Windows 11. A fuss about nothing? Not at all!

Windows 11 logo

So last week, Microsoft officially unveiled the “Next generation on Windows” with #Windows11 and 4 days later the first #WindowsInsider build (yes its rough around the edges still) made its way to insiders. I’ve only been using it a day but I can tell you…
It’s NOT a fuss about nothing. It’s a big and welcome change”.

What’s the big deal?

Well, It’s been 6 years since #Windows10 launched and it’s been updated roughly twice a year since launch which has included the gradual (they are still working on it) phase out of the remaining legacy features and components left over from #Windows7. Truth be told, much of the reason for these legacy remains have been necessary to support older legacy applications that still today exist across many industries..

Windows 10 is  the world’s most widely used PC operating system with over 1.4 Billion devices using it (yes there is “still Windows 7 and XP out there)!

Windows 11, (which will release later this year) promoses a fresh new design and many newly designed features design to address the new needs of work, education and productivity and creativity…. and was described by Panos Panay, Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer as “the Windows that brings you closer to the things you love“. So what new features can we expect?

So. What’s new?

Secure from Chip to Cloud

A lot has changed and lots for will be coming as the operating system develops and matures before it’s expected launch in Autumn this year.

One of the core things you may have heard in the press is about the significant system requirements needed to run Windows11. Much of this is around requiring the use of modern processors and in particular modern security in the form of TPM 2.0.

TPM stands for Trusted Platform Module. Even though TPM 2.0 has been in new PCs for years, it’s a technology that many hadn’t heard of until this week.

Whilst I’m not going to dive into this here, (you can) a new security blog post from Microsoft’s director of enterprise and Operating System Security, David Weston, explains the importance of TPM 2.0. Security is big in #Windows11 and is a major step towards any organisation achieving zero trust security policy. Read the blog above to learn more..

Evolved, redesigned but ever “familiar” design

The main change from Windows 10 to a Windows 11 is a new refreshed and completed updated user interface which has rounded “fresh looking” corners, new modern desktop wallpapers, pastel colours, a centred Start menu and Taskbar and more adaptive experience complete with modern style widgets which essentially replace the “live tiles”.

The UI feels very modern and dare I say a bit “mac-like” and is very comparable to what we saw with early concepts of what  Windows 10X was going to look like…..but what else is new? If you haven’t see it yet (where have you been), then check out the “sizzle” video below.

  • Increased performance. Windows 11 promises more performance whilst browsing the internet with Microsoft Edge and major updates (which will be once a year) will also be nearly 1/2nthe size of Windows 10s.
  • Snap Layouts” make multi-tasking and the transition from single screen to multi screen much easier without need to remember keyboard shortcuts or use third party apps. With snap layouts users can create “collections” of the apps you are using which can sit in “groups” in the Taskbar. These can then be and can maximised or minimised together allowing you to switch between tasks and apps quicker. This comes into its own if you use multiple displays or use your laptop/Surface connected to a monitor since it ensures that the apps always open on your preferred screen.
  • Android Apps are coming to Windows through a new ’emulator’ and will available from the Amazon Appstore.
  • New App Store. The new revamped store promises to be faster and will be the “the safest and most secure way for you to get your apps on Windows.”
  • Widgets replace LiveTiles. Familiar to a modern mobile experience, widgets can be accessed directly from the Taskbar and uses AI to provide a personalised and contextualised experience and content. This builds/replaces the recent “news bar” in Windows 10 Build 21H1
  • Microsoft Teams will be (its not in the first build) integrated directly into the Taskbar. This replaces Skype (in Windows 10) and enables users to initiate calls and meetings as well as mute yourself. This will come when the new redesigned Teams client is available later this year.
  • Xbox “built in”. Well, sort of! Xbox is a big part of Microsoft so it’s unsurprising that enhanced gaming experiences such as cloud streaming, Auto HDR and Direct Storage which are all found in Xbox are coming to gaming PCs to improve gaming on PC.

How can I get it now?

The official Windows 11 upgrade will begin rolling out to all new and compatible devices in late 2021 (most likely November time) – but if you want to try an early version, provide feedback and test new features as they are being developed, you can join the Windows Insider Program.

Microsoft has just made a HUGE acquisition in the AI space in the region of $20Billion.

Microsoft has just acquired voice AI expert Nuance for just shy of $20Billion which should be completed by the end of 2021.

This is part of Microsoft’s continued “big bet” on healthcare. In fact, Nuance and Microsoft have been partnering on products relying on voice AI for a while, but the acquisition gives Microsoft access to Nuance’s extensive portfolio of tech to complement its drive for more of the enterprise AI market.

Gartner analyst Gregg Pessin said that “The healthcare industry is primed for digital transformation. All of the digital giants have healthcare initiatives. This acquisition moves MS forward in that effort,” and “provides Microsoft access to Nuance’s well-established healthcare client base — think EHRs with digital transcription capabilities“.

Announced earlier this year, but now formally approved, this is one of Microsoft’s biggest acquisitions to date, though it is still shy of their biggest acquisition to date, which was their acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.

Who is Nuance?

Nuance is known by many as the company that “helped make Apple’s Siri”, but in fact their voice technology is used in several ways and across many different industries including the health, science, and medical sector.

Microsoft has been working with Nuance since 2019 and has worked vigorously in the health care industry (a huge focus sector for Microsoft) to help doctors capture medical information from patients during care. Microsoft has said that bringing the Nuance technology and people into Microsoft will enable further rapid worldwide adoption of the technology across more professional industries.

As part of the announcement today, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella said: “Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and Nuance.”

Just health or wider applications?

Microsoft announced the “Cloud for Health” about a year ago – so this leap make sense in starting to put some more “guts” to their health proposition.  There is clearly a lot of value in the AI technology that enables Nuance’s products to achieve the high NLP accuracy levels needed for medical/healthcare and medicine terminology transcription.

That said, it clearly would make sense i think that Microsoft might leverage this AI to work in a comparable way in other verticals which inhibit similar complex language and terminology such as legal – another sector Microsoft is heavily focusing on. 

Other areas where this technology acquisition could help is in bringing smart AI and voice telemetry to their Windows 11 and Office applications such as Cortana. 

For the most through, we will have to wait to see how this technology weaves its way into the rest of the Microsoft 365 and Azure Cognitive services stack, I guess. 

New Edge browser extension for Outlook aims to keep you informed while browsing.

The Outlook extension is in beta (due to be released in July) but is available to download now from the Microsoft Edge add-ons store.

New Outlook Edge add in

What does it do?

The Outlook Edge browser extension enables users to read, send, and manage emails and even receive outlook notifications without the need to open a new tab or flip to the app.

The extension is designed to keep users productive while browsing allowing them to:

  • Reading an important email
  • Checking your calendar
  • Adding a task based on what you’re reading on the web
  • Fast look up of a contact’s phone number
  • Referring to info on a webpage while writing an email.

How to get it and set it up

The Outlook extension is in beta but is available to download on the Microsoft Edge add-ons store. You can get it here.

Once downloaded and enabled, an Outlook icon will be added to the Edge address bar. Users will need to sign in with their work or personal account to see their emails, calendar, contacts, and tasks, and more in a pop-up menu while browsing the web.

To use the extension, you of course need to login within your Microsoft or a Microsoft 365 account

Surface Laptop 4 AMD: Hands on review

Every bit a Surface – a premium but light weight workhorse with choice of AMD or Intel chipsets and full working day battery (and fast charge).

On test: Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ AMD Ryzen 5 / 16GB RAM

I have been lucky to have an aluminium Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ with 16Gb and the AMD Ryzen 5 chipset on loan for about 8 weeks, so thought it was about time I wrote my review! Thanks #SurfaceUK for the loan.

SurfaceLaptop 4 13.5″ AMD

Overall feel and use

Microsoft’s latest and ever gorgeous looking Surface Laptop 4 naturally features the latest generation Intel or AMD chipsets, new colours and best of all much improved battery life which lasted a full 8hrs of constant use in my test – which is pretty damn good in my book (or laptop!)

As with previous iterations, it’s hard to spot any visual differences between this and Surface Laptop 3, with it matching the dimensions, weight, port selection and design which still looks beautiful and premium as ever.

As always, the keyboard is great quality, quiet and with great “key travel” making it easy to type. The large trackpad is smooth, responsive and precise but still manages to not get in the way of typing.

Screen is bright, great resolution with it’s standard 3:2 aspect ratio. Sound from the speakers are also clear and crisp and even has surprisingly good bass and mid tones and doesn’t sound at all tinny. Films on Netflix sounded really nice – though of course sound better beamed to a high quality set of speakers or sound bar!

The webcam naturally supports Windows Hello face recognition for logging into Windows in a split second and provides 720p quality webcam (with great light and perfect field of view and microphones are better than most for video calls.

Surface Laptop 4 was whisper quiet in operation – and in my all day use test I really couldn’t hear the fans when they did kick in, which they did a few times as I was working in direct sun with video on and lots of apps.

WiFi, high brightness, video on and headset

Battery Life

Battery life was some way behind the claimed 12± hrs but did last a full 8hrs with constant use – sitting outside in the sun, blue tooth paired headset, Wi-Fi and brightness set to high. My day was spend in back to Teams video calls along with regular dips into Apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Battery settings were left to their defaults.

My day started at 7.00am and Surface Laptop 4 got me through to just after 3:00pm when it hit 10% and battery saver engaged. I had, in my bag an external USB battery pack (just in case) which then managed to get me about 75% charge in about an hour so I didn’t technically need to finds a mains plug (though without my USB battery pack, my day wouldn’t have finished earlier than planned)!

Inside the device

As you’d expect with the latest version, the internal components of Surface Laptop 4 have been upgraded from Laptop 3. For the first time Microsoft has the AMD’s Ryzen 5 processors available in the 13.5in laptop. The Intel version gets options of 11th-gen Core i5 or i7 chips and graphics has also been significantly improved thanks to the use of the built-in “Xe integrated” graphics.


The Surface Laptop 4 is (as expected) a premium quality, thin and light weight Windows 10 power-notebook from Microsoft.

The device is modern, sleek, is very light yet high quality and feels great to use. Its quick and responsive and definitely attracts that “jealous look” as Surface devices always seems to stand out in a crowd.

One of the other great things (small but important) with Surface over many other OEMs is the lack of any bloat ware. Surface comes with “just Windows 10 installed“, and the standard stock apps (including Office which needs to be activated). This means it runs fast out of box and you don’t spend hrs removing bloatware!!

A great laptop for home or work that won’t disappoint – just wish Microsoft would let me keep it!!

Registration open for ‘virtual’ Microsoft Inspire 2021 partner event.

Microsoft has opened registrations for this years Inspire 2021 virtual conference, which will be held on July 14th and 15th.

Microsoft Inspire is Microsoft’s largest (and global) annual partner event and as usual features several high-profile global execs including CEO Satya Nadella and EVP of Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff.

What might we hear about?

Last year, there was huge news and updates around Azure,  Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Edge as you’d expect with also a focus on new services such as Microsoft Lists, and Power Automate Desktop.

This year we can expect to hear some new enhancements and updates and I expect to see a focus around the recently(ish) announced Microsoft Viva along with more updates around Windows (following the event on the 24th June) and probably some new things none of us are expecting… .

You can register for Microsoft Inspire 2021 on this page with your Microsoft account, Office 365, LinkedIn, or GitHub account.

See you there Microsoft partners…

Teams “Phone” gets a heap of new features

What’s new

June 2021,brings a host of new features to Teams phones, which translate and complement some of the newest and greatest features users get with Teams on their desktop or mobile phone today. These include.

  • Add or Transfer Call to Device
  • Custom Backgrounds on video phones
  • Improved boss/admin/PA features
  • Outlook Contacts available on phone
  • Live captions support
  • Simpler and refreshed UI making it easier to get to key functions.

Let’s dive into the top 3 which are the most noticable in my view. You can see the full blog post and all the new features from Microsoft here.

Add or Transfer Call to Device

One of the most requested features is now here with the ability to add or transfer calls and meeting across devices.

Call add or transfer in Teams Phone Edition
(image c Microsoft)

With this latest update for Teams Phone, this functionality is now consistently available across all devices meaning your desk phone will recognise you are in a call on another device and prompt you to transfer or add it in, letting you start your call from elsewhere and transfer to your desk phone.

Custom Backgrounds

Custom Backgrounds on Teams Phone

Background replacement on Teams video phones is now also available meaning feature parity with other teams devices for consistent and familiar look and feel. This role doit a couple. Of months ago to Teams collaboration displays like the Lenovo.

Improved boss/admin/PA features

New boss/admin controls on Teams Phone

A collection of little updates to improve how  users interact with their calls and contacts.

For example, when a PA/Boss/Admin is in a call users can press the purple button touch target to see new options with respect to their contacts.  The boss or admin can easily see frequent contacts with instant options to see their call status or place an outgoing call to them.

You can read the full set of features from the Microsoft blog site.

Cisco unveil new Webex logo, new look and add a bunch of new features


Last night, Cisco unveiled a new “modern” logo for its Webex product suite along with annoucing a new set of features coming soon which range from background noise cancellation to adding polls and quizzes to make meetings more interactive.

The video Conferencing race continues as the leaders of the pack, Microsoft Teams, Webex and Zoom and Google Meet continue to see steady usage growth fueled initially by coronavirus pandemic which has now transformed into most beleive will be a longer term seismic shift to hybrid / home and office working and learning post pandemic as the world’s largest working from experiment has proved (for many) the effectiveness of home working and improved life balance achieved by ditching the daily commute.

New Webex logo

The new Webex Suite

Cisco, which also unveiled a new Webex logo, said its new hybrid work “suite” is circa 40% to buy when brought together compared to the individual components as you’d expect.

The new Webex Suite

In their blog, Cisco said they had subtly added almost 800 new features and devices since September last year to enhance the customer experience across meetings, calling, messaging, and event management specifically to address the long term needs of hybrid work which are very different from a pure remote work model.

Top new features

There was a handful of notible new features announced following a series of acquisitions over the past few months which Cisco are now ready to start baking into their new suite.

In December 2020, Cisco’s acquired Slido, and audience engagement tool with capabilities which include Q&A, polling, trivia, and gamification.

Last month, Cisco then acquired Socio Labs, an event technology platform for live, large-scale events and webinars.

Another new feature aims to more intelligently frame and reframe the speaker or most active meeting participants using machine learning and AI technology to allow the audience to better see body language and facial expressions in meetings – something more easily missed in remote/online meetings.

These new tools which will being Cisco up to or ahead of their competition, (in the case of Slido), are designed to make Webex better suited for the future of meetings and events of all sizes, including large “hybrid” events that combine in-person and virtual attendance, something all the major conferencing venues and hosts need to get right.

New logo, new look

The new webex suite comes with new fresh and dynamic look (which accompanies its new logo) which Cisco says better reflects the products values and initiatives.

The new Webex (image (C) Cisco)

Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s SVP and GM Security and Collaboration was quoted saying to ZdnetWe are unmistakably committed to inclusivity and making sure everyone has an equal voice and an equal seat at the table, no matter where the table is,”

Price “enhancements” too

Cisco said that the new Webex Suite will cost around 40% less than buying the individual components and services a-la-carte.

This is of course expected, with any suite of products but good to see and of course customers can save even more money by replacing legacy tools or disconnected services and platforms with tools from the Webex suite.

Read more?

You can read more and try this out by visiting the cisco blogs here..

Windows Virtual Desktop becomes Azure Virtual Desktop

Microsoft announced today that they are rebranding Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) to Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD).

In the annoucement, Microsoft also said that a number of new enhancements (some of which have gone into public preview from today) are coming, which are part of the wider and longer term vision and the changing needs of customers. In the annoucement Microsoft said that the COVID19 pandemic has resulted in organisation moving rapidly to Windows Virtual Desktop for “secure, easy to manage, productive personal computing experience with Windows 10 from the cloud”.

Improved Azure AD Support

Azure Virtual Desktop will support the ability for users to domain join their virtual desktops directly to AAD using just their credentials. They are also fully removing the need for organisations to need Windows domain controller allowing Azure AD as the only or primary authoritive directory service.

Azure Virtual Desktop will also add further support for secure sign on and single sign on, bringing support for smart cards and FIDO2 keys

Another feature now out in public preview is the ability to enroll and manage Windows 10 Enterprise multi-sessions virtual machines through Endpoint Manager just like admins would for physical machines. This further improves the process of managing both physical and virtual desktops using the Endpoint Manager admin center.

Enhanced Endpoint Manager support.

Microsoft have said they are also adding support for IT to be able to automatically enroll these virtual machines using Microsoft Endpoint Manager (formerly Intune), bringing a much more “streamlined” deployment and management experience.

Also coming soon (and in public preview from today) is the ability to be able to enroll and manage Windows 10 Enterprise multi-sessions virtual machines through Microsoft Endpoint Manager in the same way that physical devices are managed today. This closes the management gap and streamlines the process of managing both physical and virtual desktops using the same Endpoint Manager experience.

New QuickStart Experience

Microsoft said that new deployment onboarding experience which will be available soon (in preview first naturally). This is designed to help organisations initiate fully automated deployments from the Azure portal using just a simple wizard style process.

New “per user” pricing model

Yes.. As it pricing and license wasn’t complicated enough, there are new pricing options coming for organisation to leverage Azure Virtual Desktop VDI and streamed applications in the form of a true SaaS based model.

To make this simpler, Microsoft have announced a new monthly per-user pricing

This new pricing will launch on January 1st, 2022, and will be $5.50 per user per month for apps, and $10 per user per month for apps plus desktops.

A launch promo will mean organisations will be able to use Azure Virtual Desktop for streaming first-party or third-party applications to external users at no cost from July 14, 2021, to December 31, 2021, after which they will need to keep paying for the underlying Azure infrastructure.

You can read about the pricing options here.

Is Windows 11 about to be unveiled?

Well… we will find out very soon as on 24th June, Microsoft are hosting a dedicated event to talk about the future of Windows. This will be led by CEO Satya Nadella and Chief Product Officer Panos Panay.

Over the past few months there’s been increasing new stories and rumours about the upcoming future and development in #Windows10 along with the official ‘cancellation’ of #Windows10X. The latest Windows Insider preview builds have certainly been teasing apsects of future changes but to date Microsoft haven’t shed any light or let any specific ninja cats out of the bag about the next big changes to the design…but that’s going to change!

Is this Windows 11?

We don’t know yet. But the recent tweet by Panos Panay suggests something is coming and it does look a bit like an 11!

Tweet by Panos Panay

The tweet has a link to register for the event Microsoft are hosting which you register for here.

What are we expecting to hear?

Hard to say… Windows 10 is almost six years old (wow.. same age as my eldest so) yet there are still many inconsistencies across the environment and still many legacy remains of the old Windows 7 and previous builds that still haven’t been replaced or removed.

It seems likley with Panos at the healm of future Windows development and strategy he will want to inject his own mark on to its future just like he did with the huge success and leading edge design around #Surface (yes.. I am a big surface fan I know!)

I do expect this to be another defining moment in the history of Windows as Satya Nadella said this is annoucement will unveil “one of the most significant overhauls to the personal computer operating system this decade

Time, date, registration please.

The Windows 10 event will kick off at 4PM UK time on June 24 and it will be live-streamed. The registration link also let’s you download a calendar link to add it to your outlook.

What are you hoping to see?

Interested in what you are hoping or expecting to hear about… Feel free to leave your comments in the comments section..

Thanks for reading.