Satya Nadella at Inspire
After a week which saw announcements of layoffs, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hit some high notes in his Inspire keynote PHOTO: Microsoft

Microsoft wants to own the workplace — enterprise, midsize, small business, connected — so this morning Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled a number of new products, updates and features aimed at helping "every person and every organization to achieve more."

Speaking before a packed house of 17,000 business partners at the Redmond, Wash.-based company's Inspire Conference taking place July 9 to July 13 in Washington D.C, Nadella kicked off the conference by introducing Microsoft 365 Business and Microsoft 365 Enterprise. 

Microsoft 365 bundles Office 365, Windows 10 and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility and Security Suite into one offering, while the Enterprise version includes Azure Active Directory Premium, Intune, Azure Information Protection Premium, Cloud App Security and Advanced Threat Analytics.

Both of these bundles get a boost from artificial intelligence, or as Nadella put it, are “AI infused.”

'Productivity Powerhouse'

This morning Microsoft senior product marketing manager, Sonya Koptyev joined Nadella on stage. Holding her phone up for the crowd, she pronounced it a “productivity powerhouse,” offering a few examples of what that actually means. 

AI built into Outlook, for example, organizes your email so that you have a focused inbox, putting the right information in front of you at exactly the right time (travel info appears on your phone just as you are about to head for your trip). Microsoft's AI can also act as editor, pointing out places where you're rambling or using double negatives in your writing. 

With PowerPoint, AI all but makes presentations for you by cropping and arranging photographs and recommending color schemes in real time.

The Dynamics 365 Advantage

Nadella dedicated part of his keynote to the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (formerly known as Dynamics CRM). The latest version is built over a data plane which, by definition, separates data from processes, thereby eradicating siloes by design.

"It's canonical,” Nadella told the crowd, explaining that it leverages more data, analytics and Azures machine learning capabilities to tell salespeople not just what to do, but what to do next.

Dynamics 365 also integrates with LinkedIn PointDrive, a sales tool for packaging, sharing and tracking customer content. Add to that LinkedIn's vast database of contacts and sales people have what they need to sell, at their fingertips.

Outlook customer manager does the same for smaller businesses.

Meet the One Azure Ecosystem

Some Microsoft customers, especially those in regulated industries, have been looking for the company to deliver hybrid cloud solutions to help them address issues such as data residency and privacy requirements, performance concerns, lack of corporate cloud-readiness and potential dependencies on mainframe technologies.

A hybrid cloud solution solves those problems. It allows users to use Azure public cloud services against data stored in Azure Stack on premises, and deploy the same Azure-services-based applications on both the public Azure cloud and the Azure Stack.

This appliance was supposed to be built by Microsoft itself and delivered to customers more than one year ago, according to Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller. But that didn't happen. Instead Microsoft shifted its strategy and partnered with Dell EMC, Lenovo and HP to build them. Cisco, Huawai and Avanade are also reportedly working on Azure appliances.

Dell EMC, Lenovo and HP opened their doors to appliance orders today, with an expected shipping date of fall 2017.

Does choosing the partner route mark a lost opportunity for Microsoft in light of AWS's strong hybrid cloud play? Time will tell.