Microsoft Inspire 2021 Kicks Off: Day 1 Summary

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Microsoft this week is rolling out its vision for the near future at its Inspire conference – its largest partner event of the year. 

This year’s all-virtual event, once known as the Worldwide Partner Conference, follows the completion of the company’s fiscal year, and traditionally offers up an ideal opportunity for Microsoft to showcase its own experts, industry leaders, and other global partners as they share details on their roadmaps for cloud, edge computing, security, and collaboration, among others.

SHI is attending this year’s event, and will be publishing daily highlights here on the Hub. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more notable takeaways from Day 1: 

Opening Keynote 

An inspiring talk delivered by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella. Nadella focused on cloud’s potential to power post-pandemic business, promoting Azure as the only cloud that supports everything an organization needs to adapt to hybrid work, and the only cloud with best-of-breed and best-of-suite security capabilities. 

He shared a rapid-fire rundown of how Microsoft has supported partners and customers alike throughout the global pandemic. Describing partners as the “core of who we are and what we do as a company,” he praised them for their hard work in “getting through one of the most challenging moments in modern history.” He described the pandemic as a catalyst, and the beginning of an era of rapid change – indeed “the greatest structural change in our economy in a generation.” He explained how organizations of all sizes need ubiquitous and decentralized computing power, and described how Microsoft’s cloud offerings now bring the power of the cloud closer to where data is generated.  

Nadella wound cloud-based innovation and themes throughout his keynote, and quickly touched on updates to Teams that will make it even easier for workers anywhere in the organization to access the resources and assets they need to move work ahead and support customers. His keynote included two notable product introductions, and a focus on security: 

Windows 365: The first cloud PC for every organization on the planet

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the opening keynote was the announcement of Windows 365, the first cloud PC for every organization on the planet. The new category for Windows harnesses the power of the cloud, making cloud PC a reality where the operating system itself becomes hybrid. 

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability 

Microsoft launched Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, bringing together capabilities across the cloud and creating a new business processes category to help organizations with the growing need to track emissions.  With pressures around climate change intensifying, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability was designed for organizations to measure and manage their carbon emissions by using SaaS offerings that can help set sustainability goals. 

A Spotlight on Security 

With the growing focus and dependence on cloud-based technologies – coupled with increased risks in malware, ransomware, and other vulnerabilities – it was good to see Microsoft focus on security issues and the range of offerings they enable. And with the recent acquisition of RiskIQ, Microsoft is certainly signaling its commitment to strengthening cybersecurity of digital transformation and hybrid work. 

We’ll share more details on these significant announcements as Microsoft expands on these initial announcements. 

Partner-focused Business Platform Improvements 

Nick Parker, CVP of global partner solutions, shared a range of case studies where Teams helped students stay ahead of the curve through the pandemic, where Azure helped maintain watershed health during times of extreme weather and where Microsoft’s cloud solutions allowed governments and public health agencies to maximize COVID-19 vaccine rollouts across diverse regions. 

The Cloud Built for a New World of Work 

Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, explained how Teams has been a productivity backbone for millions of workers throughout the pandemic, and provided details around how the platform will continue to evolve to support fast-evolving post-pandemic hybrid workforce needs. 

Teams use has spiked from 20 million daily active users before the pandemic to 145 million (and growing) today. Along the way, Microsoft has introduced hundreds of new features, such as Front Row, that have made it more immersive and conducive to workflow. 

Spataro’s presentation highlighted how Teams functions at the center of a growing collaborative ecosystem: 

Dynamics 365 and Power Platform 

The future of Teams will involve collaborative apps – like Viva – that save knowledge workers from the tyranny of stopping what they’re doing to log into separate apps, portals, or services. Microsoft describes it as delivering experiences in the flow of work by combining workflow with business process automation, eliminating the kinds of workflows that once stopped workers in their tracks. 

But Teams doesn’t operate alone. Spataro walked through how Dynamics 365 and Power Platform raise Teams functionality to the next level, allowing sales users to make smarter decisions, faster and deliver outstanding customer experiences.  

New Pricing Plans for Microsoft Viva 

Spataro announced pricing changes coming this fall that should open up more affordable access to even more employees – so expect those growth curves to continue. He positioned Viva as a first-in-class example of a collaborative app within Teams and the first employee experience platform specifically built for the hybrid work era. 

Microsoft 365 vs. VDI for smaller organizations

Microsoft 365 is positioned essentially as a Desktop as a Service (DaaSdesigned for smaller companies – which is in contrast to more typical on-prem or Azure-based Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) scenarios. This offering provides an easy to deploy and manage Windows Desktop experience that any user can access from any device. While typical VDI scenarios often involve complex licensing discussions, Microsoft 365 streamlines the complexity while eliminating the need for specific hardware, as the OS is streamed to the user’s device of choice. 

We’ve still got two days to go, so check back here for the latest updates from Microsoft Inspire 2021. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn – and let us know if you were “there”. 

Read our Day Two summary here and Day Three here.