This year’s Microsoft Inspire was held in Vegas and closed with Bruno Mars, wrapping up the biggest and best “showbiz” Inspire event to date.
Microsoft continue to evolve the way they present themselves, moving from inward to outward facing to embrace its vendors and make friends with everyone – no longer shutting out the likes of SAP or Open Source but working to achieve cooperative innovation – through to the importance of personal privacy in the AI drive, Inspire 2018 had some major new themes.
A consumer facing brand
Inspire 2018 was the epitome of Microsoft’s transition to a consumer facing brand rather than the corporate IT of yester year where people started to reject poor user experiences in the work place. A big part of its transition has obviously been cloud platforms and the subscription licencing models that come with them and they continue to move more and more partners over to the new world of CSP licencing. Economically there was a big challenge for many vendors to transition to cloud subscription, because it was not just about changing the technology but about the way income is collected. Microsoft appear to be firmly over this hump in the road!
Driving cloud adoption with Azure and Office 365
According to Microsoft, Azure revenue has grown by some 93% and its partners have driven a large portion of that growth. Microsoft is looking at new ways to get in front of more customers through integration of solutions such as the recent launch of SAP HANA on Azure.
AI, Privacy and a Digital Geneva Convention
The ethics of the AI revolution were firmly challenged this year. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “We are going to infuse everything with AI. It’s going to have perception capability, language capability and autonomy that’s going to be built into the applications going forward.”
But he also said “We have to have a set of principles that guide the development of AI and always do our very best work when it comes to privacy. As technology becomes pervasive in our lives, we must approach everything with the fundamental assumption that privacy is a human right.”
The world of AI is creating some extremely exciting challenges and opportunities but Nadella warns us to safeguard our personal privacy and human relationships. This is reflected in Oren Etzioni’s debate on the need for a digital ‘Geneva Convention’ with a form of a Hyppocratic Oath for artificial intelligence practitioners.
People are basically caught in two minds, on the one hand everyone’s excited about the speed at which companies can innovate using AI, and on the other hand everyone’s fear of “The Terminator” analogy where the rise of the machines holds great concern for mankind.
Intelligent Edge in the Intelligent Cloud
Nadella told us “The opportunities for us to serve our customers in this new era of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge is far greater. I’ve sort of lived through the client-server, the Web, mobile, cloud, but what we’re going to see going forward is going to be even more profound.”
Carlsberg was showcased enabling Microsoft AI and Business Analytics together with its SAP data to predict flavour outcomes from subtle ingredient changes in its brewing recipes. Rather than brewing a drink and then putting it through a taste test Carlsberg used its data to understand how changes in recipes will affect the flavour. From market research on the popularity of flavours, Carlsberg was able to eliminate a lot of trial and error to unearth some tasty new beverages.
Microsoft knows that at its heart is the Microsoft partner eco-system. As such it’s encouraging to see Microsoft focus on helping its partners like Codestone to become innovative solutions providers rather than companies that sell packaged products.
The future is about asking our customers what their business problems are, why they’re not currently being solved by existing technology and finding out if AI, IoT or machine learning can solve these problems. It’s about having design thinking sessions, without a technology agenda, and coming up with solutions based on our referenceability and experience of Microsoft technologies.
A number of years ago we came up with our ethos – Inspire, Transform, Achieve – and at Inspire 2018 I frequently heard those words and echoes of our mission to help people in businesses fulfil their full potential. I took this as a good sign and was delighted at how well our brands were aligned.