Following in the footsteps of last year’s event, Microsoft kicked off Ignite 2021 as an online-only affair once again. Whilst our fingers are crossed that Inspire will return to some form of in-person event for 2022, that doesn’t mean we haven’t enjoyed participating in this year’s conference from the comfort of our homes, offices, and home offices.

 

In this blog post, we’re taking a look at some of the biggest highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021.

 

Windows in the cloud – a new opportunity for Microsoft Partners

You may be familiar with Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly Windows Virtual Desktop) – Microsoft’s existing “PC in the cloud” technology. The remote desktop solution saw a significant increase in traffic from Microsoft’s enterprise customers throughout the course of the pandemic, serving as a means for employees to access their apps and files from (thin) client devices at home.

 

It’s therefore no surprise to see Microsoft expand upon Azure Virtual Desktop with a more complete solution for a broader range of customers with Windows 365.

 

Windows 365 “introduces a new way to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 (when it’s available later this calendar year) for businesses of all sizes. Windows 365 takes the operating system to the Microsoft cloud, streaming the full Windows experience — apps, data and settings — to any device” describes Nick Parker, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Global Partner Solutions.

 

And with Windows 365 comes a bunch of new opportunities for Microsoft’s partners. Systems integrators (SIs) and managed service providers (MSPs) can help organizations to make the most of their Windows estates, whilst independent software vendors (ISVs) can build and deliver apps in the cloud to support customers wherever they may work. Hardware partners can also integrate Windows 365 into their portfolio of services alongside feature-rich devices and secure hardware.

 

Windows 365 currently operates on the basis of streaming a full desktop environment to client devices, but it’s not difficult to imagine a future whereby individual apps can be streamed to thin clients instead. That would make it much easier for legacy win32 apps to run on Macs, Android devices, Chromebooks, and maybe even iOS devices if Apple plays ball. Regardless, it’s clear that Microsoft sees remote desktop solutions as an important feature for customers looking to mobilize employees.

 

A fairer commercial marketplace

Speaking of Apple, you may have heard about that snafu between Epic Games and Apple regarding the App Store’s 70/30 revenue split. Well, amidst all that public tension between the two conglomerates, Microsoft revised its own consumer app store policy by decreasing its revenue cut for paid listings. And now that same approach is being applied to Microsoft’s commercial marketplace, which includes the Azure Marketplace and Microsoft AppSource.

 

For all transactable offers in the commercial marketplace, Microsoft will be dropping its industry-standard cut from 20% down to 3% starting this month.

 

It’s a big (and very welcome) change which Microsoft hopes will enable them to do more business with partners in the future. It comes as part of Microsoft’s wider company strategy to do right by developers and make Microsoft platforms the best place to offer apps and services. It makes a lot of sense, and we’re sure many Microsoft partners will be happy to hear this news.

 

Viva updates

We’ve talked previously about Microsoft Viva and its promise to deliver a better online experience for employees. For Microsoft partners, the opportunity to integrate their services with Viva is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the platform (we’re all up for more Headspace!)

 

At this year’s Inspire, Microsoft gave partners an update on the platform’s status, including new integrations with services such as Workday and Qualtrics, as well as the promise that more APIs will roll out for partners later in the year.

 

Specifically, new Viva Connections APIs will enable partners to integrate with the Viva Connections dashboard, enabling greater discoverability of services within the Viva itself. And Viva Learning APIs will allow learning providers to integrate their content into Teams, Office, and other Microsoft 365 endpoints.

 

Microsoft launched Viva earlier this year, but its plan has always been to expand the platform with additional functionality throughout 2021. This Inspire announcement reinforces that roadmap, and we should expect to see more changes as the hybrid revolution takes off.

 

New partner tools

Last year’s Ignite saw the introduction of Microsoft 365 Lighthouse in private preview – a new tool enabling IT partners to onboard, monitor and manage Microsoft 365 customers from one place. This year, Microsoft is announcing the public preview of Microsoft 365 Lighthouse, available to MSP partners serving SMBs using Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

 

But that’s not all. Project Orland is a new experience for cloud solution providers (CSPs) which enables Microsoft-powered customer insights designed to improve account management. Using actionable guidance, Microsoft anticipates that CSPs will be able to build more effective Customer Lifestyle Management practices “to better acquire, retain, and grow your Microsoft 365 customers”. Launching in private preview, Project Orland will use data models built by Microsoft Data Scientists to surface relevant actions for CSPs to take.

 

Each of these tools are intended to help partners identify new growth and profitability opportunities – further proof that Microsoft sees their partners as a valuable piece of the puzzle when it comes to Microsoft software.

 

Investing in partners for the hybrid future

Microsoft’s Nick Parker described how the company will be investing “more in partners across the company than ever before” during the fiscal year of 2022. In addition to the big Ignite highlights, those investments include new go-to-market and technical benefits such as ISV App License Management, discounted dev environments, and substantially reduced revenue sharing, all of which will enable partners to grow their businesses through unique solutions and rapid scaling with Microsoft. Curated training, one-on-one consultations and marketing resources will also help partners scale their solutions and become titans in the Microsoft partner network.

 

Substance to support the pledge

This year’s Inspire made it clear that Microsoft’s partners will remain an invaluable asset to the company long into the post-Covid work environment. Companies can sometimes fall into the trap of making empty promises or underdelivering on their word, but in this case, we’re glad to see the substance to support their pledge.

 

Each year at Microsoft Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing, get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.