Microsoft Inspire: Here’s what we’re excited about
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Day 2 at Microsoft Inspire picked up right where Day 1 left off, with even deeper dives into what Microsoft will be prioritizing as businesses firm up their plans for post-pandemic recovery. 

We’ve been right in the thick of it, attending as many of the exciting keynotes and breakout sessions as our calendars could handle – all to help you shape your own business priorities for the second half of the year and beyond.  

Before we get into highlights from Day 2, we want to recognize the role our customers have played in SHI being awarded with the Microsoft US (MSUS) MEM award yesterday at Inspire, and the Microsoft Surface Hub Reseller of the Year Award at Inspire Surface Pre-day. Thank you for trusting us to support you throughout 2020 and the rest of 2021 as you adapt to hybrid and remote working models. 

Here’s what we’re most excited about from Day 2 at Microsoft Inspire:  

Keynote: Microsoft Inspire Into Focus

Hosts Angela Poe Russel and Jeff Dubois  were complemented by a live Together Mode backdrop of some of Microsoft’s Partner of the Year Award winners, and while we were impressed by the visual and practical use of some of the relatively new features in Teams, what really inspired us were the thought-provoking conversations with some of Microsoft’s top-tier line-up of executives on: 

A strong ecosystem navigating global supply chain challenges  

We’re all familiar with industries across the world working through supply chain challenges brought on by the global pandemic, but took comfort when Nicole Dezen, VP, Device Partner Sales, and Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer, recognized the strength of the partner ecosystem in helping customers overcome device shortages, with a 55.9% YoY growth in demand for PCs and tablets during the first quarter of 2021.  

Windows 11 and Device as a Service 

Panay pointed out that now is the right time for Microsoft to introduce Windows 11. As organizations emerge from the pandemic, they particularly value the increasingly scalable cloud-based device and application deployment capabilities built into Windows 11 and Device as a Service (DaaS). Thanks to this new generation of Windows and Microsoft 365, and tools like Azure AD, Intune, and Autopilot, an entire ecosystem of solutions is beginning to take shape – and it promises to reshape how work gets done. 

Windows 365 – Hybrid Windows for a Hybrid World 

Windows 365 could very well be the most significant announcement from Inspire, and is a compelling solution to the challenges of an increasingly hybrid workforce. Here are some of the key takeaways from the session that set out to answer all our questions following yesterday’s announcement: 

What exactly is Windows 365? 

Described as the world’s first cloud PC, Windows 365 offers a unique set of capabilities, including: 

  • Personalized desktop, apps, settings, and content streamed seamlessly from the Microsoft cloud to any device. 
  • Persistent integration between the cloud and PC operating system for a fluid and consistent experience. 
  • Ability to work offline and instantly resync when connected.  

Just like Microsoft brought productivity to the cloud with Office 365 a decade ago, it now brings the operating system to the cloud with Windows 365, evolving it from being a device-based operating system to a hybrid personal computing platform.  

How does it work? 

Built on top of Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365 is positioned as simple to deploy and manage, and is designed to be easy for anyone to use across any device. 

When will it be available? 

Customers will be able to purchase Windows 365 across all channels beginning August 2, 2021.  

Microsoft Teams, Grow your Business with the Hybrid workplace 

Enabling customers to be successful in a hybrid workplace is Microsoft’s priority in FY22. To ensure this, they outlined four key Teams business priorities: 

  1. Win hybrid meetings 
  2. Modernize communications 
  3. Establish Teams as the platform 
  4. Enable frontline workers  

We had a good chuckle when Nicole Herskowitz, Microsoft General Manager, literally threw a desk phone on the ground to visualize ‘the year of the Teams phone’  a large focus for Microsoft in modernizing communications.  

This session touched on a wide range of updates and announcements that we’ll continue to keep our eye on as more details are released, including: 

  • Beginning this summer, customers can start purchasing apps in directly in Teams. 
  • Teams now supports integrated capabilities with Dynamics 365 at no additional cost. 
  • Out-of-the-box integrations with Teams and Power Platform. 
  • Teams now supports integration with industry-leading workforce management platforms. 
  • Push-to-talk Walkie Talkie feature in Teams iOS public preview for frontline workers. 

Adopting a Zero Trust Model for Identity and Endpoint Management  

Security is no longer nice-to-have, and it’s formed a central pillar of virtually every session at Inspire 2021.     

At center-stage (virtually speaking), Microsoft’s Gideon Bibliowicz, Director of Product Marketing, Unified Endpoint Management, and Irena Nechaeva, Senior Marketing Director, explained why organizations should adopt a Zero Trust model, with Azure AD and Microsoft Endpoint Manager serving as anchors in providing maximum security and flexibility to the hybrid workers.  

Wondering “what the heck is Zero Trust?” We’ve got your back. Be sure to take a look at Irene’s amazing breakdown of building a strong Zero Trust Foundation, and don’t miss out on our insights into crafting a rock solid, five-point plan in modernizing secure access 

Harnessing Digital Solutions to Win in a Net-Zero Sustainable Future 

“Sustainability” is no longer simply a buzzword to make one feel warm and fuzzy. Rather, it’s become an imperative towards remaining compliant in the face of growing environmental regulations and driving business growth. Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer, Lucas Joppa, crafted an intimate story of how Microsoft helps organizations of all sizes in harnessing digital technology as a sustainability growth driver.  

He cited Microsoft survey data that confirmed corporate commitments to net-zero initiatives doubled between 2019 and 2020, with over 1,600 of the world’s largest companies, representing revenues of over $11.4 trillion USD, releasing their plans for reducing their footprint. 

But commitments are just the start: eventually, they must be acted upon. Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is positioned as the platform that will allow organizations of all sizes to transform their entire operations toward a more carbon-friendly, net-zero posture. This new offering allows organizations to understand their current footprint, identify means of reducing it, and over time taking more sophisticated steps toward transforming the business, all with sustainability as a cornerstone. 

As for SHI? We work in lockstep with our valued customers in making our world greener, in addition to helping you get your organizational sustainability imperatives off the ground.  

Microsoft Viva is here 

Of all the things we’ve seen at Inspire, Microsoft’s Viva offering could be among the most transformative, as it offers knowledge workers a comprehensive set of tools to raise productivity to a new level – just as the new era of hybrid work dawns. We believe this is a product to watch, particularly for organizations concerned about maximizing the potential of remote and hybrid workers in the months and years ahead. 

All Microsoft Viva modules will be generally available this fall for every Microsoft 365 customer as an add-on subscription for any M365 plan (customers won’t first need to have an E3 or E5 license). More information on Microsoft Viva pricing and licensing will be made available in August.  

A word on Inclusivity and Diversity 

We’re particularly excited about Microsoft’s focus on innovating at scale to enable inclusive workplaces, and can’t wait to get caught up on these sessions and hear more about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. People with disabilities represent one of the world’s largest untapped talent pools, and with the workplace now being digital, we can all look at technology as a solution and an equalizer in the hybrid workplace.

Tomorrow will be the third and final day of Microsoft Inspire 2021 and we’ll continue to share what caught our eye at this year’s event. As you can imagine, we’re excited about these announcements, as we believe they will help customers transform their businesses at this pivotal time in history. Be sure to check back here and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.