Microsoft MSFT announced major developments to its Teams app, Azure cloud computing and Office productivity suite at its Ignite conference.
Ignite conference 2020 is a three-day virtual event that commenced on Sep 22 and will culminate on Sep 24.
Raising the Bar with Azure Communications Services
One of the biggest highlights of the Ignite conference was the launch of Azure Communications Services platform. Per Microsoft, this platform will make it simpler for developers to insert voice/video calling, chat, and SMS features to various devices like smartphones, PCs and even websites by writing a few lines of code.
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Azure Communications Services is developed on the Azure cloud platform and so it can utilize the low latency communication network of the platform. It can also leverage other features of the platform including Azure Cognitive Services.
The communication service is encrypted and adheres to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) guidelines.
Microsoft calls Azure Communications Services as the “first fully managed communication platform offering from a major cloud provider.”
More Cloud Initiatives at a Glance
Azure Arc will now feature Azure Arc enabled data services that will facilitate deployment of Azure SQL Managed Instance and Azure PostgreSQL Hyperscale across on-premises datacenters and multi-cloud environments.
Further, Microsoft also stated that it has now made its Azure Arc enabled servers generally available. These servers simplify deployment and management of both Linux and Windows servers (physical and virtual machines) across multi-edge and multi-cloud environment.
The company also announced Azure Kubernetes Services (“AKS”) on Azure Stack HCI to support containerized applications at scale on Azure Stack HCI. Further, it collaborated with Advanced Micro Devices AMD to integrate the latter’s AMD Mi25 GPU with Azure Stack Hub to enable competent sharing of GPU for the customers.
New Teams Capabilities Deserves a Special Mention
Microsoft has added new background scenes like conference rooms, auditoriums, and coffee shops to the Together Mode on the Teams App. Also, the company added custom layouts that will permit the presenter to choose how his/her video feed and presentations appear to others in the App meetings.
By year-end, Microsoft plans to increase Teams meetings’ ability to support 1000 attendees for a full meeting experience as well as offer only-view support for meetings with over 1000 and up to 20000 attendees.
Teams Calling experience is also getting a facelift whereby users can now see a simplified view of contacts, calling history, and voicemail to allow making or returning calls easier.
Breakout rooms feature will enable organisers to divide participants attending the meeting into several small groups for better discussions. Once separate discussions are over, Breakout rooms can be collapsed, and all participants can return to the primary meeting. Meetings will be automatically recorded by the recap feature now available with the App.
A Look on Other Noteworthy Developments
Microsoft has stated that it will be integrating its XDR capabilities including Azure Defender and Microsoft 365 Defender under Microsoft Defender. The integrated security solution will offer wide range of threat detection and response measures for cloud apps & platforms, email, endpoints, docs, and infrastructure.
The company also announced the retail availability of Surface Hub 2S 85-inch model from January 2021. Surface Hub is an interactive touch screen device developed by Microsoft primarily for virtual meetings and business collaborations.
It has also upgraded Surface Hub 2S by integrating Windows 10 and updated the software to give better support to the functioning of Teams App and allows Microsoft Edge Browser to run on Surface Hub. Microsoft will also be bringing its Edge browser for Linux operating system in October 2020.
Microsoft also collaborated with AT&T T to create an IoT solution which will be combined with Azure Sphere to offer organisations the ability to connect their machines securely to cloud using cellular connectivity. This will eliminate the need for public Internet.
The company also unveiled Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare to reduce administrative tasks and manage increasing telehealth workloads. The service will be available from Oct 30, 2020.
Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare will boast of Azure, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform and Microsoft 365 capabilities along with all its other healthcare solutions to offer health care businesses with better insights to improve data interoperability, operational analytics and patient interactions and experiences.
Focus on Cloud and Innovative Tech Augurs Well
Following the robust enhancements announced at the Ignite event, Microsoft’s stock gained 2.4% on Sep 22, closing at $207.42.
Shares of Microsoft, which carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) have returned 31.5% year to date, surpassing the industry’s rally of 30%.
Markedly, coronavirus crisis has triggered rapid uptake of advanced technologies like cloud computing, AI, IoT and video conferencing.
Per Gartner report, spending on public cloud will increase 50% to $364.1 billion in 2022 from $242.7 billion in 2019. Microsoft Azure cloud is one of the leading cloud services providers in the world trailing only behind cloud leader Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Further, COVID-19 induced work from home wave has boosted the demand for Microsoft’s video communications platform, Teams App. Consequently, Microsoft is making efforts to bolster subscriber base for its App to solidify its position against other video communications app like Zoom Video Communications ZM, Webex and Slack.
Per a Research and Markets report, worldwide video conferencing market is projected to reach $9.6 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 9.9% from 2020 to 2024.
Microsoft’s focus on enhancing its offerings with the latest technologies, are expected to help it gain a larger share of these rapidly growing markets against other peers including Amazon, Alphabet, and salesforce, to name a few.
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