Who would have guessed that the focus would be on AI? Let’s be honest, that's no surprise, but Ignite did have some surprises in store for us. With the first few days and the keynote from Satya complete, here are a few highlights relevant to the Modern Workspace that are worth mentioning.
I’ve been privileged to be an early user of Copilot, having been given access in its preview stage. For me, all of the Copilot announcements at Ignite were great; there is nothing better than getting your hands on new tech and seeing how it actually enhances your productivity. The good news is that it does do this, but, and I won’t go into detail, there were areas where I felt it could do with improving, especially when it came to company-specific and scenario information being correct and available.
Copilot Studio will help to plug these gaps. My perspective may be skewed, but for me, Copilot Studio is a guidebook to help Copilot for business understand where to look for information and what it means from a business and user perspective. It will be useful in defining specific, reoccurring use cases, and I hope eventually the capability will become self-learning. Think of this as a WYSIWYG interface that feels like RPA for Copilot. There are some great scenarios I can imagine, but you will need to know what they are to drive the best results. This becomes part of the cycle of use, learning, and adaptation that will become synonymous with the deployment of AI more generally.
This video from Ignite gives a brief overview that helps you understand this, it's only a minute long:
Following on from the learning in the previous section, Microsoft Fabric will unify your data from a series of puddles to a OneLake, a secure lake, protected and integrated into Microsoft Purview. There are two sides to the Microsoft Fabric; the data scientists and the end users. With the correct application and utilisation of Microsoft Fabric across your data feeds, including external clouds (it was good to see a reference to an Amazon G3 connection in the video), you can provide a single glass of pain to your users. By association, Copilot can now see more, know more and provide more insightful, impactful support. Hook this up into the Copilot studio capability and you really will see Copilot delivering absolute value to users. Microsoft obviously have a lot on the hidden roadmap and the use of the Microsoft Fabric and the assumed global adoption of Copilot will be critical to the development and use of upcoming, as-yet-unreleased features that we can only imagine.
The Microsoft Vision for Teams
There are 320 million monthly active users on Teams, a slowed-down increase but still an impressive market share. As usual, we don’t get a view of the geographical, sector or vertical use of these licenses, but there is no denying the breadth of Microsoft Teams adoption. Satya mentioned Mesh for Microsoft Teams coming to GA in January next year; I wonder what level of adoption Microsoft will consider a success? How do you see Mesh? Is it a once-in-a-while ‘thing’ you will use, or do you plan to use an immersive headset for 8 hours daily?
This leads me to the wider Mixed Reality x AI announcements from Microsoft; they focus heavily on the front-line role and the use of AR combined with copilot to drive QA, productivity, and onboarding. In fact, almost everything in the front-line world could be enhanced through Copilot and AR, at least, that is what Microsoft will have you believe. I question whether the cost and size of optical headgear will remain the prohibiting factor until such technologies as integrated HUD in safety glasses and even contact lenses with AR data become a reality. VR, I believe, will remain reserved for the gamification and consumer environment for the reasons above and also the social isolation it creates through its use. Even if you are connected in a virtual world, our human habits will not be fully supported, leading to a part-time adoption rather than full-time use.
Some of the announcements around infrastructure and processing advancements are covered by my colleague Rob Sims in his Ignite insight report.
I believe that with Microsoft Fabric and Copilot it's only a matter of time before we start seeing these tools being used to drive things like Dynamics Contact Centre capabilities hooked into Teams, or even adding to the Microsoft Teams native calling experience for customer services. However, all these potential developments will require you to already be well on the way with your Cloud journey, data classification, security tools and policies.