Microsoft SharePoint Syntex – what is it?

SharePoint Syntex was added to the Microsoft Product Terms in October 2020 – but what is it?

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Project Cortex

First of all – we need to consider Project Cortex. This is a Microsoft program to weave Artificial Intelligence (AI) into a range of their products to help users and serves as something of an “umbrella”. SharePoint Syntex is the first product “from” Project Cortex but there are clear plans from Microsoft for several more to follow.

What does SharePoint Syntex do?

Introducing the concept of “topic centers”, SharePoint Syntex aims to automatically replicate the way that humans process documents including recognizing content, extracting information, and applying metadata tags. It works across Office docs, PDFs, and images and is another example of Microsoft’s move towards Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – alongside their advances with the Power Platform and Microsoft 365 E3.

For organisations processing a lot of data within documents – such as CVs, proposals, articles etc. – this could represent a new way for them to work smarter, not harder. Utilising AI to perform many of these tasks will free up human users for higher value projects. Microsoft are working on connectors to enable organisations to pull data from 3rd party systems into the Microsoft Graph and then utilise it within SharePoint Syntex.

At launch, it only supports English and Microsoft plan to add additional languages “in 2021”. They do say however, that you can create bespoke “topics” in any language and that certain functions, such as processing forms content, are language agnostic.

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SharePoint Syntex is available as an add-on license for commercial Microsoft 365 customers and costs $5 per user per month. It appears to be available for the Microsoft 365 Business SKUs as well as the Enterprise suites.

Anyone who will be “using, consuming, or otherwise benefitting from” the capabilities of SharePoint Syntex will need a license. Microsoft list out a range of scenarios that require licenses including where users:

  • Access a Content Center
  • Create a document understanding model in a Content Center
  • Upload content to a library where a document understanding model is associated (whether in a Content Center or elsewhere)
  • Manually execute a document understanding model
  • View a library where a document understanding model is associated
  • Create a forms processing model via the entry point in a SharePoint library
  • Upload content to a library where a forms processing model is associated
  • View a library where a forms processing model is associated

This creates a whole new set of circumstances for organisations to become under-licensed and to have those wonderful, bordering on the philosophical conversations with Microsoft like “What IS the definition of benefiting?”, “What exactly is a “capability”?” etc 😁

Further Reading

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Microsoft: Windows & AI – all change

On March 29th, Microsoft announced another company re-org. This one sees some big changes to the Windows side of things and gives a good overview of where Microsoft’s sees its future.

The biggest news is that Terry Myerson – Executive Vice President of the Windows & Devices Group (WDG) is leaving, and the team is being divided across two new entities.

Experiences & Devices

This team will be led by Rajesh Jha, who’s been at Microsoft since 1990, is a member of the Senior Leadership Team and most recently headed up engineering for Office 365.

In his email to Microsoft employees, Satya Nadella says:
“Computing experiences are evolving to include multiple senses and are no longer bound to one device at a time but increasingly spanning many as we move from home to work and on the go”

Hopefully, this gives an idea of where this team is heading – creating software, and devices, that work together in ways that match how people want to use them. Software experiences that work seamlessly across multiple devices – of different types and with different operating systems – are what more people are looking for. As the consumerisation of IT continues, users having multiple devices with Windows, iOS and Android will more and more become the norm within business settings.

As Nadella goes on to say in his missive:
“These modern needs, habits and expectations of our customers are motivating us to bring Windows, Office, and third-party applications and devices into a more cohesive Microsoft 365 experience.”

It’s interesting that 3rd party apps are included here. He could be referring to managing them via EMS (the 3rd element of Microsoft 365) or is he perhaps hinting at something else?

Cloud & AI

Scott Guthrie (often seen in a red shirt) will lead this team. Guthrie has been at Microsoft since 1997 and is known for his work in many areas, including .NET. Satya Nadella says the goal of this team is to “drive platform coherence and compelling value across all layers of the tech stack” – this will include things such as “distributed computing fabric”, AI infrastructure, tools, and higher-level services around knowledge and cognition.

Other changes

There are more teams being created and more people being moved, all to support the drive towards a better device/app experience and to further the growth of cloud and AI. These include:

Panos Panay

The man in a large part responsible for the success of the Surface product line is now “Chief Product Officer”, tasked with “creating new categories and opportunities for the entire ecosystem”. This is an interesting move – what other devices, that wouldn’t come under the Surface banner, could be on the horizon?

Joe Belfiore

He will continue leading Windows experiences and “drive Windows innovation in partnership with the PC and device ecosystem”. Satya also says that “Joe will share more about the Windows roadmap at Build” – with the recent talk of multi-user editions of Windows (to facilitate access to remote desktops without requiring Windows Server), I’ll certainly be paying attention between May 7-9.

Windows Platform Team

This team will move into Azure team and help “accelerate (Microsoft’s) efforts to build a unified distributed computing infrastructure and application model”. Interestingly, the team led by Roanne Sones, which deals with technical engagement with OEMs, ODMs and silicon vendors, will also join the Azure team.

New teams

Two new teams have been created:

• AI Perception & Mixed Reality
• AI Cognitive Services & Platform

Which certainly show that Microsoft’s focus on Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality (such as HoloLens) is becoming ever more integral to Microsoft’s future aspirations.
As part of this, Harry Shum (EVP, AI & Research) & Brad Smith (Chief Legal Officer) have created the AI & Ethics in Engineering & Research (AETHER) committee, to help keep Microsoft’s AI technologies in check.

Further Reading

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