Microsoft Power Automate Desktop – free


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:

Automate tasks with Power Automate Desktop for Windows 10—no additional cost | Power Automate Blog (microsoft.com)

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?

Further Reading

Microsoft announcement

Download here

Microsoft Product Terms, March 2021


Main changes for March 2021:

  • A clause added that Business Voice customers can’t provision over 300 users
  • New terms added regarding access to Azure Dev/Test pricing
  • Additional pre-requisite licenses for the new M365 F5 SKUs:
    • Office 365 F3
    • Windows 10 Enterprise per device/E3
  • Dynamics 365 IoT is now “Sensor Data Intelligence Add-in”
  • UK & South Africa now eligible for certain Windows 10 Home to Pro upgrade licenses:
    • UK
      • Windows 10 Home to Pro Upgrade for Microsoft 365 Business Premium*
      • Windows 10 Home to Pro Right Licensing for E3/E5**
    • South Africa:
      • Windows 10 Home to Pro Upgrade for Microsoft 365 Business Premium*

*This is only available via CSP

**This is only available via MPSA

Oracle Financial Results – Q3 FY21


The top numbers for Oracle’s Q3 FY21 are:

  • Revenue up 3% to $10.1 billion
  • Operating Income up 10% to $3.9 billion

Within that, the landscape for specific product areas is:

  • Cloud services & license support up 5% to $7.3 billion
  • Cloud license and on-premises licenses up 4% to $1.3 billion
  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) consumption up 123%

Oracle also touted double digit growth in both their Fusion (30%) and NetSuite (24%) Cloud ERP offerings.

Safra Catz, Oracle CEO, said they have some “very large users” coming to OCI soon that will need “significant amounts of capacity” and so Oracle are investing heavily to ensure they can handle all the new consumption.

She also called out that Java on-premises is doing “very well” as companies “continue to invest” in Java – it looks like the licensing changes of recent years are starting to pay off for Oracle.

Oracle predicts its own future

Ellison states that future success for Oracle lies in two areas:

  • ERP
  • Autonomous products

ERP

It’s clear that Larry Ellison is bullish on Oracle’s ERP offering – “our product is so much better than anyone else’s product in the cloud” – and he said that he expects Oracle will take over 50% of SAP’s customers plus those from other ERP companies too.

Autonomous Database

For me, pretty much the only person I’ve seen mention Oracle’s Autonomous Database is Larry Ellison, but he sure does like to mention it! Just as he’s been talking up ERP, he’s been doing the same for Autonomous Database:

we expect it really to explode next year…I really do mean very, very rapid growth. I’m not really ready to disclose … why I think it’s going to suddenly spike but we expect very, very rapid database growth next year

He sees autonomous products as a driver for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure too – both autonomous database and they also have an autonomous Linux offering too. He sees that removing human error and access as much as possible makes their cloud offering more cost effective and more secure than the other public cloud offerings.

Oracle are really pushing their OCI offering and, if they’re to be believed, are making a strong push for that #3 spot in public cloud providers, behind Amazon & Microsoft.

Further Reading

Call Transcript

Oracle Press Release

Oracle Investor Relations

Microsoft add webinars to Teams


Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

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.

Features

Organisations will be able to add a customisable registration page to webinars – an example of which you can see below:

Source: Microsoft – https://cdn.techcommunity.microsoft.com/assets/MicrosoftTeams/Attendee%20Registration%20%26%20Email%20Confirmations.gif

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.

Further Reading

You can see more info on these, and dozens of other new features coming to Teams, here.

Microsoft Viva: An introduction


Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay

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:

  • Viva Topics
  • Viva Connections
  • Viva Learning
  • Viva Insights

Viva Topics

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
  • SharePoint K, Plan 1, Plan 2

More info here.

Viva Connections

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.

More info here.

Viva Learning

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.

More info here.

Viva Insights

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.

More info here.

Microsoft leading the Gartner BI Magic Quadrant


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:

Picture courtesy of Gartner – available for download via Qlik here: https://www.qlik.com/us/lp/sem/gartner-magic-quadrant-2021

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 financial results: Q2 FY21


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%

Intelligent Cloud

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.

See the full info from Microsoft here.

Microsoft Product Terms, February 2021


Microsoft have stopped producing the standalone Product Terms document and have officially launched the Product Terms website as a replacement.

I’ve been a big fan of the Product Terms document for a long time and I’m not 100% happy about this change tbh! The ability to filter the site by program (EA, MPSA etc.) and product (M365, SQL etc.) will probably make it less confusing for many people – showing only the info that’s relevant to their search.

However, being able to see everything altogether was great for spotting any changes, missing bits etc. that Microsoft hadn’t highlighted and that isn’t as easy on the new site.

My initial concern was that not having a point in time downloadable copy would put customers and partners at a disadvantage, giving them nothing to reference in future conversations. However, having played with the site a little bit it turns out you can download a document from the site. It’s quite similar to the previous document although you have to filter by program, so you don’t get a document that allows comparison across the different licensing options.

The changes in February 2021 are:

  • Addition of Microsoft 365 F5 SKUs (more info here)
  • Planning Services & Training Vouchers SA Benefits have been removed
  • The free Audio Conferencing promos for EA/EES/CSP have been extended to June 30, 2021
  • Clarification that the Microsoft 365 E3/A3 Unattended license doesn’t require a Qualifying Operating System
  • Updates to terms for Azure Maps and Cognitive Services

Microsoft 365 F5 licenses


Starting February 2021, Microsoft have introduced 3 new “frontline” SKUs:

  • Microsoft 365 F5 Security ($8)
  • Microsoft 365 F5 Compliance ($8)
  • Microsoft 365 F5 Security & Compliance($13)

These are available as add-ons to the existing Microsoft 365 F1 and F3 SKUs and include “the majority of capabilities” from the E5 versions.

The Microsoft announcement is here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/licensing/news/new_f5_security_and_compliance_offer_for_frontline_workers

Microsoft 365 Security & Compliance additions


Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

It seems Microsoft will be adding some new security and compliance SKUS in February 2021. According to a post from Bytes, a top UK Microsoft partner and LSP, we will soon be able to purchase:

Premium Compliance Assessments

There will be a range of over 150 assessments available which can be added to any Office 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 E5 plan, at a cost of $2,500 per assessments per month.

10-year audit log retention to Advanced Audit

This will enable organisations to retain audit logs for up to 10 years and can be added to:

  • Microsoft 365 E5
  • Microsoft 365 E5 Compliance
  • Microsoft 365 E5 eDiscovery & Audit
  • Office 365 E5

for $2 per user per month.

Data Connectors to E5

This looks like it will extend Microsoft 365 security and compliance capabilities to 3rd party services such as Slack and Zoom. It can be added to any Office 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 E5 plan and will cost $400 per 500GB of data.

Conclusion

The Data Connectors are, I think, the most interesting. Back in November 2019, Microsoft launched a preview of Azure Arc, which enables organisations to run Azure technologies and policies across other clouds such as Amazon AWS, and this new addition is the same thought process. The first time we saw this was when Satya Nadella opened up Office across Apple and Android – making Office available on those devices enables Microsoft to sell more Office 365 AND reach new customers…customers who may eventually purchase other Microsoft services.

While Microsoft would love everyone in every organisation to use Microsoft Teams, they’re pragmatic enough to realise that will never happen – their competitors’ products will always exist…so why not make some money out of it? 500GB of data isn’t much so that $400 a month will quickly start to become a pretty big number of organisations! It also helps Microsoft retain relationships with these organisations, ensuring they stay updated on respective changes and have reasons to talk – giving the chance for future sales…

I’ll keep an eye for more information and, hopefully, an entry in the February 2021 Product Terms.