Microsoft’s Ignite for non-developers

Microsoft’s Ignite for non-developers


Mark Lyndersay
Mark Lyndersay



MICROSOFT’S Ignite, a three-day event for developers that ran from Wednesday last week, isn’t really focused on consumers, at least not directly.

More than 400 sessions, of which at least 150 were tailored to developers in specific global market segments, revealed the company’s continued emphasis on cloud solutions and cybersecurity.

The avalanche of information was cataloged on the company’s “Book of News” website.

Here are some standouts that individual users and smaller businesses will find promising.

Microsoft Edge, the company’s Chromium-based browser, will get improvements for workgroups, allowing the creation of tabbed groups, workspaces for collaborators focused on shared web pages.

Typo protection intensifies the browser’s efforts to reduce exposure to phishing by alerting to misspelled website addresses by suggesting the website the user may have intended to visit.

The new app toolbar that appears by default on the right edge of the new browser is useful. Outlook is one option, but being able to put specific apps there, like Microsoft’s To-Do app, would be even better.

The Office productivity suite is condensed into one governing app simply called Microsoft 365, where you’ll find the usual suspects, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and their friends. It probably makes more sense on tablets and smartphones, but now it’s standard everywhere.

Microsoft’s DALL-E is getting a new version, but the artificial intelligence (AI) alternative to web-based software like MidJourney and Stable Diffusion, which turns text messages into surreal and disturbingly lifelike image compositions, remains in limited-access preview.

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The Seattle company believes there is a business use for this Azure OpenAI service and points to Mattel’s use of the technology to create images of unusual Hot Wheels cars to inspire its designers.

It is not entirely clear what Microsoft Places is. CEO Satya Nadella said of the new product, “We want to make your space a place.”

Spaces is intended to help meetings by organizing where, with the same efficiency that Outlook’s scheduling does for when.

“You don’t just show up for a meeting,” Nadella insisted, “you show up for purpose and connection.”

Which seems pretty hopeful, given how most meetings go.

Of more immediate interest is Microsoft Syntex, an AI-powered tool that targets unstructured data in documents like PDFs and other information silos by bringing AI-powered, high-volume reading, tagging, translation and indexing to this type of data.

According to Microsoft, there will be 130 billion terabytes of unstructured content stored globally by 2025, information that is essentially frozen in formats that Syntex is designed to unlock.

It’s a new version of Windows for the government.

Windows 365 Government is currently available to the US government and allows government contractors to “securely stream Windows apps, data, content and settings from the Microsoft Cloud to any device, at any time.”

The company’s plans to make this product more widely available have not been announced.

Microsoft Teams is taking a big leap forward in trust with a new premium add-on that will be available in December.

The revamp of Teams, which has largely been a tepid virtual meeting app driven by its pervasive presence in the Office 365 suite and Microsoft’s robust presence in the workplace. Anyone who didn’t have to use it launched Zoom.

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The new features make Teams Premium a competitive upgrade.

Meeting wizards take the guesswork out of configuring all the modules in a meeting environment, and branded meeting experiences are likely to make Teams meetings at least seem like they’re taking place in a unique room.

Intelligent Recap offers AI-powered topic highlighting to guide review of a recorded meeting, while Intelligent Playback creates chapters from a recording, breaking it up into more accessible chunks.

Other features such as Intelligent Search, which will call out topics or points for review in transcripts and Live Translations, which deliver real-time AI translations for 40 spoken languages, remain to be field tested.

There are some other features that are clearly focused on enterprise-level appointment booking and audience management for webinars, but overall Teams has been in the gym and wants to be a contender.

Microsoft could do more to make Teams a serious choice for casual users or budget virtual meetings, and it remains to be seen how many of these features Teams will bring to the rest of us.

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of An extended version of this column can be found there.

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