Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s corenote speech is the most widely anticipated event of the annual Microsoft Inspire and Ready conferences. 2019 was no different. After packing out the 20,000-seat T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, as well as a ram-packed overflow theatre across the road, Nadella spoke for 90 minutes about the successes of Microsoft technology and the future direction of travel for the company.
In this blog, we discuss some of the most important takeaways from Nadella’s corenote – together with some fascinating case studies into the success of their existing technology.
An integrated tech stack
In the last four to five years, the way Microsoft sells its technology has fundamentally changed. By now, everyone knows how important the cloud revolution has been to Microsoft – transforming it from a company that sells one-time software licenses (largely Windows and the Office Suite) to selling cloud subscription – with a specific focus on enterprise technology. The transformation is so profound that the company briefly became the world’s most valuable company last year, which in turn inspired a recent feature from Bloomberg, detailing this ‘Nadellaissance’ in further detail.
To partners however, this is all largely old news. What has been far less widely discussed is the extent to which the cloud transformation has allowed different types of Microsoft technology to work seamlessly together in ways they never had before. While never directly mentioned, this interoperability between different technologies in the Microsoft stack formed a vital theme throughout Satya Nadella’s speech.
The ability of Microsoft apps to pass information seamlessly between each other has long since powered the success of Office 365. But in Satya’s opening speech, it became clear that there was plenty of further potential for developers to provide leading customer experiences by applying the same logic elsewhere to Microsoft technology.
Today, Office 365 has been widely deployed, and its benefits are well known. But perhaps the most important takeaway from Satya’s corenote was how the future of technology development would be influenced by these current platforms: GitHub, Azure, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, Mixed Reality, and Microsoft 365.
Throughout the corenote, the best case studies demonstrated how combining these platforms could allow exponential business results.
Democratising digital transformation
Microsoft have always been desperate to emphasise a higher vision than simply selling products, licenses and software. That goes as far back as 1980, when Bill Gates stated his mission statement; ‘to put a computer on every desk and in every home’.
Today, the phrase, ‘democratising digital transformation’ lies at the heart of what Microsoft are trying to achieve. So, what does that mean in practice? Satya’s opening contribution set out this vision through a set of interesting, and at times surprising, metrics. Perhaps the most important of this was that, by 2030, 10% of global GDP will come from tech companies.
This is a 100% rise from the 5% of global GDP that technology provides today. But Nadella was clear; it’s not the 10% that matters – it’s the 90%. Because in today’s world – every company is a tech company. He stated:
Every business is going to be a software business.
In today’s business market, non-tech companies increasingly require technology to succeed. Whether this is a website, an app, or a custom data management platform, technology has become inevitable. This was emphasized by the fact that, over the next year, 500 million apps will be created.
Democratising digital transformation involves giving the 90% of non-tech companies the tools to power their own technology; creating software that non-developers can easily customise to their own requirements. The days when the keys to digital transformation were held by developers, IT companies and software experts are fast coming to an end. By combining the potential of different platforms, Microsoft are powering this transformation.
The potential of the power platform
Later in his talk, Satya unveiled another set of eye-catching statistics:
- 90% of all data in the world today was created in the last two years.
- Of this, 73% cannot be analysed, because it’s siloed in different applications and databases.
This creates two challenges. Today, the world processes exponentially more data than ever before. But, increasingly, we’re struggling to find the resources and capabilities to effectively analyse it. It’s this conundrum that inspired the development of ‘the power platform’ and Dynamics 365 – as the world’s connected business cloud.
The Power Platform includes three Microsoft applications:
Data analytics and visualisation
A dedicated custom app builder
Business workflow automation
Anyone who knows these applications will know they all have one thing in common: to empower non-developers to achieve more with their technology. In his speech, Satya referred to these people as ‘Citizen developers’, explaining the reason that the power platform exists, giving individual users and businesses the ability to power their own digital transformation. Satya made it clear that driving forward the potential of these applications was a vital part of Microsoft’s future strategy.
A new addition to the Power Platform is the AI builder. In the same way as the other platforms bring data analytics, app creation, and automation to non-developers, AI builder aims to do the same with artificial intelligence.
When released, the AI builder will feed into other platforms like PowerApps; allowing businesses to feed AI into a range of business functions. Harnessing the data fed through from PowerBI will allow the AI and machine learning algorithms to make predictions on common business scenarios, such as:
- Will a customer convert?
- Will we get paid on time?
- Will we have the resources to process this customer/client request?
This is just yet another example of how Microsoft are working towards seamlessly passing information between different platforms. With the addition of the AppBuilder, this interoperability is further increased.
Technology in action
Satya’s talk wasn’t just about discussing the future of Microsoft cloud technology. In fact, at various points, we were also treated to fascinating demonstrations of technology in action. While there’s not enough space to discuss every inspirational story in detail, there’s certainly room to discuss two of the most memorable. In both cases, the focus on different platforms working together lay front and centre of these success stories.
1. Holographic corenote
One of the most eye-catching moments of Inspire 2019 came when we saw a virtual reality hologram of speaker Julia White delivering a corenote speech in Japanese – a language she doesn’t speak. She stated:
“What you’re about to see is an exact hologram of me wearing the same outfit that we recently captured at a Mixed Reality Studio. Using Azure AI technology, I can translate my English into Japanese and train it to sound exactly like me. The same voice tones, the same inflections”
This might seem like a wildly futuristic concept, but in fact it just uses a synthesis of different Azure powered technologies, many of which businesses already use today:
- Mixed Reality Technology to create the hologram and render it live
- Azure Speech-to-Text capability and English transcription to record the English speech
- Azure Translate to create the Japanese translation
- Neural Text-to-Speech technology that recreates the Japanese translation with her own voice and inflections
Individually, these technologies are well-known and widely available in Microsoft Azure. But when combined, they have the potential to redefine the landscape of what businesses can achieve.
2. AI powered presentations
Let’s consider another example of AI in practice that’s perhaps a little closer to home. Almost all knowledge workers or first line workers will be familiar with the experience of hosting a presentation or sitting in a meeting – perhaps remotely. With AI, both these experiences can be enhanced, as Raanah Amjadi demonstrated during the corenote speech.
In one particular example, an AI assistant, plugged into Microsoft Teams, was on hand to assist the process of preparing for a presentation. The bot provided a range of real time information as Raanah rehearsed her presentation live, including feedback on:
- Language choice
- Using fillers
- When speech was too dependent on slide information
In one instance, the AI assistant even managed to identify when Raanah could have used more gender inclusive language.
Once the performance was over, the assistant provided a detailed list of performance metrics to summarise this advice.
Anybody who’s ever had to prepare for a stressful presentation or meeting will certainly appreciate the insights that this AI software can provide.
But this wasn’t the only way that AI could improve the presentation. It also helped enhance the meeting experience for those dialling in remotely. If for example the presenter of the meeting got up to brainstorm or write on a whiteboard, it could be difficult for remote viewers to feel included.
Raanah also demonstrated how AI technology in Microsoft Teams could find and focus on the whiteboard image, as well as make anyone standing in front of it transparent, to make it easier for remote viewers to appreciate what’s being shown.
By combining the power of AI with the remote meeting potential of Microsoft Teams, Raanah demonstrated how technology can continue to enhance the everyday operations of knowledge workers everywhere. Though a small isolated instance, this is a classic example of Microsoft’s guiding vision in practice. With technology, everyday workers in everyday companies can be empowered to work better, smarter, and achieve more.
A step forward for the Microsoft Partner Network
Microsoft Inspire is a vital opportunity for partners to gather, collaborate, share and network each year. It’s an opportunity to gain leads, share ideas, collaborate with other partners, and establish a cornerstone from which progress can evolve over.
But most importantly – and the clue really is in the name – it’s an opportunity to inspire each other and discover what the potential is for us to achieve more with technology. With inspirational case studies, eye-catching technology, and fascinating statistics, this is exactly what Satya Nadella’s corenote speech of 2019 achieved.
At Inspire, we experienced this inspiration in action: chatting with clients, partners, and Microsoft themselves about the direction the network is heading. All that remains now is to look forward to Microsoft Inspire 2020.
Each year at 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.