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Microsoft Ignite’s Top Announcements

Microsoft Ignite is the annual conference where the tech giant gets to show off its exciting new developments. The company’s many announcements are of interest to IT professionals, developers, and big Microsoft fans. This year’s conference seemed to present more news than ever–Microsoft provided journalists with about 175 news items they planned to announce. Here are a few of Microsoft Ignite’s top announcements.

Microsoft’s Edge browser has new privacy features and will be generally available January 15

Picture of Chromium Edge.

For years, browsers focused on speed. Now that we can’t go any further there, today’s biggest concern is privacy. Here’s where Microsoft can really step back in and compete. Together with Bing, Edge offers new privacy features and capabilities that are hard for competitors to beat. Its newly enhanced InPrivate browsing mode is one important factor. Announcers at the Ignite conference also wanted to highlight the benefit for Edge’s business users. Edge is deeply integrated with its updated Bing engine, and it can find business documents along with other search results. The Chromium-based Edge will be generally available on January 15, and the release candidate is available now.

Endpoint Manager unifies device management

Picture shows Endpoint Manager slide at Ignite conference.

The company is combining its ConfigMgr and Intune services into something called Endpoint Manager. ConfigMgr users will now receive a license to Intune so they can move smoothly to cloud-based management. This is helpful because employees’ various devices can be challenging to manage. With Endpoint Manager, IT administrators can get a unified view of all the company’s deployments. Microsoft is also launching several tools and recommendations to help companies modernize their deployment strategies. In today’s workplace where devices abound, this is no small news: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hailed it as one of Microsoft Ignite’s top announcements.

Visual Studio is now available in a web-based version

Graphic shows the convenience and capabilities of Visual Studio Online.

Great news for developers: the new Visual Studio Online allows for quick web changes to code without having to set up an IDE locally. This isn’t meant to replace desktop IDE, necessarily, but it can come in handy for developers on the go. It is based on Microsoft’s free Visual Studio Code editor and is deeply integrated with GitHub, which the company also owns. Visual Studio Online is a now live in a preview version.

Azure Arc links cloud resources

Graphic shows elements of Azure Arc.

Just about every enterprise uses multiple clouds. Microsoft acknowledges this, and is now providing a tool for companies to do so while staying within the Azure ecosystem. Azure users can manage their resources across different clouds, including those of its competitors. This new Arc will work for Windows and Linux Servers as well as Kubernetes clusters. Users can take certain Azure data services (though not all of them) with them to these platforms. This builds on Azure Stack, which already allowed businesses to incorporate many of Azure’s capabilities into their own data centers. But Azure Stack only worked on limited hardware since it was locally based. Like Endpoint Manager, Azure Arc provides a single platform for managing resources–in this case, among multiple clouds and companies’ own data centers.

Machine learning grows with Project Cortex

Project Cortex display portrays an image of neurons.

Microsoft is launching Project Cortex, which uses machine learning to analyze all your documents in their various places and surface them in relevant apps such as Outlook or Office when needed. It will even include documents and contracts with third-party partners. With the huge amount of data and documents that companies generate, this will make finding them much easier. Once again, Microsoft is presenting a unified way to access and manage data in multiple places. It can also help users find experts on subject matter that they’re working on–like the internet personified into a helpful assistant.

Cortana becomes transgender and more productive

Image says, "Hey Cortana."

Speaking of helpful assistants, Cortana really wants to be yours. (It’s happy to use a male voice if that will win you over.) When using Outlook on iOS (and soon with Android as well), Cortana can read you a summary of what you have in your inbox. You can tell it to flag or delete messages, or dictate replies. Cortana is now also able to send you a daily summary of your calendar appointments and important emails, and it can suggest focus time for you work on non-email tasks. It’s the personal assistant that will keep your email organized and nudge you when you need it.

And finally, bots

Cute graphic shows a person chatting with a bot.

Microsoft is also launching Power Virtual Agents, its new tool for building chatbots which uses little or no code. It provides a visual interface and makes use of Azure’s machine learning to allow just about anyone to build a chatbot. (But if you do want to get the actual code, you can still do that too.) Many companies could use a chatbot for online queries, but not all of them have professional developers close at hand. This way, those who know the business well can build a bot themselves, just right for what their particular clients need.

Excited about Microsoft Ignite’s Top Announcements?

Microsoft has certainly brought forth lots of forward-looking news. If you’re curious about these announcements or the Microsoft Ignite conference, you can check out more information about it and even consider attending the conference next year.

Image shows attendees enjoying Microsoft Ignite enjoying the Microsoft Ignite celebration.

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