New Microsoft Toys for Businesses

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Last week, Microsoft brought together partners from around the world at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) where they announced why there has never been a more exciting time to do business with Microsoft. While the conference primarily focused on how partners can succeed within the Microsoft ecosystem, there were a number of technology announcements that businesses will benefit from, so I thought I’d share some of the highlights.

Microsoft Delve

Cloud storage

The biggest push from the event was the emphasis on mobile computing and cloud technology. If you still doubt the impact that cloud technology will have on your business operations, then the talk at this year’s WPC should put those doubts to rest.

Microsoft is making a massive commitment to its cloud infrastructure, also known as Azure. Two new datacenter regions came online last week and more are planned as Microsoft continues to grow its storage capacity for partner development and hosting. A large focus for this year is on Azure StorSimple. Simply put, it’s Microsoft’s answer to Amazon’s E3 cloud storage. Microsoft’s emphasis is to make StorSimple easier, cheaper and more efficient.

Office 365 for everyone

The growth of Office 365 was also highlighted and reinforced as the most strategic developer platform for Microsoft. The platform brings SharePoint, Exchange, Office Professional and Lync together to whomever needs it—regardless of company size. Office 365 and Azure represent a dramatic shift in enterprise deployment and development.

Your own company historian

Microsoft also unveiled their newest member of the Office 365 family—Microsoft Delve (codename Oslo). Delve functions as an enhanced personalized search engine for your business. Think of Delve as a Google search, but instead of searching the Web for content you can use Delve to search through your email, Office 365 and social networks. It’s an interesting idea that Microsoft says will organize peoples’ work lives. Check out this Delve demo to see if this personalized search tool is for you.

A virtual assistant to compete with Siri

To add to the user experience, meet Cortana, Microsoft’s codename for the personal assistant and knowledge navigator for Windows Phone 8.1. While Google and Apple have their own Google Now and Siri, respectively, the significant effort that Microsoft put into developing Cortana has many saying that it will go well beyond the capabilities of the other virtual assistants. Cortana plays a vital role to the long-term success of Windows Phone and Microsoft is considering furthering the development of Cortana for the iOS and Android marketplace.

Voice recognition and translation

Finally, Microsoft demo’d their breakthrough in real-time translated conversation, Skype Translator at the conference. Using the Skype platform, Skype Translator has voice recognition that breaks down communications barriers by delivering voice and video across a number of devices, from PCs and tablets to smartphones and TVs. While on the surface this may not seem like a major breakthrough, accurate voice recognition and real-time translation of languages has eluded developers for a long time.

It’s clear that Microsoft remains focused on productivity in a mobile first and cloud first world. Their goal is to provide people-centric solutions toward improving our life experiences, both at home and at work.

Which of these new techno toys has your ears perked?