Earlier this week, Microsoft India showcased some of its SaaS solutions for enterprises and organizations, developed by born-in-the-cloud startups. The solutions range from technologies for offering better customer experiences, building intelligent infrastructure through cloud, local market on chat and talent management platform.
The company is fostering innovation among start-ups in India by providing resources, technology and mentoring to drive this innovation. Microsoft aims to provide the right tools, resources, connections, knowledge and expertise that startups need to leverage the full potential of the cloud and create innovative, SaaS solutions built on the cloud.
All these SaaS solutions have been built on the Microsoft Azure public cloud platform that offers reliability and scalability and ensures that the solutions built future-proof them, allowing these startups to keep pace with the rapidly changing customer preferences, hardware evolutions and to manage hyper business growth.
Indian datacenters provide local customers with data residency and replication in multiple regions for backup and recovery, and the option of a private connection to the cloud.
Startups displaying their cloud-based SaaS solutions included
Ameyo –an Omni-channel platform to streamline customer interaction across all conduits of communication and has helped businesses increase customer conversion by 6% to 15% while reduced cost of sourcing, lower churn and higher customer retention.
Vymo – a personal assistant app for enterprise sales or service teams focusing on schedules, routes, alerts and recommendations that are actionable. Vymo’s solution has helped increase sales productivity by 30% for one of the leading insurance companies in India, and lower TAT by 80% for one of the leading Indian Banks.
FlamencoTech – a cloud solution provider that creates its own ‘services layer’ customization on top of various technologies that fulfill varied business needs of each customer
QUSTN (Capabiliti) – a mobile-first talent management platform to Recruit, Onboard, Train and Assess frontline employees has helped companies improve employee engagement index by 65%, with new hires becoming productive team members in less than half the usual time.
Yellow Messenger – a universal messaging platform to Shop, Book, Order anything on Chat. The solution helps reduce marketing and support costs by 30% and increases customer conversion and retention by 20%.
Meetings have really transformed over the years. What used to happen in a closed conference room setup has now moved on to a lounge or a cafe. Even in Business meetings, people prefer Personal connections, and face to face conversations in an informal setup in a much friendly environment like a cafe. Microsoft has introduced an Outlook Add-in, that will allow users to schedule meetings at different Starbucks locations and also send Starbucks gift cards via email. This add-in is currently enabled only in the U.S only.
The Starbucks for Outlook add-in is available in the Office Store as a free download to users of the new Outlook.com, as well as Outlook 2013, Outlook 2016 and Outlook on the web users with Office 365 or Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2016 mailboxes. If you are using Office 365, click here to begin installation of the Starbucks for Outlook add-in.
One can click the “Meet at Starbucks” command from the ribbon when creating a new meeting request, search for your favorite Starbucks store, and add it as the location of your upcoming meeting. This add-in isn’t available for ‘Office for Mac’ and Outlook Mobile users yet. The company confirmed that, they are working on the same and will be available in few months. However, there isn’t any word on the add-in’s availablilty for rest of the countries.
You can also also quickly express thanks or appreciation for a job well done by sending a Starbucks eGift Card right from your inbox. For a limited time, when you send a Starbucks eGift Card using Outlook, you are eligible to get a FREE $5 eGift card in return. A Starbucks account is required to purchase a Starbucks eGift Card, but no account is needed to use the “Meet at Starbucks” feature.
Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $26.2 billion, inclusive of LinkedIn’s net cash. Its an interesting acquisition considering the fact that, Microsoft has been focusing a lot on AI and User Research in the past few years. This acquisition helps them with more and more data to play with at the base level. Another point worth noting is that, LinkedIn had acquired SlideShare and Lynda sometime back. This could probably help Microsoft focus on taking SlideShare to Office365 and of course, Lynda’s huge course content to its learning portal. This acquisition would also mean, Microsoft will look at including the productivity and communication tools as a part of the professional network.
LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence. Jeff Weiner will remain CEO of LinkedIn, reporting to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Reid Hoffman, chairman of the board, co-founder and controlling shareholder of LinkedIn, and Weiner both fully support this transaction. The transaction is expected to close this calendar year.
There has been a lot of buzz online on the transaction value being $26.2 billion. Whether is LinkedIn really worth that much? or is it again a classic case of companies being over-valued. This is also Much Much higher than what Facebook paid for WhatsApp. Even when Microsoft acquired Skype, there was this buzz. This article gave a different perspectives on the hype of the acquisition.
Its funny to see the announcement come today, while the entire world is looking at Apple for the WWDC. Maybe, Microsoft just wanted to take some attention in the day. Jokes apart, this is definitely a significant move for both the companies. Lets see what they come up with together.
“The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals. Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet.” – Satya Nadella.
Microsoft today announced the launch of Lumia 650 Dual SIM(4G) in India- the latest smartphone to run on Windows 10. Designed for the modern day professionals who seek harmony in their work and personal lives, itoffers the best of Microsoft’s productivity and security, in a beautifully crafted, slim package. Recognizing that people today want to get more done as quickly as possible, and always look to their smartphone – their most personal device – to help them achieve it, the Lumia 650 Dual SIM has been designed to be as productive for the user as it is personal.
With a highly polished, diamond cut and anodized aluminum frame, measuring at only 6.9mm thick, the Lumia 650 is our thinnest phone ever. Its crisp 5 inch HD display provides a clear and bright viewing experience, even in direct sunlight. The Lumia 650 also features up to 200GB of expandable memory1 for flexibility on the go.
With robust built-in security features and one-click Office 365 set up, the Lumia 650 Dual SIM with Windows 10 and a Qualcomm Snapdragon™ processor is expected to works seamlessly allowing smooth and quick access to important documents, favorite websites, apps and games. Adding more to its features, the Lumia 650 Dual SIM comes with features such as OneDrive and Microsoft’s voice-assistant Cortana that helps users to organize and prepare for the day ahead, providing important information and reminders that sync across the smartphone and all other Windows 10 PCs and tablets.
Tech specs summary
Lumia 650 Dual SIM
Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 ,1.3 GHz Quad core
5-inch OLED display at 1,280×720 resolution Display Size5-inch
Build is Microsoft’s premium annual conference targeted at developers where the company brings in new innovations and drives the developers towards technology adoptions and building quality apps for the Windows Ecosystem. This is pretty much similar to what Google does at IO and Apple at WWDC.
This year, the build was not just about unveiling new technologies; but rather, bringing in more open source tools, options for cross platform implementations, Intelligence services and most importantly, technologies that touches lives.
Let’s look at the top 10 highlights from this year’s build.
Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will receive a new, free update this summer, called Anniversary Update. This “upgrade” will be rolled out to all the PCs, tablets, smartphones, the Xbox One console, Microsoft HoloLens, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This update is expected this number, while we don’t have an exact date, it should be sometime in July. We will see a lot of new features being added to the Windows 10 as a part of this update.
1. Running Bash on Windows 10
Few years ago, if someone said, you could run linux commands on Windows, it would’ve been a joke and laughed off. Today, it isn’t. We now have a functional bash console built right inside Windows 10. Microsoft has partnered with Canonical to bring in Ubuntu user-space and bash shell, and run it natively in a windows 10 cmd.exe console. Its pretty simple as opening up the cmd window and type bash to start the shell. Once you start, you can run your fav set of commands, be it apt, ssh, grep, awk, sed etc.
If you’re thinking, its just a VM or a container running on Windows 10. Right? You’re wrong. This isn’t a virtual machine at all. There’s no Linux kernel booting in a VM under a hypervisor. It’s just the Ubuntu user space; native Ubuntu binaries running directly in Windows.
This is indeed a super cool feature and I can’t wait to try this when it arrives as a part of the anniversary update. I will do a separate post to explain when I get my hands on it.
2. Windows Ink
When Windows 10 was introduced, there were a lot of suggestions given to Microsoft on how the new OS should be more friendly to Touch and Pen inputs. At build, the company introduced Windows Ink, which brings in more features and options for users who love using the pen. Windows Ink offers cool tools like an eraser, various pen tips, and a virtual ruler which can be used to draw straight lines right on the screen. Its not just on OneNote but on variety of other applications like PowerPoint.
In Maps, you can draw a line directly onto the screen and the app will help determine the distance and that’s cool. With Windows Ink, you can even delete words, whole paragraphs of text in Word or even highlight text.
While this feature is already provided in Microsoft apps like Microsoft Edge browser, Office, and Maps, developers will be able to inject this tool within their apps by adding few lines of code. When you do that, end-users will have the ability to jot notes and annotate directly onto the app screen.
Cortana will receive a big upgrade in terms of Intelligence, the Cortana Intelligence Suite. Cortana will be made available on the lock screen so that users can ask for without unlocking the device.
Cortana will also provide suggestions throughout the day based on your actions and stored information. With support for Windows INK, it can set actions from your hand written notes as well.
Cortana will also have the ability to track where users have been and provide relevant information at any time based on that location or event. Cortana will also be added to Skype, located in the upper-right-hand corner of the app. Later as a part of the upgrade, Cortana will also arrive for XBox One.
4. Conversation as a Platform
Satya unveiled the conversation as a platform strategy that involves in releasing bots that takes a great mile in machine learning and converse between the apps and users. The new framework allows developers to build an independent chatbot. Microsoft is planning to transform Cortana from a helpful personal assistant into a fully fledged chatbot which does more than just assist.
The Microsoft Bot Framework will help companies build their bots that can be deployed across a wide variety of services. On stage, we saw a simple demonstration of how a simple Domino’s bot can process pizza orders on its own. This is probably the first step and the company confirmed that, these bots wont be just compatible with Skype and Cortana but to all third-party services like Slack, Telegram, and even SMS.
More then platform gets leveraged, we could see some great implementations in the coming year. The framework is already available on Github and has guidelines on how can one start with it. Microsoft also made the Skype BOTs SDK available for developers and Skype would also work with HoloLens.
Around the same lines, Microsoft also introduced the Cognitive Services. These are Intelligence services with around 22 APIs which are available for free to developers. The demo was pretty neat. All you had to do was to click a picture or upload a picture; and the new vision API will be able to recognize the objects in the image. Taking it a step further, it not only just identifies the elements but also figures out the relationship and uses natural language to create a description of what you’re seeing in the image.
At first, the implementations really didn’t strike my mind. But when, I saw this below video of a visually challenged developer, I started connecting the dots.
HoloLens was unveiled at Build last year. There has been a lot of press and discussions online about this. This year, Microsoft announced the HoloLens availability to the developers and touched upon the opportunities it can bring in.There was also a fantastic demo on how HoloLens can be used in the field of Medical education. It was fantastic and the opportunities it brings in onto the table is pretty amazing.
NASA has also been using HoloLens to build applications to support engineers responsible for the design and assembly of the space craft. Astronauts and scientists are now using the Mars tool onSight in mission operations which helps in exploring mars. They also had an experience zone at Build where the attendees of the build were the first one to experience Mars outside NASA. They call it Destination mars. The Destination Mars exhibit is going to be open for public at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in summer 2016.
6. Xamarin for all
Microsoft acquired Xamarin last month. A tool that over 1 million developers use to write iOS, Android, and Windows apps. The combination of Xamarin, Visual Studio and Azure provides a complete mobile app dev solution that provides everything one needs to develop, test, deliver mobile apps for every device.
At build, Microsoft announced that Xamarin will be free for developers using Visual Studio Enterprise, Professional, as well as Visual Studio Community Edition.
This is huge step towards bringing in better cross platform solutions and Microsoft has delivered with making Xamarin avaiable for all. By making it free with Visual Studio, Microsoft is removing a huge barrier for Visual Studio/C#-using developers interested in making native apps for iOS and Android. Xamarin Studio for OS X is going to be available free as a community edition. Microsoft is also open-sourcing the Xamarin runtime to the .NET Foundation.
As Scott Guthrie’s said, “.NET is now fully open-source.”
7. Action Center on the Cloud
The Action Center will have abilities to control devices and apps over the cloud. For example, a user can dismiss a notification on their phone and it will also be dismissed on the PC as well. Developers will even see new tools for the Windows Store and Dev Center, and new ways to connect devices, and manage communications between them.
8. Updates to the Edge Browser
As a part of the update, Windows Hello platform will be open to the Edge browser, so that the websites can leverage this framework for better security. Today, Windows 10 devices use Windows Hello to log into the computer with Iris or FingerPrint recognition reducing the need of passwords and PINs. The Edge browser extensions is also expected to arrive soon via a new Microsoft Edge Store; very similar to the Google Chrome Web store.
9. Universal Apps
At last year’s event, Microsoft said, with Windows 10, It is converging Windows into one core and one developer platform, which the company calls one Windows core and the universal app platform respectively.
This year, there were emphasis on how companies like Facebook, Twitter, Uber and others in the industry are taking efforts in bringing in the UWA. We also saw a Desktop App Converter, which helps you convert your legacy Win32 and. Net apps to modern apps with Tile Support. This works pretty neat. You can also now just double-click to install a universal Windows app.
10. Real-Time Data for IoT and Mobility Apps
Solving the Cross-platform development is just one part of the next-generation app development puzzle. Microsoft also introduced several other offerings designed to help developers build more intelligent and predictive apps for the growing Internet of Things. The new Azure Functions, for example, unveiled as a preview, will help developers better manage on-demand and event-driven tasks for mobile, big data, Web and IoT applications. The new Azure IoT Starter Kits will enable anyone with Windows or Linux experience, including students and hobbyists, to quickly and inexpensively build prototypes for the Internet of Things.
Let me know what did you like the most at Build this year. Thank you!
Microsoft plans to move the consumer focused Product and Technology Service MVPs to a new influencer program that will be managed by the respective Product/Service teams. The Office-related MVPs, given their focus on Dev and IT Pro, will still remain part of the existing MVP Award program.
Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award is a mode of recognition which Microsoft gives for individuals who are technology experts and most importantly, who play a role in sharing their expertise with the Community. I was an MVP in Setup and Deployment for 5 years. Few years back, I had written this piece on what benefits do MVPs get and how does one aim to become an MVP. Of-course, a lot has changed since then.
I think, this is definitely a welcome move. This will bring more clarity and focus to the products. For example, Having a Windows Phone and Client MVP as a part of the Windows Insider program will make more sense and bring in value. It also means that, bug fixes will be addressed much quicker than before. Windows Insider program has been one of the awesome initiatives from Microsoft to get their beta builds tested and also let the consumers experience the software.
This will also help the product teams communicate to the right focus groups and manage the feedback from the experts. Yes, I would like to call people, Experts than Influencers. The MVP Program focus has slightly moved on the technical product enrichment and feedback and hence, has planned to emphasise mainly on Dev and IT Pro technologies. These changes to the program will go on effect starting July 1st 2016.
If you know someone who is technically awesome and does a great job in sharing information with the community, you can nominate him/her here. That can be you as well!
Microsoft is taking its relationship with the Eclipse community to the next level by joining the Eclipse Foundation as a Solutions Member. With joining the Eclipse Foundation, Microsoft will collaborate more closely with the Eclipse community, deliver set of tools and services for all development teams, and of-course continuously improve our cloud services, SDKs and tools.
Earlier this week, Microsoft also announced the Private Preview of the Microsoft SQL Server on Linux. This was indeed a great step towards making the industry-leading data management and business analytics platform available for any data, to run any application, anywhere.
With Visual Studio Team Services, Azure, and Codenvy, software development teams can collaborate more easily than ever before. The Azure VM Marketplace now includes a virtual machine preconfigured with Codenvy, so developers can instantly provision private Codenvy workspaces on Azure.
Microsoft is also planning to announce more tools and services specifically for Java and Eclipse developers that provide powerful development solutions and services that span platforms.
Open sourcing the Team Explorer Everywhere Plugin for Eclipse on GitHub today, so it can develop it together with the Eclipse community.
Azure IoT Suite support in Kura. Microsoft will contribute an Azure IoT Hub Connector to Kura that will allow to easily connect gateways running Kura to Azure IoT Suite.
Azure Java WebApp support in the Azure Toolkit for Eclipse, which makes it easy to take a Java web app and have it running in Azure within seconds
Today Microsoft announced their plans to bring SQL Server to Linux. A step towards making the industry-leading data management and business analytics platform available for any data, to run any application, anywhere. SQL Server on Linux gives developers the power to build and deploy intelligent applications on a single data management and business analytics platform. This will enable SQL Server to deliver a consistent data platform across Windows Server and Linux, as well as on-premises and cloud. The preview of the core relational database capabilities is available today, and are targeting availability in mid-2017.
SQL Server on Linux will provide customers with even more flexibility in their data solution. One with mission-critical performance, industry-leading TCO, best-in-class security, and hybrid cloud innovations – like Stretch Database which lets customers access their data on-premises and in the cloud whenever they want at low cost – all built in.
Bringing SQL Server to Linux is a welcome step and is in-line in the efforts to make products and new innovations more accessible to a broader set of users on other platforms. The private preview of SQL Server on Linux is available starting today, Apply here.
“This is an enormously important decision for Microsoft, allowing it to offer its well-known and trusted database to an expanded set of customers”, said Al Gillen, group vice president, enterprise infrastructure, at IDC. “By taking this key product to Linux Microsoft is proving its commitment to being a cross platform solution provider. This gives customers choice and reduces the concerns for lock-in. We would expect this will also accelerate the overall adoption of SQL Server.”
“SQL Server’s proven enterprise experience and capabilities offer a valuable asset to enterprise Linux customers around the world,” said Paul Cormier, President, Products and Technologies, Red Hat. “We believe our customers will welcome this news and are happy to see Microsoft further increasing its investment in Linux. As we build upon our deep hybrid cloud partnership, spanning not only Linux, but also middleware, and PaaS, we’re excited to now extend that collaboration to SQL Server on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, bringing enterprise customers increased database choice.”
“We are delighted to be working with Microsoft as it brings SQL Server to Linux,” said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical. “Customers are already taking advantage of Azure Data Lake services on Ubuntu, and now developers will be able to build modern applications that utilize SQL Server’s enterprise capabilities.”
Microsoft has acquired SwiftKey today. The valuation is marked at $250 million, reports Financial Times. SwiftKey is one of the most popular custom software keyboards for iOS and Android platforms. Microsoft has made some real good quality applications for iOS and Android devices. This acquisition adds to the company’s commitment to bringing its software and services to all platforms. Moreover, SwiftKey’s predictive technology aligns with Microsoft’s investments and ambition to develop intelligent systems that can work more on the user’s behalf and under their control.
SwiftKey is a free app for Android, iPhone and iPad which makes it easier, faster and more fun to type. SwiftKey Keyboard apps upgrade your keyboard, replacing the on-screen keyboard with one that adapts to the way you type. The findings come from an analysis of aggregate SwiftKey Cloud data, an opt-in service offering backup and sync of your language insights, which SwiftKey occasionally analyze for pertinent trends, to make sure SwiftKey’s predictions are as accurate as possible.
SwiftKey estimates that its users have saved nearly 10 trillion keystrokes, across 100 languages, saving more than 100,000 years in combined typing time. Those are impressive results for an app that launched initially on Android in 2010 and arrived on iOS less than two years ago. The app was at No 1 in the US Google Play store for more days than any other app, making it the top paid Android app of 2012 and 2013. It has also been No 1 in the Google Play paid-app charts in 58 countries. SwiftKey is highly rated for the software keyboard and its SDK which powers more than 300 million Android and iOS devices.
Microsoft has confirmed that, it will continue to develop SwiftKey’s market-leading keyboard apps for Android and iOS as well as explore scenarios for the integration of the core technology across the breadth of its product and services portfolio.
At Future Unleashed, its largest ever customer conference in India, Microsoft today announced partnerships, programs and products that will help Indian organizations and Governments to explore unchartered business areas, enrich customer and citizen experiences, and catalyze digital transformation with the newly launched local Microsoft cloud and new devices.
To drive innovation in the fast-evolving e-commerce industry, Microsoft has entered into broad-ranging agreements with JustDial, PayTm and Snapdeal. Microsoft will partner these e-commerce leaders in creating new marketplaces, new services and new experiences for their customers. Justdial, Paytm and Snapdeal will use a range of cloud and mobile technologies from Microsoft including advanced cloud services such as machine learning, Bing, Skype and Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, to drive business innovation and customer delight.
Justdial and Microsoft will explore the use of Bing and cloud-based analytics to provide and enhance customer experience.
Paytm and Microsoft are working on three core areas of partnership. The companies will integrate the Paytm app and Paytm Wallet into Cortana to enable consumers to pay for their utility bills and carry out mobile transactions easily. Paytm will use Office 365 for their merchants’ inventory and account management. Lastly, Paytm will facilitate and support Microsoft service sales via their merchant network.
Snapdeal will work with Microsoft cloud platforms to create a digital automotive dealership that is expected to change the way customers make automotive buying decisions. Snapdeal and Microsoft will use Skype, Bing and Cortana to provide new engagement platforms for Snapdeal customers.
To help empower modern Indian cities, Microsoft has launched a new initiative for local start-ups that are focused on delivering innovative solutions for smart cities. Working with start-up accelerators, these start-ups can now apply for individual access up to USD 120,000 (INR 80 lakhs) worth of Azure computing to help India’s smart cities explore solutions and run smart city digital pilots.
Cities can also apply for access to these services and solutions on Azure through a new portal which connects start-ups with cities and their needs. This initiative is anticipated to impact over 50 smart cities in the next year through a catalog of over 50 start-ups and ISV solutions. For more information on this initiative, please visit http://aka.ms/smartcity.