Back in May 2020, Microsoft announced Cloud for Healthcare – their first vertical specific cloud offering and it launched in October that year. Microsoft Cloud for Retail was announced in January 2021 and now, following Ignite 2021, they have announced three more:
Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services
Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing
Microsoft Cloud for Non-profit
One of the great benefits of public cloud – the ability to pick and choose from an almost endless array of options and combine them in a seemingly infinite number of combinations – can also be a huge weakness. For some industries, it’s more important to have an “Out of the Box” offering that does what they need and, most importantly these days, be super secure while it’s doing it.
Plugging various different cloud services together is often where security gaps start to appear – a slight misconfiguration here, a forgotten port there – and that can means certain industries are less enamoured with the cloud. Equally, from a portfolio perspective, knowing which different products do exactly what you need and which ones can be combined to help you achieve your goals can be perplexing and overwhelming.
These pre-built cloud packages for different verticals aim to address both of those issues as well as introducing brand new features aimed at vertical specific issues.
Microsoft Cloud for Retail
A combination of Microsoft products including Azure, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, Teams, Bing, Advertising among others, this is largely driven by changes brought about by COVID-19 and the (even greater) shift to online shopping. It focuses on areas of importance to Retail such as:
This combines products including Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Azure, and Power Platform in a solution designed to comply with regulatory and compliance frameworks in what is a highly regulated industry. It offers functionality in key areas including:
This combines Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Azure, Power Platform, and LinkedIn to help charities better connect with their supporters and volunteers, make better decisions, and reach their goals faster.
There’s not as much info available for this offering yet but you can see more here and register for a webinar to learn more about this offering on March 30th here.
Microsoft have announced that Windows Server 2022 is in preview and will be available “later” in 2021.
According to this Microsoft page, new security features include “Secured-core server” and Credential Guard while it also brings interoperability with Azure Arc – the service that allows Azure policies to manage on-premises and multi-cloud resources – and Storage Migration Service, which helps connect on-prem file servers to those in Azure.
There are also several updates relating to Containers – all of which show Microsoft’s focus. Although this is a new on-premises server OS, it’s all about connecting to the cloud and enabling a smooth, hybrid infrastructure.
You’ll be pleased to know that there’s no sign of any changes to the licensing model at this stage 😁
Microsoft revealed more details about Power BI Premium at their recent Ignite conference. I covered the initial announcement here but it’s now in General Availability so we now have details on the pricing and licensing.
April 2, 2021
A full license will be $20 per user per month
For customers with Power BI Pro (standalone or as part of E5), it will be $10 per user per month
This Microsoft page has more information on this plus the new features coming to Power BI Premium in general – including vCore auto-scaling charged via Azure PAYG.
Microsoft have announced that their Power Automate Desktop product is going to be free for Windows 10 users. Power Automate is Microsoft’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offering and, as the name suggests, the product in question here is the desktop variant.
RPA is a rapidly growing hot topic within businesses as people look to do “more with less” and to use their time to drive and deliver real business value – rather than “busy work”. Typically these will be things like compiling information and creating reports – it needs doing but it’s repetitive (read boring) and doesn’t really need human input…certain things need putting in certain places at certain times. The repetitive nature makes it perfect for RPA – thing of an Excel macro on steroids – replicating actions across a variety of desktop applications and websites…while you do more important things 😊
This is an example of what you can do from Microsoft:
Power Automate Desktop will eventually be built into Windows 10 – it will start to appear in Insider Builds shortly – but for those of you as impatient as me, you can download it here.
I wonder if this will cause any other RPA vendors (such as UIpath) to launch a case against Microsoft for unfair bundling – like Slack recently did re: Teams?
It was announced a while back that webinar functionality would be coming to Microsoft Teams and details have been released at this week’s Microsoft Ignite conference – including the required licenses.
Organisations will be able to add a customisable registration page to webinars – an example of which you can see below:
Fully interactive webinars will be able to handle up to 1,000 (one thousand) participants with moderation available to control audio/video etc. and, should you need it, Teams can scale up to 10,000 participant “view-only” sessions. Microsoft are, for now, increasing that limit to 20,000.
You will also be able to download an attendee report showing attendance, participation etc. which is key for follow up. More reporting features are being rolled out over the coming months.
How is it licensed?
These new capabilities will be fully available as part of:
Microsoft 365 E3/A3/G3
Microsoft 365 E5/A5/G5
and will also be available in:
Microsoft 365 Business
Microsoft 365 Business Premium
for up to 300 users.
I’m pleasantly surprised that this doesn’t require an add-on license – it’s quite possibly been done as in-built functionality to give them the best chance of fighting off the threat from Zoom et. al. If you have to pay extra to Microsoft, you might as well just stick with your existing provider but if it’s “free”…that likely changes matters for a lot of organisations.
You can see more info on these, and dozens of other new features coming to Teams, here.
Microsoft Viva is a new announcement from Redmond, focused on the world of “employee experience”, in part at least driven by the changes that COVID-19 has brought to the workplace. It’s split into 4 products:
This, via AI, automatically curates content from across an organisation to help people find information and answers from throughout the business – something more important than ever with so many now working remotely.
It costs $5 per user per month and, as an add-on license, requires one of the following as a base:
Microsoft 365 F1, F3, E3, E5, A3, A5
Office 365 F3, E1, E3, E5, A3, A5
Microsoft 365 Business Basic / Business Standard / Business Premium
This Viva product seems aimed at helping keep remote employees connected as, according to Microsoft it will bring together “relevant news [and] conversations” from across an organisation – and surface it in Teams. They cite stats that highly engaged employees are less likely to leave and help generate greater profitability – it seems they’re trying to make HR software more mainstream.
This product will serve as a central hub for learning -enabling content form various sources to be presented to employees within Microsoft Teams. As well as Microsoft Learn and LinkedIn Learning, it looks as though partners will include companies such as Coursera, Pluralsight, SkillSoft, SAP SuccessFactors and more.
This looks to be an evolution of Workplace Analytics and will, in fact, require Workplace Analytics for many of the features to be enabled. It will help provide information to employees to enable them to reduce stress and increase productivity, with connections to products such as Headspace.
Microsoft have been named a leader in the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics. Being in the top right corner is the best position and Microsoft are far and away above the rest:
Almost everyone I speak to is a fan of Power BI and it really seems to be the BI tool of choice for those people who newer to the world of dashboard and reports. This LinkedIn post has got some great points and discussion in the comments too.
Microsoft are relatively new to the desktop side of Business Intelligence, although SQL Server has long had BI capabilities, and the fact they’re seemingly so dominant now is very interesting. This ZDNet article has some great background to how it all came to be.
Microsoft have, once again, had a stellar quarter (Oct-Dec 20) with overall results of:
Revenue up 17% to $43.1 billion
Operating income up 29% to $17.9 billion
Looking deeper into specific product categories and areas we can see:
Productivity and Business Processes
Revenue was up 13% to $13.4 billion which included:
Office 365 Commercial up 21%
Dynamics 365 up 39%
LinkedIn up 23%
Revenue was up 23% to $14.6 billion and Azure was revenue growth of 50%
More Personal Computing
The “other” parts of Microsoft’s business all saw success to with revenue up 14% to $15.1 billion. This included:
Windows Commercial up 10%
Xbox up 40%
Surface up 3%
Microsoft’s results are very consistent and are outperforming pretty much every comparable competitor you can think of…Oracle, SAP, and IBM are very far away from numbers like these! Amazon are still seeing great success with AWS – currently rising around 28% – but that is a greatly limited portfolio when compared to that under Satya Nadella’s control.
There are several areas of Microsoft’s product line-up which are at the very start of their evolution and will grow and continue these results for the foreseeable future.