ATLANTA — Microsoft opened its second annual Ignite conference here this morning by announcing a strategic partnership with Adobe that's intended to advance both companies visions of digital transformation and accelerate the delivery of relevant, personalized experiences throughout the customer journey.

Microsoft promised the partnership will help businesses to strengthen their brands and deepen customer engagement through integrated solutions with Microsoft Azure, Adobe Marketing Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics 365. Specifically:

  • Adobe will make Microsoft Azure its preferred cloud platform for the Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Document Cloud. Azure will provide Adobe with options for machine learning and cognitive capabilities in Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite and SQL Server
  • Microsoft will make Adobe Marketing Cloud its preferred marketing service for Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition to provide customers comprehensive marketing service for Microsoft’s intelligent business applications

The announcement came just as Microsoft Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie took the stage to deliver the first keynote of the day at Philips Arena, across from the Georgia World Congress Center.

Security, Intelligence and the Cloud

Guthrie's talk was expected to continue Microsoft's focus on enabling and accelerating digital transformation through demonstrations of Microsoft solutions and initiatives. He was scheduled to be joined onstage by Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president, Windows and Devices Group, and several others.

Microsoft Ignite has drawn some 23,000 IT professionals here to learn not only about the broad concept of digital transformation but to more finely examine advances in security, intelligence and the cloud — the stuff Judson Althoff, executive vice president, Worldwide Commercial Business at ‎Microsoft, described as "the digital infrastructure that will lead to limitless scale and unimaginable potential to innovate."

Microsoft, Adobe CEOs Take the Stage

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will present a second keynote later today.

But he made a cameo appearance this morning, joining Adobe President and CEO Shantanu Narayen on stage in advance of Guthrie's keynote to discuss the next phase in their joint Cloud First, Mobile First partnership journey. 

"We're very excited about this out-of-box integration," Narayen said.

Nadella added, "We're looking forward to helping everyone in the room with their digital transformation agenda."

Products, Services to Fuel Digital Transformation

At a briefing for press and analysts on the eve before the conference, Microsoft executives previewed a number of new products and services they claim will make it easier for IT professionals to drive digital transformation throughout their organizations.

They include new security capabilities across Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365, Azure and Enterprise Mobility and Security — the new name for Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS). They also include new intelligent features in Office apps, and the availability of Windows Server 2016.

Microsoft is also renaming a component of its search and discovery platform within Office 365 from Delve Analytics to MyAnalytics.

Microsoft EVP Judson Althoff

While acknowledging mobile devices outnumber the people who use them — making everyone now a "technologist to a certain extent" — Althoff argued IT professionals are still best positioned within companies to turn technology into an engine for growth, transformation and opportunity.

Microsoft is aggressively addressing the challenges and opportunities IT pros face, he added, including security in a complex and dynamic threat landscape, as well as the need to balance end-user preferences with enterprise objectives.

Microsoft: Innovating in 3 Main Areas

Several hundred people from news organizations and analyst firms attended the event at Ventanas, a rooftop event space overlooking downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Park District.

Press event at Ventanas in Atlanta at #MSIgnite

In a fast-paced technical presentation, Althoff said Microsoft has focused its innovation on three main categories: personal computing, productivity and business processes, and the intelligent cloud platform.

It’s all about driving digital transformation, he continued — a broad goal that encompasses engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations and transforming products.

"Digital transformation will happen," Althoff said. "IT can lead it or it will happen to IT."

'Empowering People to Do More'

Speaking nonstop for more than 20 minutes, Althoff focused on one under-the-hood concept after another — from advanced threat protection (ATP) to field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

But the talk was humanized by several short videos that shifted the emphasis from how Microsoft was accomplishing its vision to why.

The videos turned the conversation from practical to emotional, subjectively persuading the viewer that Microsoft is committed to empowering "every person and organization on earth to do more."

"What is it that we can do that’s unique and impactful?"

Microsoft answered that question by sharing some of its technical achievements — innovations that are helping everyone from battlefield soldiers to children with missing limbs. More recently, it's partnered with Uber, which is using Microsoft Cognitive Services to check a driver’s identification in real time to improve rider and driver security.

Microsoft Product Updates at a Glance


Microsoft boasts that it's building security deeper into every product it creates to better fight evolving threats. Enhancements include:

  • Windows Defender Application Guard, to improve the security of Microsoft's Edge browser, is powered by virtualization-based security technology and uses isolated containers built directly into the hardware to prevent malicious code from moving across employee devices and the corporate network
  • Coming to Windows 10 Enterprise customers in 2017 and soon to Windows Insiders, Windows Defender Application Guard may later be extended to other apps and browsers
  • Intelligent sharing between Windows Defender ATP and Office 365 ATP to help IT pros investigate and respond more quickly to security threats across Windows 10 and Office 365
  • Office 365 ATP will be extended to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business and gain new features including dynamic delivery, which enables users to receive email immediately with a placeholder attachment while the actual attachment undergoes scanning, and URL detonation, which analyzes links in real time to identify unknown malicious URLs
  • Office 365 Threat Intelligence provides alerts and information on the origination of specific attacks, integrates with existing security incident event management (SIEM) systems, and enables customers to deploy dynamic policies based on the nature of the threat


Microsoft claims its new artificial intelligence capabilities bring intelligence to life. It's previewing new skills for Cortana, its personal assistant and AI agent, including health insights and reminders. And Office 365 is getting new cloud-powered intelligent capabilities, including:

  • Tap in Word and Outlook, which uses the Microsoft Graph to make it easier to incorporate content from existing documents within your organization into your own documents and email
  • Quickstarter for PowerPoint and Sway provides curated outlines for any topic, including text and images, which can be used as a starting point to build presentations
  • Maps, a new chart type in Excel powered by Bing Maps, transforms geographic data into high-fidelity visualizations
  • New capabilities in Microsoft MyAnalytics (formerly Delve Analytics) will provide teams with insights to help find better ways of working together

Cloud Platform

  • Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 will both be generally available in October
  • Azure is getting new monitoring abilities, combined with Operations Management Suite updates
  • The next technical preview of Azure Stack brings Azure technology to customers’ datacenters
  • Microsoft is also creating what it described as the foundation of the world’s first AI supercomputer through the deployment of custom developed FPGAs, spanning 15 countries and five continents

Photos by Asa Aarons Smith