in Power BI today, and we are adding at least one new one every single week, steadily increasing the likelihood that any new user will find services they depend on from which they can begin gaining business insights.

Sounds good, but the proof is in the pudding – are users actually showing up, signing up and engaging with the service? In that regard, Power BI has exceeded even our most starry-eyed predictions. Over half a million unique users, across more than 45,000 companies spanning 185 countries have signed up for Power BI in the six months it’s been in preview. That would be a good decade worth of growth for a successful, last-generation business analytics software company. That’s the power of SaaS.

And we’re just getting started.

Power BI sets the standard for modern business intelligence

Beyond the inherent benefits of a SaaS-based approach, Power BI sets a new standard for “modern” business intelligence with a collection of capabilities completely unique in the industry:

  • Real-time dashboards and support for streaming data. Data is increasingly streaming from everything. With Power BI you can monitor streaming data sources via live, continuously updating visuals. Maintain an up-to-the-moment pulse on your business. Legacy business intelligence solutions are largely retrospective – and of course Power BI also provides rich and deep analysis of historical data like other BI solutions. But you wouldn’t want to drive your car looking only at your rearview mirror. You shouldn’t drive your business that way either.
  • Keep your data where it is. Though business data is increasingly contained in SaaS business applications, there is and probably always will be important data contained in applications and databases “on premises.” Power BI doesn’t require an organization to move or copy data to the cloud to benefit from Power BI. It’s a have your cake and eat it too kind of capability. Whether your data is on-premises or in the cloud, stored in a relational database or Hadoop, or resident in a business application that’s custom, packaged or SaaS, Power BI can send queries to the data versus pulling data to itself. You can do that too – and Power BI provides world-class extract, transform and load (ETL) capabilities. In some cases this may be preferred (as when the source database query performance is too slow for interactive data analysis). The point is, with Power BI you have a choice.
  • Cross-platform, native mobile apps. In addition to its rich Web client, there are native Windows, iPhone, iPad and Android apps that keep mobile users connected with their data, wherever they may be. As hard as it is to believe, other mainstream BI vendors still lack native mobile apps.
  • Natural language interface. Benefiting from years of groundbreaking natural language interaction work at Microsoft Research, Power BI permits users to simply ask questions of their data. As you type your question, visualizations appear and are successively refined as you continue to type. This capability, perhaps more than any other, has empowered end users to self-serve their business analytics needs. No need to learn complex query languages or master some gesture-based exploration tool. Just ask questions.
  • Completely open, but an integrated part of Microsoft’s comprehensive data platform. Across the Microsoft data platform there is bi-directional awareness of and integration with Power BI. For example, when a user creates a new Azure Data Warehouse, or a new Azure Stream Analytics solution, there is a one-click option to make that data available in Power BI. Conversely, if you have an existing HDInsight dataset fronted by Spark, or a tabular data model in SQL Server Analysis Services, there is a one-click option in Power BI to connect back to those sources of data. This makes it easy to compose very powerful data solutions and provides “one throat to choke” accountability – if the solution doesn’t work, you don’t have many vendors pointing fingers at each other. We don’t limit our support only to Microsoft solutions, but we make it easy to go that route if you desire.

Power BI Desktop

The Power BI service allows business users to sign up for a business analytics service, and to get value without requiring support from a BI professional or business analyst.

But as users have signed up for Power BI they’ve asked “how can I get my own data into Power BI?” and “how can I combine my Salesforce, Marketo and Google Analytics data into a set of reports and dashboards in Power BI?”

This is where Power BI Desktop comes in. Power BI Desktop (formerly known, until today, as Power BI Designer) is a powerful analytical tool for use by business analysts – with it analysts can connect to wide range of data sources; cleanse, transform and model interrelationships between the data; explore the resulting mashed up datasets and create beautiful, interactive reports. With a single click, these reports can be published to the Power BI service for use by end users.

On July 24th Power BI Desktop will exit preview and become generally available. Power BI Desktop is a free tool, downloadable from powerbi.com. While other vendors charge thousands of dollars per seat for this class of software, we prefer to make it widely and freely available ultimately resulting in far more content in Power BI, which leads to a larger and more engaged end user community.

Find out more about the capabilities that have been added since Power BI Desktop entered preview in January.

Open sourcing the Power BI visualization stack and visuals

Today we contributed the source code of our visualization framework and the complete collection of native visuals supported by Power BI and Power BI Desktop to the open source community under the permissive MIT license. This is not a point in time snapshot, or some set of samples. This is the actual code base we are enhancing and using inside Power BI and Power BI Desktop – the project is available today on GitHub.

Want to build and have us add a new base visualization type to Power BI? Do it and send us a pull request. Want to enhance the behavior of the underlying visualization system? Ditto.

We made this move for many reasons, but perhaps the most important being that it paves the way for completely custom visualizations in Power BI and Power BI Desktop. We’ll soon add the ability to upload completely custom visuals to your Power BI tenant, or to attach them to a report. We hope to see a growing collection of visuals that can be used with Power BI.

Visualize big data with Power BI and Spark for Azure HDInsight

We are also announcing our support of Apache Spark by making it a fully managed service in Azure HDInsight, available in public preview today.

Spark leverages main memory in contrast to the two-stage, disk-based MapReduce paradigm often used with data stored in Hadoop. Query performance over a Hadoop dataset can be 100 times faster with Spark.

Since both services are powered by the cloud, you can deploy a Spark cluster in Azure HDInsight and visualize the backing Hadoop data in Power BI within minutes without investing in hardware or complex integration.

The complete Microsoft data platform

Microsoft continues to make it easier for customers to maximize their data dividends with our data platform and services. It’s never been easier to capture, transform, mash-up, analyze and visualize any data, of any size, at any scale, in its native format using familiar tools, languages and frameworks in a trusted environment on-premises and in the cloud.

If you haven’t joined the hundreds of thousands of Power BI users, you can sign up at PowerBI.com with any business email account to try it for free today. To try the public preview of Spark for Azure HDInsight, go to the Spark page and sign up.

More greatness from the Garage, Office 2016 for Mac, and Band API, now available — Weekend Reading: July 10 Edition

We’re entering the dog days of summer, folks, where in the Seattle area at least, it’s still uncharacteristically hot. No matter where you roam as the mercury rises, time to grab that ice-cold lemonade and catch up on a little Weekend Reading.

This week, Microsoft introduced Tossup, a fun, fast way to organize your family outings, and your social life. The app, now available to download on iPhone and Android phones, was born from the Microsoft Garage, a place that encourages iteration, and quick evolution, to get great ideas out to the world.

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Speaking of great ideas, developers can now build Web tiles and use the cloud API for the Microsoft Band. This is “the first opportunity for developers to gain access to the rich fitness data that is stored in the Microsoft Health platform,” writes Ali Alvi, product manager for the Personal Devices team in Redmond.

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Also out this week, Office 2016 for Mac now available to Office 365 customers in 139 countries and 16 languages, with new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote. The updates pair the best of Mac with the familiar Office experience, and are based on feedback from Mac Office users.

Micro:bits unite! Later this year, the BBC, together with Microsoft and partners, will provide every Year 7 student (age 11-12) in the United Kingdom with their own micro:bit – a personal computing device half the size of a credit card. They can use it to explore the possibilities of computer science, in and out of the classroom. Programming tools and teacher training materials will be provided on an Azure-based hosting service.

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Switching from the U.K. to U.S. servicemen and women, Microsoft also announced this week, sponsorship of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Transition Summit with 20 summits and transition events across the country. The effort is focused on helping service members gain the critical technology skills required for today’s high-paying IT careers starts before the transition to a civilian career begins.

And because it’s that time of year, we bring you the Tour de France in apps this week. Cycling enthusiasts following this heart-pounding annual rite of summer can download the official game, “TDF 2015,” to choose from more than 110 riders, create a team and ride through 21 stages on mobile devices. Customize your team name, jersey and national flag, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each cyclist, and develop a strategy to lead them to victory. Available free from Windows Phone Store.

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As the Special Olympics World Games near, our spokesdudes Sam and Mattie carried the Flame of Hope through the Microsoft campus.  Stay tuned as we showcase more athletes on their road to the Games.

Keep that cold beverage close. Back to you with more hot summer fun — and the Worldwide Partner Conference — next week.

Posted by Aimee Riordan
Microsoft News Center Staff