Exec-transcribing AI so you can click Like on their brainfarts. Oh Microsoft, you spoil us

Cloud strategy pays off for investors. Hardware fanboys, not so much

Money falling, image via Shutterstock

It’s Monday and Microsoft’s Partners are already winging their way to Las Vegas for Inspire. That means it must be time for a news round-up.

Surface a-go-go

While the soap opera of the mythical Andromeda device rumbled on, Microsoft finally admitted that yes, a new Surface device was on the way, and no, it isn’t a phone. Powered by Intel, rather than Qualcomm, Redmond is taking aim at the low-end with the small, cheaper device and sees it making strides in the classroom.

The Register fervently hopes that the Surface Go will not require a rebrand to the Surface Stop should it suffer the reliability issues of its brethren. However, we are standing by. Just in case.

There’s no $ in Teams

As The Register went into battle with Azure Dev Spaces Microsoft bowed to the inevitable and began offering Teams to small business for free in an effort to see off the threat of Slack to its eco-system.

The offer sees up to 300 users getting chatty per organisation with bells and whistles not present on Slack’s own freebie offering.

The announcement was made as part of Microsoft's Inspire 2018 conference where delegates were also presented with interactive whiteboards and incentives to get with the cloud (with options including a jumped up sneakernet and the promise of more support for ageing Windows and SQL Server 2008 installations.)


In between the 'nudging' turning up in Outlook (the irony of scheduling a press conference at 7am to show off tools that stop people sending emails at anti-social times is not lost on us) Microsoft showered Yammer with some love.

The social-media-for-enterprises platform has gained intelligent event support, allowing users to schedule a live event (such as a company meeting) and allow participants to comment or sycophantically click the Like button as a CEO holds forth.

More interestingly, Microsoft has brought to bear more of its AI technology, giving a real-time transcript with identifiable speakers along with the ability to jump directly to parts of interest in a recording. The technology should hit in the coming weeks and you will, of course, need Office 365 to make it work as the software giant slowly folds Yammer into its enterprise offering.

Azure embiggenment

Having pretty much bet the farm on the cloud, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is doubtless breathing a little easier as Microsoft reminded its partners this week that Azure revenue grew by 93 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Since 95 per cent of its commercial revenue comes from its partners, the kindly software maker has created a whole new partner program in the form of Azure Expert Managed Service Providers (MSP).

The program is aimed at either ensuring customers know who to trust for their Azure cloud projects or, depending who you talk to, is just another box that needs to be ticked by consultants, already weighed down by the pressures of a constantly evolving technology.

Among the new wrinkles is the addition of audits to the existing Gold Cloud Platform competency.

Microsoft reckon the audit will consume 300 hours or so of effort on behalf of the business and will be required every three years (along with an annual health check to ensure the Azure Expert MSP is keeping up to date with the technology.)

Azure Mapping

As Microsoft begged the US government to save it from the ongoing furore over its AI facial recognition technology, while also enabling its big AI processing functions on its Azure government cloud, Redmond pushed out an update to Azure Maps.

In what is very much a ‘me too’ release (Google doubtless emitted a polite cough and pointed at its own offering) the Azure Maps product gained IP lookup, to allow businesses to customise content based on their location, and batch services for search, routing and geocoding.

The Azure maps control gained some additional layers, allowing users to make use of satellite, hybrid or grey-scale vector representations, and Microsoft promises that the likes of polygon selection of an area is coming soon.

The 800 billion dollar man

Finally, Nadella and Microsoft CFO Amy Hood got a bit more good news when the software giant's market cap crested $800bn last week.

The valuation puts the Windows maker within spitting distance of Google’s parent Alphabet, with Amazon slightly further ahead and Apple still in the lead. The fruit-based device maker’s fanboys are still gazing longingly at that 1 trillion dollar mark.

For Microsoft, with its FY18 Q3 results due this week, the Azure-first mantra clearly sits well with investors, as does the willingness of the CEO to wield the axe when necessary.

Yes, Windows Phone, we are looking at you. ®

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