Satya Nadella on stage at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, Fla.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pulled all of the product releases and roadmaps together into a bigger picture during his keynote address at Microsoft Ignite PHOTO: Microsoft

Satya Nadella put all of the product announcements, roadmaps, tech trends and more into perspective during his keynote speech at Microsoft’s Ignite conference taking place Sept. 25 to 29 in Orlando, Fla.

“We live in a time where the profound impact of technology in everything that we do is so much deeper, so much broader, whether you’re talking about precision agriculture, or precision medicine, the future of connected products, smart cities or smarter factories,” he said.

“There isn’t a single industry that isn’t being transformed. We collectively have the opportunity to lead in this transformation.”

Nadella’s Vision for Digital Transformation

Yes, Nadella announced the launch of "Hit Refresh," his book looking into his efforts to change the culture in the Redmond, Wash-based company.

He also talked about the increasingly important role artificial intelligence is playing in Microsoft products, he talked about Teams and how Skype for Business is going to be sidelined, he talked about quantum computing and his vision for the future.

But all of this fit under his broader vision for digital transformation. 

“When we think about the application of technology — it’s not technology for technology’s sake, it’s about the impact that it can have. It’s what you do with the technology we create, moving our economy and our society forward,” Nadella said.

Digital Transformation Technologies

Of course, he saw Microsoft playing a key role in this big picture.

Digital transformation strategies, he said, should be about empowering workers with technologies developed by Microsoft, to make employees more productive and help them achieve more in the enterprise.

Nadella’s keynote didn't shy away from discussing specific Microsoft technologies, answering many questions along the way, all while putting them in the context of digital workplace and digital transformations strategies.

Nadella spoke to questions about Microsoft's activities over the past two years with so many new products, including the combined ERP and CRM solution Dynamics 365, explained how Microsoft 365 will pulls together Office 365 and Windows 10 for a better work culture and dove into the LinkedIn acquisition and what will happen with all that data.

He also explained how he had made the shift from his first, role-defining mantra of ‘mobile-first, cloud-first’ to his later and equally important ‘intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge’ position.

Satya Nadella speaking at Ignite and Envision 2017

“While our mission remains constant, technology paradigms come and go. Where before we held a worldview of a mobile-first, cloud-first world, that worldview is evolving to the new technology paradigm of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge,” he said.

“Three characteristics define this shift: the move to multi-device, multi-sensory interactions; artificial intelligence driving predictive insights across devices; and a new fabric of serverless, or distributed, computing power.”

Products to Build an Intelligent Edge

Microsoft 365 F1

In response to this, he said Microsoft is building new intelligent systems, virtuous cycles and new feedback loops that help create data and gain insights from this data.

“These systems of intelligence and how we bring about the technology, how we bring about this cultural shift, is what Microsoft is focused on, with four core ingredients. We call them solution areas: modern workplace, business applications, applications and infrastructure, and data and AI.”

One indication of this is Microsoft 365 F1, a new, upgraded offering of the product released in July that brings together Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility and Security to deliver a complete, intelligent solution.

Microsoft 365 was already available on desktop. Microsoft 365 F1 gives diskless, or so-called "firstline workers," hands-on working environments that include the original products components as well as an integration with shift management app StaffHub. Microsoft estimates there are two billion of these workers worldwide.

The introduction of F1 is above all a cultural shift, Nadella said. 

“It’s this cultural shift that’s top of mind for every leader and every organization, and that’s what we want to enable with Microsoft 365,” he said.

Microsoft Graph Integrates With LinkedIn Graph

Behind all this is Microsoft Graph. Microsoft Graph is a developer platform that connects multiple services and devices.

Initially released 2015, the Microsoft Graph builds on Office 365 APIs so developers can integrate their services with Microsoft products, including Windows, Office 365 and Azure.

Graph transforms data and intelligence and is, Nadella said, one of Microsoft’s most important data assets. But there’s more to come:

“Today, we’re announcing the first phase of integration between the LinkedIn Graph and the Microsoft Graph. With this rich platform and rich data graph you can start building AI-first applications. You can bring the power of AI, the power of natural language, the power of deep learning to the enterprise and unlock it,” Nadella said.

Dynamics 365 Graph Connections

Dynamics 365 was launched in Nov. 2016 as a solution that combines enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) applications.

Now Microsoft is adding Dynamics 365 to the connected Graph. Nadella explained why:

“Every business process is being digitized, from relationship sales, talent and people processes, operations, customer service, field service and more. For this evolution to be successful, we must move from monolithic suites and disconnected data silos to modern, modular apps with a common data model. You need a platform approach,” he said.

These innovations can be applied to any business and across industries when data, software and mixed reality come together to drive digital transformation.

Azure and Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft is also adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) into this mix to transform customer care and give customer support agents the intelligence they need to service their solutions.

“Applications and infrastructure, data and AI are the solution areas that enable our partners and customers to build specialized apps into the core of business …. Azure is the platform that brings these solutions to life. It is one fabric that is truly distributed and supports hybrid computing,” Nadella said.

AI is being added everywhere, he said. It is being used in mixed reality experiences and being brought to its digital workplace solutions to enable its customers to build their own intelligence capabilities and create immersive experiences.

Quantum Computing

Microsoft has been working for over 12 years on what Nadella described as the new frontier of computing to pull all of these capabilities together.

Known as quantum computing, the company produced a new programming langue optimized for exploiting scalable quantum computers and deep integration of the programming language into Visual Studio. 

While we don't have the space (or honestly, the full understanding) to explain how quantum computing works, at a very basic level see it as the next step up from so-called "supercomputers." Quantum computing promises to solve complex problems previously unsolvable. While Microsoft has not yet developed the computer for this programming language, it is working towards creating one.

In the mean time, it plans to release these tools to developers for free by year's end, complete with debugging, support and state-of-the-art simulators that can run locally or on Microsoft Azure. 

Nadella covered a lot more ground in his speech, but expect the company to revisit the themes he outlined over the course of the conference and the year ahead:

“This is just the beginning of a complete new journey of building these AI-first business applications. And so we're really looking forward to the next year where we take this module and scale it out in your businesses, and learn from it, and then, of course, have it go to all the other areas of our operations,” Nadella said.