Tag Archives: Conference

From new Microsoft Teams experiences to the all-new Project Cortex—here’s what’s coming soon to Microsoft 365 – Microsoft 365 Blog

Today at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, we announced new Microsoft 365 innovations in six key investment areas: productivity, knowledge, workflow, security, compliance, and management. Microsoft 365 is the world’s productivity cloud, and the consistent theme across these new features is how we’re using artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver amazing new experiences that push the boundaries of productivity. From new Microsoft Teams enhancements to the first new service we’ve launched since Teams, we have a lot to share with you—so let’s get to the news.

Productivity

Microsoft 365’s productivity tools use AI to help people create, collaborate, analyze, write, present, organize, and manage their work. Our innovations in core productivity are focused on two opportunities: creating entirely new experiences that take advantage of the latest innovations and breathing new life into familiar apps and experiences with powerful cloud services.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the hub for teamwork. In response to requests from Teams customers, we’re pleased to announce Private channels, Multiwindow chats, meetings and calls, pinned channels, and task integration with To Do and Planner. We’re improving collaboration capabilities between Outlook and Teams, making it easy to send an email thread to a Teams channel for further discussion.

And we’re bringing the Yammer app into Teams, adding the ability for users to pin the app to the left-hand rail and making Teams the hub for both focused team collaboration and broad, open communities. We are also delivering new industry-tailored innovations and experiences including tools for Healthcare and Firstline workers. Healthcare providers can now schedule and conduct B2C virtual consultations through Teams with new Virtual Consults capabilities, and new features like SMS Sign-In and Global Sign-Out make it quick and easy for Firstline workers to securely access Teams from their mobile devices.

The New Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Bing are the web browser and search engine for business. We are pleased to announce that the general availability of the all-new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser is targeted for January 15, 2020. You can download the release candidate today.

The all-new Microsoft Edge offers the enterprise new tab page, where you’ll have direct access to your Microsoft 365 files, sites, and intranet search, making every tab you open a portal to productivity. And with the new Microsoft Search in Bing integration, searching for information at work is as easy as searching the web. You can now access files, people, office floorplans, acronym definitions, and more company information from across your Microsoft 365 ecosystem right from the search bar.

Finally, Microsoft Edge is now available across all your devices—including Windows 10, Windows 8x, Windows 7, macOS, iOS, and Android. Your passwords and favorites will roam seamlessly across all your devices—and with native Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) sign-in, you can search for work files right from your phone.

GIF showing new Microsoft Edge Search

The Office mobile app

We all want to be able to work on the go from mobile devices and we’re always looking to simplify and improve the experience. Today, we’re announcing a new mobile experience for Office that combines three of the suite’s most popular apps—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—into a single go-to app for mobile productivity. Now you no longer need to download each app separately and will have everything you need to be productive on the go. And with the new Actions pane, you can intuitively complete a variety of common on-the-go tasks, such as creating and signing PDFs and sharing files between devices.

The new Office app uses the unique advantages of mobile devices to make content creation easier. You can snap a picture of a document and turn it into an editable word file, for instance, or transform tables from a printed page into an Excel spreadsheet. Launched today as a public preview, the Office app is available to Android users through the Google Play Store and to iOS users through Apple’s TestFlight program.

Animated image of Office app icons on a desk, coming together in stop motion photography, finally joining together to create a Home screen in the new Office Mobile App.

Fluid Framework

At Build 2019, we announced Fluid Framework, a new technology and set of experiences that will make collaboration seamless by breaking down the barriers between apps. It offers three key capabilities. First, experiences powered by the Fluid Framework will support multi-person coauthoring on web and document content at industry-leading speed and scale. Second, it provides a componentized document model that allows authors to deconstruct content into collaborative building blocks, use them across applications, and combine them in a new, more flexible kind of document. Third, the Fluid Framework makes room for intelligent agents to work alongside humans to translate text, fetch content, suggest edits, perform compliance checks, and more.

Today, we are announcing a public preview of the Fluid Framework end user experience and a private preview for developers. Over time, we expect these capabilities to light up in experiences across Microsoft 365, including within chat in Teams, mail in Outlook, portals in SharePoint, notes in OneNote, and documents in Office.

Animated image of a laptop morphing into a desktop PC, followed by a number of Office app screens appearing, illustrating the power of the Fluid Framework.

Cortana

We’re using AI to bring you personalized experiences in Outlook and making Cortana your personal productivity assistant. Today, we announced Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS to help you catch up and act on emails hands-free. With new natural voice and language recognition, Cortana can intelligently read out your new emails and share changes to your day. A masculine voice option is also now available with Play My Emails, further customizing your personal productivity assistant experience. We’re also announcing that Scheduler in Outlook is shipping in preview; you can use it to hand off scheduling meetings and coordinating participants to Cortana.

Beginning next month, Cortana can also help you prepare for your day by sending you a briefing email that includes a summary of your meetings, relevant documents for your day, and reminders to follow up on commitments you’ve made in email.

Image of four phones side by side illustrating the power of Cortana as a personal assistant. One shows an Outlook inbox, the next two a mobile meeting, and finally an email being flagged by Cortana.

AI in Office

You’re busy and have a lot on your mind—and even more on your to-do list. We get it, and over the past year, we brought the magic of AI to Office to help you get more done. With innovations that include entering data into Excel with a digital pen, audio transcription in Word—which converts a new or existing audio file into a written transcription—and Presenter Coach in PowerPoint (in public preview for the web), which helps business professionals, teachers, and students become more effective presenters, we committed to enlightening Office with AI to help you be more productive.

Today our journey continues. Now Excel supports natural language queries, so users can now ask a question of their data, just like they would if they were talking to a person, and get quick answers—all without having to write a formula. Available to Office Insiders, this new natural language ability is another step towards making data insights and visualization more approachable and accessible to users with various levels of Excel experience.

We’re also making it easier for you to plan time away from work and continue to improve your work best practices. For example, MyAnalytics can help you prepare for time off by automating out of office notification setup, informing collaborators of your time away, resolving meetings you’ll miss, and more. Integrated into the Insights pane in Outlook, MyAnalytics is now able to encourage best practices like booking meetings promptly, adding an agenda, and meeting follow ups, and adding new AI-powered suggestions in Outlook that allow you to delay email delivery when working outside the recipient’s working hours.

Animated image showing Ideas (now in preview) being used in Excel.

Microsoft Project

Last week, we announced a major step toward achieving our new vision for project management with the general availability of the new Microsoft Project. The new Project offers a redesigned user experience that is simple and intuitive. Teams can quickly add new members and set up tasks, and then easily switch between grids, boards, or timeline (Gantt) charts to track progress. And because Project is part of the Microsoft 365 family, project teams can save time and do more with built-in connections to familiar apps like Teams and Office. In addition, the new service provides greater visibility into your projects and powerful tools to help you anticipate future needs. Create stunning interactive reports in Power BI, so you can visualize every aspect of each project at a glance. And get the big picture view of all your projects across your organization with visual, interactive cards.

Over the next year, we’ll release more exciting capabilities in the new Project, including resource management, budget analysis, and time and expense tracking. These powerful features will enable you to streamline more complex initiatives and help your business maximize ROI.

Knowledge

We’re excited to announce a brand-new investment area for Microsoft 365—knowledge. Moving your productivity infrastructure to the cloud has many benefits, including cost savings and streamlined operations. But it also unlocks new scenarios. Using AI, Microsoft 365 will now be able to identify, organize, and deliver knowledge across your organization—providing just the right information at just the right time. Productivity isn’t just about being more efficient. It’s also about aggregating and applying the collective knowledge of your organization so that together you can achieve more.

Project Cortex

Today, we’re announcing Project Cortex, the first new service in Microsoft 365 since the launch of Teams. Project Cortex uses AI to create a knowledge network that reasons over your organization’s data and automatically organizes it into shared topics like projects and customers. It also delivers relevant knowledge to people across your organization through topic cards and topic pages in the apps they use every day.

In addition, Project Cortex enables business process efficiency by turning your content into an interactive knowledge repository—with innovations in smart content ingestion—to analyze documents and extract metadata to create sophisticated content models; machine teaching, to allow subject matter experts to teach the system how to understand semi-structured content; and knowledge retrieval, to make it easy for people to access the valuable knowledge that’s so often locked away in documents, conversations, meetings, and videos. Building on the content you already have in SharePoint, Project Cortex connects content across Microsoft 365 and external systems and enables you to manage information and streamline processes with built-in security, compliance, and workflow.

The new Yammer

Yammer has been completely redesigned, with dozens of new capabilities that empower people to connect, build communities, and share knowledge across the organization. The new Yammer delivers a beautiful, intelligent experience across devices and introduces new integrations with Teams, SharePoint, and Outlook. You can now use Yammer to broadcast live and on-demand events with a streamlined production option that uses webcams and desktop sharing. And you can also share video shorts directly from the Yammer mobile app. In addition, we’ve now centralized e-Discovery, data governance, and Yammer administration in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

Microsoft Search

Today, we announced new innovations for Microsoft Search to enhance productivity; empower greater discovery of information, insights, and people; develop search driven applications; and extend the benefits of Microsoft Search to content outside of Microsoft 365. We recognize search works best when it brings together information from across your organization. Now with over 100 new Microsoft Search connectors from Microsoft and our partners, you can consolidate information from disparate system into a single search experience in Microsoft 365.

In addition, you can use our new Graph APIs to develop custom applications on top of Microsoft Search to tailor search to your organizations’ needs. We’re also bringing more powerful search experiences to Microsoft 365, including advanced people search using attributes and skills, video search, acronym search, and semantic search.

Screenshot showing a user using Search in SharePoint.

Microsoft Stream

Video is an increasingly powerful medium for capturing and sharing knowledge and learning. Microsoft Stream applies AI to unlock the content in video—including meeting recordings—with automatic transcription. AI also powers the new voice enhance feature, allowing you to focus on the spoken word by reducing background noise. And now people can create short videos from mobile devices and share in Yammer, Teams, and PowerApps, mainstreaming video as the new content type for communications and learning.

Workplace Analytics

Workplace Analytics is making it even easier to gain knowledge about the way people work and its impact on business and organizational outcomes. Business leaders will get at-a-glance insights to quickly understand and improve meeting culture, manager practices, organizational networks, and customer relationships. Industry benchmarks help contextualize common patterns that influence productivity, such as focus time and the ability to unplug outside of working hours. We also enriched the analyst toolset. AI-driven process analysis uses key words like “quarterly business review” to shed light on time and resources invested in specific business activities, enabling improvement over time.

Workflow

Workflow innovations empower you to streamline and improve business processes with little or no code. This approach not only saves time and money, it also ensures process automation is done by the people who are closest to the way things actually work.

Power Platform integration with Teams

With Power Platform, users can automate routine tasks, create custom apps, and easily engage with data. Power Platform integration with Teams makes these tools more discoverable and accessible to users and unlocks a conversational approach to streamlining productivity scenarios—from managing approvals directly in chat to pinning a custom app where a team needs it.

Today, we announced new features to enhance these capabilities. Power Apps creators can now publish their apps as Teams apps, and users will be able to pin those apps to their left rail in Teams. We’re also adding new Power Automate triggers and actions, allowing users to streamline the completion of common team and personal tasks, such as setting custom message actions and sending notifications. And coming soon, rich Power BI previews in Teams chat and an enhanced Power BI tab will allow users to see all their data in Teams and effortlessly discuss data, to speed data-driven decision making.

Office Scripts

Office Scripts simplifies clunky processes and automates repetitive tasks so you can work less while doing more. Today, we introduced scripting in Excel, a new process automation feature that allows you to record your actions inside a workbook and save it to a script. The saved script can then be integrated with Power Automate and scheduled to run automatically or integrate with a larger flow. Office Scripts will be available as a public preview by the end of the year.

Animated image of Office Scripting being used in Microsoft Excel. In the right pane, the user opens a script recorder.

Security

New AI-powered features make it easy for you to secure your organization’s valuable assets while empowering employees to collaborate freely.

Microsoft Authenticator

Any customer with any Azure AD plan, including a free plan, can now use the Microsoft Authenticator app for secure, passwordless access to both Microsoft and non-Microsoft apps. Passwords continue to be the weakest link in cybersecurity. With Azure AD and Microsoft Authenticator, enterprises can go passwordless for a great user experience and lower support costs while also implementing two-factor or multi-factor authentication (MFA) for greater security. Deploying MFA reduces the risk of phishing and other identity-based attacks by 99.9 percent and is the best thing you can do to improve your security. Customers with more than 150 seats can also now contact Microsoft to set up the capability via FastTrack.

New value in Azure AD

Azure AD Cloud Provisioning now makes it easier to move identities to the cloud by eliminating the need for an on-premises sync server though a lightweight on-premises agent. This enables provisioning from multiple, disconnected on-premises Active Directory (AD) forests and harnesses the power of the cloud to tackle common directory challenges like sync complexity and data transformation logic. This capability addresses one of the top needs for large enterprise customers that manage complex organizations or mergers and acquisitions and enables greater availability and decreases implementation and operation costs.

Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)

Microsoft Defender ATP endpoint detection and response (EDR) capabilities are now available in preview for Mac OS devices. We’ll be adding support for Linux servers next. This is part of our commitment to extending multi-platform coverage in our threat protection solutions. Our customers depend on Microsoft for world-class endpoint protection and EDR capabilities for Windows, and most large organizations manage a complex mix of technology platforms, including several operating systems. They need coverage for the full breadth of their environment. This ongoing investment gives them the breadth of coverage they need, with a single unified view for administrators and security operations professionals, enabling enterprise-wide investigation and response to security incidents.

Application Guard for Office

Now available in private preview, Application Guard for Office provides hardware-level and container-based protection against potentially malicious Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. It utilizes Microsoft Defender ATP to establish whether a document is either malicious or trusted.

Compliance

Simplify and automate risk management with new innovations that use AI as a force multiplier to keep you one step ahead of the increasingly complex compliance requirements and ever-evolving insider threats.

Insider Risk Management

A staggering 53 percent of organizations have experienced an insider attack in the last 12 months. The effort required to identify these risks and violations is not trivial, and it requires effective collaboration across security, human resources (HR), and legal—as well as a balanced approach across privacy and risk management. Today, we announced Insider Risk Management in Microsoft 365 to help organizations quickly identify and remediate insider threats, risks, and code of conduct policy violations across Office, Windows, Azure and third-party apps such as HR systems. Insider Risk Management leverages the Microsoft Graph and other services to intelligently correlate multiple signals to identify hidden patterns and potential risks, and provide real-time insight into file activity, communications sentiment, and abnormal user behaviors. Insider Risk Management includes a set of configurable playbooks tailored specifically for risks—such as digital IP theft and confidentiality breach—to help you effectively identify threats and take action. We also designed for privacy, so display names for risky users can be anonymized by default at early stages of investigation.

Compliance Score

It’s more important than ever to have the knowledge and tools you need to work across compliance and risk management teams to effectively assess and monitor risks. To help you implement more effective data protection controls, we’re announcing the public preview of Microsoft Compliance Score, which enables you to simplify and automate risk assessments. With Microsoft Compliance Score, you can now continuously assess and monitor data protection controls, get clear guidance on how to improve the score, and leverage the built-in control mapping to scale your compliance efforts across regulations and standards.

Even if you’re not an expert in complex regulations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or ISO 27001, you can still quickly learn the actions needed for compliance and contribute towards progress. We also introduced new assessments for California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and for other GDPR-style regulations. Compliance Score is available now in public preview for all Microsoft 365 enterprise plans in the Microsoft 365 compliance center.

Image showing a Microsoft Compliance Score dasy, now in preview.

Management

With new management innovations, Microsoft 365 puts the cloud and AI to work to help you set-up, secure, monitor, and manage all your devices.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager

Microsoft Endpoint Manager is an integrated solution to centrally and securely manage all the endpoints in your technology estate. Bringing together Microsoft Intune and System Center Configuration Manager functionality and data—plus new intelligent actions and analytics—Endpoint Manager delivers seamless, end-to-end management for Windows, Android and Apple devices, apps, and policies without the complexity of a migration or disruption to productivity. Look for Microsoft Endpoint Manager features and experiences to appear in the product over the coming months. And, to help ensure that all our customers are able to take advantage of Microsoft Endpoint Manager, we’re making Intune available to our existing SCCM customers for Windows PC management. Starting December 1, 2019, you can co-manage these devices in Microsoft Endpoint Manager, and start using cloud-powered features like Autopilot and Desktop Analytics.

Microsoft Productivity Score

Microsoft Productivity Score focuses on two areas: the Employee experience and the Technology experience. Both provide visibility into how your organization works, insights to identify where you can enable improved experiences, and actions you can take to update skills and systems—so everyone can do their best work.

The Employee experience shows you how Microsoft 365 is helping to create a productive and engaged workforce. By quantifying how people are collaborating on content, working from anywhere, developing a meeting culture, and communicating with each other, you can see the different ways that work gets done. Meanwhile, the Technology experience provides insights by assessing policies, device settings, and hardware and application performance within the organizational environment and recommends actions in Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

Managed Meeting Rooms

Productive meetings are essential to success in the modern workplace. Coupled with the rise in remote collaboration, business leaders increasingly associate more effective meetings with having the right meeting room technology and environment. Today, we’re announcing a private preview of Managed Meeting Rooms from Microsoft, a new offer for managing meeting rooms. This cloud-based IT management and security monitoring service ensures that Teams meeting rooms are secured, up to date, and proactively monitored for a great in-room experience. To date, we’ve been working with more than 100 customers to manage more than 1,500 meeting rooms. Now, a private preview is opening this experience to more of you! If you’re interested in participating, let us know.

Global reader

You told us you want to improve your security posture by scoping admin permissions to only those needed to do their jobs. In fact, this is one of our top customer requests. We’re announcing new admin roles in Azure AD and the Microsoft 365 admin center to help you reduce the number of Global admins in your organization. For example, the Global reader role lets an admin view information across Microsoft 365, but does not allow the admin to change any settings or data. Now you can assign the Global reader role to admins in your organization to support reporting, planning, audits, and investigations, without having to grant a higher level of privileges than is necessary. The Global reader role can also be combined with other administrative roles (for example, Exchange admin) to more granularly control and scope the assignment of admin privileges in your organization.

Onboarding Hub

You also told us that you want guidance from Microsoft for improving security and increasing admin efficiency. The Onboarding Hub, in the Microsoft 365 admin center’s setup area, includes new experiences to help you discover, learn about, and use features across Microsoft 365, including Azure AD and other admin portals such as the Security and Compliance Center. We provide intelligent recommendations—based on your current configuration and admin activities—to help you improve your security posture, maintain compliance with data regulations, keep apps up to date, and reduce costs.

Screenshot of the Onboarding hub in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

New recommendations in the Microsoft 365 admin center (admin.microsoft.com).

Using the Global reader role to access the Onboarding Hub is a powerful and safe way to perform planning and auditing activities for Microsoft 365, as a Global reader can view and assess the recommendations, learn about implementation steps and user impact, and see current administrative assignments without making any tenant or configuration changes.

Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Groups is the membership service that powers collaboration and drives teamwork across Microsoft 365. It’s a core underpinning of more than 20 applications, including Teams, SharePoint, Outlook, Yammer, Microsoft Stream, and more. We’re pleased to announce a number of improvements to the Groups admin experience with new lifecycle management and compliance capabilities, including the ability to quickly create teams for a group, browse and restore deleted groups, edit the group email alias, and use sensitivity labels. You can also enable self-service group creation and management, which empowers users to create teams and Yammer channels that are controlled with guardrails and policies set by IT.

Send us your feedback

Every innovation we make with Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud, is designed to help you and your organization unlock new forms of productivity to achieve more. We’re excited to share these new features with you, and look forward to your feedback and insights.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft cybersecurity strategy, hybrid cloud in focus at Ignite

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has hinted that the big news at the company’s Ignite conference will involve cybersecurity and updates to its approach to hybrid and distributed cloud applications.

“Rising cyber threats and increasing regulation mean security and compliance is a strategic priority for every organization,” Nadella said on Microsoft’s earnings call for the first quarter of 2020 this week. He highlighted that the company has offerings across identity, security and compliance that span people, devices, apps, developer tools, data and infrastructure “to protect customers in today’s zero trust environment.”

In addition to Microsoft cybersecurity-related comments, Nadella addressed investor questions about the company’s hybrid cloud business.

“Our approach has always been about this distributed computing fabric, or thinking about hybrid not as some transitory phase, but as a long-term vision for how computing will meet the real-world needs,” he replied in the call.

Satya NadellaSatya Nadella

Microsoft’s hybrid cloud offerings include Azure Stack, which takes a subset of Azure’s software foundation and installs it on specialized hardware to be run in customer-controlled environments.

At Ignite, “you will see us take the next leap forward even in terms of how we think about the architecture inclusive of the application models, programming models on what distributed computing looks like going forward,” Nadella said.

Microsoft targets cybersecurity, hybrid cloud

Given that cybersecurity and hybrid cloud computing are two of the hottest areas in enterprise tech today, Nadella’s teases aren’t especially surprising. But the specific details of what Microsoft has planned are worth delving into, analysts said.

It was a bit surprising that Nadella didn’t mention Azure Stack in his remarks on the conference call, given the progress that product has made in the market, said Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.

However, Ignite’s session agenda includes a fair number of Azure Stack sessions, covering matters such as migration planning and operational best practices. One possibility is that Microsoft will announce expansions of Azure Stack’s footprint so it’s more on par with the Azure cloud’s full capabilities, Mueller added. 

Azure CTO Mark Russinovich is scheduled to speak at Ignite on multiple occasions. One session will focus on new innovations in Azure’s global architecture and another targets next-generation application development and deployment.

On Twitter, Russinovich said he’ll discuss matters such as DAPR, Microsoft’s recently launched open source runtime for microservices applications. He also plans to talk about Open Application Model, a specification for cloud-native app development, and Rudr, a reference implementation of the Open Application Model (OAM).

The OAM is a project under the Open Web Foundation. It serves as a specification so the application description is separated from the details of how the application is deployed and managed by the infrastructure 

According to a source familiar with the company’s plans, Microsoft released OAM because it is designed to be built by developers but then passed on for execution by an operations team, adding that DAPR is a way to build applications that are designed to be componentized.

“Developers don’t have to worry about where (an application) will run,” the source said. “They just describe its resource requirements, focus on building a microservices application and not to worry about how each component will communicate with the others,” he said. Going into Ignite, the hyperscale cloud market is being driven by a couple of factors, said Jay Lyman, an analyst with 451 Research.

“AWS, Microsoft and Google sort of define the modern enterprise IT operational paradigm with their breadth of services, innovation and competition,” Lyman said. “At the same time, the market serves as a discipline for them.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft announce something around support for other public clouds.
Jay LymanAnalyst, 451 Research

Hybrid cloud is an example of this, having emerged to meet customer needs to run on-premises infrastructure in a similar manner to public clouds, he added. Azure Stack, Google Kubernetes Engine On-Prem and AWS Outposts are some early answers to the problem.

Meanwhile, Google’s Anthos and IBM Red Hat’s OpenShift platform target multi-cloud application deployments.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft announce something around support for other public clouds,” Lyman said.

Microsoft cybersecurity portfolio gains gravity

Some analysts believe Microsoft is already well positioned in the cybersecurity market on the proven reliability of Windows Defender, Active Directory, the Azure Active Directory, Azure Sentinel and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection.

“Many enterprises trust Microsoft to manage the identities of their users accessing information both from on-prem and cloud-based applications,” said Doug Cahill, senior analyst and group director at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in Milford, Ma. “They’re already a formidable cybersecurity competitor,” he said.

In a recent survey conducted by ESG, IT pros said one of the most important attributes they look for in an enterprise-class cybersecurity vendor is the reliability of products across their portfolio and that they are “well-aligned” with their particular IT initiatives.

“Obviously, Microsoft is one of the leading IT vendors,” Cahill said. “They have Active Directory, which is broadly adopted, serving as a foundational piece of their cybersecurity strategy,” he said.

Logically, the next step for Microsoft is to extend its platform out to so it plays across the broader attack surface, which includes the rapidly growing Office 365.

During the earnings call, Nadella ran down what he believes are the individual strengths of the company’s cybersecurity offerings. He made special note of the cloud-based Sentinel and its ability to analyze security vulnerabilities across an entire organization using AI to “detect, investigate and automatically remediate threats.”

Nadella said the company would reveal more details about its “expanding opportunities in the cybersecurity market” at Ignite.

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New Azure Blueprint enables SWIFT CSP compliance on Azure

This morning at the SIBOS conference in London we announced how our new Azure Blueprint is being introduced by Microsoft in conjunction with the recent efforts to enable SWIFT connectivity in the cloud. It supports our joint customers in compliance monitoring and auditing of SWIFT infrastructure for cloud native payments, as described on the Official Microsoft Blog

SWIFT is the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services used and trusted by more than 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories. Today, enterprises and banks conduct these transactions by sending payment messages over the highly secure SWIFT network which leverages on-premises installations of SWIFT technology. SWIFT Cloud Connect creates a bank-like wire transfer experience with the added operational, security, and intelligence benefits the Microsoft Cloud offers.

Azure Blueprints is a free service that enables customers to define a repeatable set of Azure resources that implement and adhere to standards, patterns, and requirements. Azure Blueprints allow customers to set up governed Azure environments that can scale to support production implementations for large-scale migrations. Azure Blueprints include mappings for key compliance standards such as ISO 27001, NIST SP 800-53, PCI-DSS, UK Official, IRS 1075, and UK NHS. 

The new SWIFT blueprint maps Azure built-in polices to CSP’s security controls framework, enabling financial service organizations to have agility in creating and monitoring secure and compliant SWIFT infrastructure environments.

The Azure blueprint includes mappings to:

We are committed to helping our customers leverage Azure in a secure and compliant manner. Over the next few months, we will release new built-in blueprints for HITRUST, FedRAMP, and Center for Internet Security (CIS) Benchmark. If you have suggestions for new or existing compliance blueprints, please share them via the Azure Governance Feedback Forum.

Learn more about the SWIFT CSP blueprint in our documentation.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft is awarded Zscaler’s Technology Partner of the Year for 2019

Last week at Zscaler’s user conference, Zenith Live, Microsoft received Zscaler’s Technology Partner of the Year Award in the Impact category. The award was given to Microsoft for the depth and breadth of integrations we’ve collaborated with Zscaler on and the positive feedback received from customers about these integrations.

Together with Zscaler—a Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA) member—we’re focused on providing our joint customers with secure, fast access to the cloud for every user. Since partnering with Zscaler, we’ve delivered several integrations that help our customers better secure their environments, including:

  • Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) integration to extend conditional access policies to Zscaler applications to validate user access to cloud-based applications. We also announced support for user provisioning of Zscaler applications to enable automated, policy-based provisioning and deprovisioning of user accounts with Azure AD.
  • Microsoft Intune integration that allows IT administrators to provision Zscaler applications to specific Azure AD users or groups within the Intune console and configure connections by using the existing Intune VPN profile workflow.
  • Microsoft Cloud App Security integration to discover and manage access to Shadow IT in an organization. Zscaler can be leveraged to send traffic data to Microsoft’s Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) to assess cloud services against risk and compliance requirements before making access control decisions for the discovered cloud apps.

“We’re excited to see customers use Zscaler and Microsoft solutions together to deliver fast, secure, and direct access to the applications they need. The Technology Partner of the Year Award is a testament of Microsoft’s commitment to helping customers better secure their environments.”
—Punit Minocha, Vice President of Business Development at Zscaler

“The close collaboration between our teams and deep integration across Zscaler and Microsoft solutions help our joint customers be more secure and ensure their users stay productive. We’re pleased to partner with Zscaler and honored to be named Zscaler’s Technology Partner of the Year.”
—Alex Simons, Corporate Vice President of Program Management at Microsoft

We’re thrilled to be Zscaler’s Technology Partner of the Year in the Impact category and look forward to our continued partnership and what Zscaler.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

SuccessFactors customers to see big Qualtrics impact

LAS VEGAS — At the SAP SuccessFactors customer conference, SAP’s $8 billion Qualtrics acquisition seemed like the tail wagging the dog. Employee experience was such a central theme that SuccessFactors may rebrand HCM as HXM — Human Experience Management.

It may have been a lot for SuccessFactors customers to take in.

Some SuccessFactors customers are measuring employee experience with deeper analysis of employee behavior, such as time to complete certain tasks. But others, who were not Qualtrics users, were still assessing its capabilities.

What SAP made clear is that Qualtrics is important to the future of SuccessFactors.

Qualtrics “allows us now to really rethink almost every transaction in every application that we’re investing in,” Greg Tomb, president of SAP SuccessFactors, said at a meeting with press and analysts at SuccessConnect 2019.

Qualtrics sells an “experience management” or XM platform. It captures and measures employee experience (EX), product experience (PX), customer experience (CX) and brand experience (BX). The platform can combine experience data with a company’s operational data. 

The use of sophisticated employee experience measuring was illustrated by Hernan Garcia, vice president of talent and culture at Tecnológico de Monterrey, a university in Mexico. Garcia’s team studies employee experience as well as the efficiency of a process, including the time it takes to complete something.

“We measure both how they feel, how they interact, but also how much time, how many clicks, how many people they need to touch” to complete something, Garcia said during a press and analyst meeting. The school can improve the experience of employees by directly making changes to processes that affect it, he said.

The university was awarded SAP’s annual 2019 Klaus Tschira HR Innovation Award on Tuesday, which is named after an SAP co-founder. The university has about 31,000 employees and 160,000 students.

SuccessFactors is delivering some Qualtrics integrations, such as with employee records. It is also building capability to integrate with SAP Analytics Cloud so that companies can include both “X” or experience data and “O” or operational data in their analytics programs, said Amy Wilson, head of products and application engineering at SuccessFactors.

The SuccessFactors and Qualtrics integration work will continue into next year. For now, SuccessFactors and Qualtrics are separate applications, but “seamless,” Wilson said. SAP’s ultimate plan is to embed Qualtrics into SuccessFactors, she said.

But the employee experience discussion can’t just focus on X and O data. It must reconcile with the major workforce changes looming, said Vera Cuevas, a SuccessFactors user and HRIS senior manager at a technology firm she asked not be named.

“There’s probably going to be a lot of jobs across a number of different industries that might go away, that might be automated,” Cuevas said. “It will be interesting to see how you retain that employee engagement while at the same time you are moving employees in different jobs, or in some cases eliminating industries.”

Another attendee, Catrena Hairston, a senior learning professional at a U.S. government agency, said the ability to use both experience and operational data makes sense and may be useful. But she will have to see it in action. “I’m not into vaporware, so I’ll have to see if it works with our data,” Hairston said.

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Poly targets huddle rooms with Trio 8300

Poly unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of its Trio conference room phone designed for small meeting spaces, or huddle rooms. The vendor also released a new wireless phone and said it would let businesses rent its headsets in lieu of buying them.

The Trio 8300 is the third phone in the current Poly Trio series, behind the 8500 for medium-sized conference rooms and the 8800 for large conference rooms. The new device is for rooms that fit between two and five people.

The Trio 8300 comes with most of the same features as the two more expensive models — including Bluetooth connectivity, noise-blocking technology and compatibility with video conferencing software — but its microphones have a shorter range.

The main difference is price. The Trio 8300 has a suggested retail price of $649, compared with $1,099 for the 8500 and $1,599 for the 8800, according to the website of IP Phone Warehouse, a reseller of Poly devices.

“By emulating the user experience of predecessors, yet at a competitive price, the Trio 8300 could deliver significant value for money to businesses,” said Alaa Saayed, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

The Trio devices work with the software of a wide range of unified communications (UC) vendors, including Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft (Skype for Business), RingCentral, Vonage, 8×8, Zoom and BlueJeans.

Photo of Poly Trio 8300
The Trio 8300 conference room phone is smaller and cheaper than the two other devices in the series.

Poly — the company formed through the merger of Plantronics and Polycom — released a USB video system for huddle rooms earlier this year, called the Polycom Studio. The vendor’s huddle room portfolio also includes the RealPresence Group 310, which comes with a video codec.

Spending on video conferencing technology for huddle rooms is expected to reach $1.5 billion within five years, representing an average annual growth rate of 29.2% between 2018 and 2023, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Poly releases wireless IP phone

Poly also released the VVX D230, a wireless phone targeted at small businesses and retailers. The device plugs a gap in the vendor’s lineup of phones and should help it compete against Yealink and Grandstream Networks, which make similar devices.

The VVX D230 has a range of 165 feet indoors and its battery lasts eight hours. The phone also comes with features Poly said it usually makes available only in desk phones, such as speakerphone, caller ID, conferencing, transfer controls and intercom capabilities.

The phone uses Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT), a wireless technology similar to Bluetooth but with greater range. Shipments of DECT phones were projected to increase at an average annual rate of 4.8% between 2018 and 2025, according to Frost & Sullivan.

“It was a missing piece of the puzzle that they had to offer as part of their overall endpoints portfolio,” Saayed said.

Poly expands rental program

Meanwhile, Poly added headsets to its device as a service (DaaS) offering in North America, a financing plan that lets businesses pay rent devices on a month-to-month basis without large upfront costs.

Device subscription plans have grown in popularity over the past few years, coinciding with the rise of cloud software, which is sold through a similar pricing model.

Poly’s DaaS offering already included its desk and conference room phones.

“In the case of pro headsets, the DaaS model might certainly alleviate high upfront costs in a full-blown UC rollout, allowing customers to cancel and return devices at any time,” Saayed said.

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New Workspace One features focus on intelligence, security

VMware unveiled new Workspace One features at its annual user conference. Two standouts include Virtual Assistant, which will help to set up a device and answer frequently asked questions, and Employee Experience Management, which can proactively monitor endpoint security.

Workspace One is VMware’s digital workspace product that enables IT to manage endpoints and provide end users access to their desktops and applications wherever they are. The new features include AI capabilities that are designed to help IT and HR get new employees settled faster, as well as better identify potential security issues before they spread throughout the organization.

In this Q&A from VMworld, Shankar Iyer, SVP of end-user computing at VMware, talks about what the new Workspace One features can provide IT, why a zero-trust model is a security must and what customers can expect in the future from Workspace One.

What do organizations need to do at the start to get the most out of the new Workspace One features?

Shankar Iyer: It’s easy for an organization to latch on to it because it’s running in the cloud. The Virtual Assistant piece, we’ve partnered with IBM Watson and our framework will integrate with any NLP [natural language processing] type of programming that organizations use. We’re also seeing in the market the need for these general purpose questions answered, and Watson is a general purpose machine. We thought it was the best starting point from an NLP perspective.

We wanted to build a standard way for these bot frameworks to be able to integrate into our Virtual Assistant product. … But organizations can still customize a lot within Workspace One. Every organization that implements us is different, but there are patterns within industries or types of organizations that can ease that input.

How has the importance of security affected end-user computing?

Iyer: In the old days, the security model was about building this wall and not letting any activity leave the room. Now it’s an open floor: You can go to a company, and sometimes networks are open. Devices come from anywhere. It behooves customers to build this zero-trust security model.

As a result, you’ll need to put up some barriers and gates and that can benefit a platform like Workspace One. You need identity access; you need to establish device compliance and security hygiene. You need to have data collection through every point, and you need this intelligence ability to decode the data in real time and alert you if someone is coming in on a device we haven’t seen before from a place we haven’t seen before, so I’m going to notch up his risk score. If that risk score reaches a point, you can shut off access.

But how do you balance the desire for improved end-user experience with the need for better security?

Iyer: If you implement a zero-trust model you won’t compromise user experience. Because then say an employee comes into a network on a trusted device and, as IT, we’re going to give them the whole experience with no barriers. But through machine learning, if I detect an anomaly, I can start putting up gates. Say you used a friend’s device; the only inconvenience is probably a second login with a login pin. The end user will be OK with that. But if I try to challenge you with dozens of different password logins, that’s when you, as an end user, can get frustrated. It’s progressive enforcement as a need.

VMware SVP of EUC Shankar Iyer
VMware SVP of end-user computing, Shankar Iyer, addresses hundreds of VMworld attendees during the digital experience keynote.

The other thing security people are accepting is there’s no way to block everything. Even when a security concern slips through the cracks, with new Workspace One features, it tracks every action that the end user did. The moment you cross a threshold, we can shut off access.

That philosophy of security where you do progressive security boundaries, while not compromising experience by using all this data to fix things when things go wrong, is what we’re going for.

What is VMware looking forward to with Workspace One and what can customers expect?

Iyer: We’re starting to see an adoption of Workspace One features to optimize experience and when we break it down to a new employee’s Day Zero, Day One, Day Two and offboarding, there’s a lot we can do. We can optimize each one of those days and better bridge the physical and virtual world. For example, when you walk into your office, we badge in. Why do that when you have a smartphone? There are capabilities of using those devices as identity.

You’ll see this experience get more automated, and bringing the power of intelligence to IT to make them more productive and adding services, things like ticketing will diminish over time. Those are some areas we can still optimize. To do that, other facets of the platform like zero trust will need to be leveraged.

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Why Would Prosthetic Arms Need to See or Connect to Cloud AI?

Based on “Connected Arms”, a keynote talk at the O’Reilly AI Conference delivered by Joseph Sirosh, CTO for AI at Microsoft. Content reposted from this O’Reilly Media website.

There are over 1 million new amputees every year, i.e. one every 30 seconds – a truly shocking statistic.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 30 to 100 million people around the world are living with limb loss today. Unfortunately, only 5-15% of this population has access to prosthetic devices.

Although prostheses have been around since ancient times, their successful use has been severely limited for millennia by several factors, with cost being the major one. Although it is possible to get sophisticated bionic arms today, the cost of such devices runs into tens of thousands of dollars. These devices are just not widely available today. What’s more, having these devices interface satisfactorily with the human body has been a massive issue, partly due to the challenges of working with the human nervous system. Such devices generally need to be tailored to work with each individual’s nervous system, a process that often requires expensive surgery.

Is it possible for a new generation of human beings to finally help us break through these long-standing barriers?

Can prosthetic devices learn to adapt to us, as opposed to the other way around?

A Personalized Prosthetic Arm for $100?

In his talk, Joseph informs us about how, using the combination of:

  • Low-cost off-the-shelf electronics,
  • 3D-printing, and
  • Cloud AI, for intelligent, learned, personalized behavior,

it is now becoming possible to deliver prosthetic arms at a price point of around $100.

Joseph takes the smartARM as an example of such a breakthrough device. A prototype built by two undergraduate students from Canada who recently won the first prize in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, the smartARM is 3D-printed, has a camera in the palm of its hand and is connected to the cloud. The magic is in the cloud, where a computer vision service recognizes the objects seen by the camera. Deep learning algorithms then generate the precise finger movements needed to grasp the object near the arm. Essentially, the cloud vision service classifies the object and generates the right grip or action, such as a pincer action to pick up a bunch of keys on a ring, or a palmar action to pick up a wineglass. The grip itself is a learned behavior which can be trained and customized.

The user of the prosthetic arm triggers the grip (or its release) by flexing any muscle of their choice on their body, for instance, their upper arm muscle. A myoelectric sensor located in a band that is strapped over that muscle detects the signal and triggers the grip or its release.

Simple, Adaptable Architecture

The architecture of this grip classification solution is shown below. The input to the raspberry pi on the smartARM comes from camera and the muscle sensor. These inputs are sent to the Azure Custom Vision Service, an API in the cloud which has been trained on grip classifications and is able to output the appropriate grip. This grip is sent back to an Arduino board in the smartARM which can then trigger the servo motors that realize that grip in the physical world, i.e. as soon as the smartARM gets the signal to do so from the muscle sensor.

This is an adaptable architecture. It can be customized to the kinds of movements you want this arm to generate. For instance, the specific individual using this prosthetic can customize the grips for the objects in their daily life which are the ones they care the most about. The muscle sensor -based trigger could be replaced with a speech trigger, if so desired.

Summary

AI is empowering a new generation of developers to explore all sorts of novel ideas and mashups. Through his talk on “Connected Arms”, Joseph shows us how the future of prosthetic devices can be transformed by the power of the cloud and AI. Imagine a world in which all future assistive devices are empowered with AI in this fashion. Devices would adapt to individuals, rather than the other way around. Assistive devices will become more affordable, intelligent, cloud-powered and personalized.

Cloud AI is letting us build unexpected things that we would scarcely have imagined.

Such as like an arm that can see.

The AI / ML Blog Team