What we might see at the Surface Event tommorow (22nd Sept).

Based on leaks, past years and media gossip we expect to see:-

  • Surface Book 4
  • Surface Pro 8
  • Surface Go 2
  • Surface Duo 2 (aka surface phone)

So as my friends, colleagues and followers know I’m a big fan of Windows and Surface so just a tad excited for the annual Surface hardware event on Wed Sept 22nd 2021.

There’s been loads of coverage by Windows Central for example as well as many other spotters and bloggers as well as what has been refreshed in previous years. As such ere’s what might be coming based on the rumours and leaks and update history of past events.

Surface Book 4?

One of the most rumoured design changes “may” be coming to the Power horse that is the Surface Book 4. This (if true) will be a major uplift to the current model and w is expected to feature a brand new design with non-detachable 2-in-1 design which will basically combining the best of Surface Laptop with the Surface Pro form factor to create the new Book 4.

Based on the renders and numerous leaks, the display on the Surface Book 4 will be able to be pulled forward and laid flat over the keyboard deck for drawing or taking notes which also resembles similaraires to the Surface Studio.

Leaked images of Surface Book 4 (maybe)

I’d expect the usual upgrades to the internals, USB A to be ditched in favour of USB C (or even thunderbolt) and upgraded graphics capability and a possible increase in screen refresh rate to match the new dynamic refresh which is part of #Windows11.

The big question is will this in fact be called a Surface Book 4 or something else… Time will tell.. But I think its fair to say that this is likley to be the biggest highlight of the event on Wednesday.

Surface Pro 8

The flagship Surface Pro device (which will most likely be called the Surface Pro 8) should also be unveiled.

Surface Pro Black

There is unlikely to be any major design changes but there are rumours we will see a more Surface Pro X feel to this years model with a bigger display and thinner bezels. There also be the usual spec upgrades to chipsets and processors to the latest and greatest.

There also been reports that Microsoft might be ready to up the screen to support a new dynamic refresh rate of up 120Hz for this years higher end Surface devices.

Surface Go 3

The ever popular Surface Go is likely see just a modest upgrade this year with better chipsets and battery and again will most likley keep the Intel Pentium Gold processor as well as an i3 (or maybe i5 option to match the Surface Laptop).

Surface Go

Other than, not expecting much else other than it would be nice to see an option of black… Everyone loves a black Surface.

Surface Duo 2

I loved the Duo v1 (price tag aside) but it lacked a lot of leasing features that would have earned more airtime…

There been lots of rumours and leaks in this one but we hope to see a much better phone that still builds on the amazing looks and quality of the original. We expect and hope to see it feature at least:

  • Latest Processor (Snapdragon 888)
  • 5G and Bluetooth 5
  • Upgraded camera, as well as rear cluster
  • NFC
  • Upgraded battery and Screen
Surface Duo 2. Image (C) Windows Central

A new Surface Studio?

I’d love to see a new Studio but not heard any rumours on this one and suspect the new Surface Book 4 may create the hybrid graphics powerhouse in a mobile form… Who knows…we all will in a days time.

Where to watch the event?

The event is streamed live at 4pm UK time (11am ET) and can be watched (or register for a reminder) here.

Link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/event

What are you most excited for?

Please leave your comments below…

Real time co-authoring on protected files is now supported in Microsoft 365 Apps

Microsoft have announced that real-time co-authoring support for encrypted documents (which has been in preview for a while) is now generally available. Co-authoring is a feature that allows users to collaborate on documents across Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for example, but it only worked on files that weren’t protected with encrypted….. until now.

CoAuthoring Proetected Documents
Image (C) Microsoft

 

With Microsoft 365, when sensitivity labels are used to encrypt Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents, multiple users can now edit these documents in real-time with AutoSave, empowering teams to do their best work while maintaining protection across the document lifecycle,” Paras Kapadia, Principal Program Manager for Office 365 explained.

Co-authoring support for protected files is supported now on the Web, Windows and Apple Mac clients and will be coming to iOS and Android “soon“.

You must “enable it” to enable it!!

It’s worth noting that unlike many Microsoft 365 features which are “on by default”, organisations who want to use co-authoring on protected documents need to enable this in the Microsoft 365 Compliance Center.

Microsoft 365 Compliance Centre

 

Microsoft also provide full guidance for admins on how to do this here.
Please note: once enabled, you need to contact Microsoft support should you want/need to turn this off for any reason.

Microsoft kills off MSN and Starts.com again!!

Microsoft has annouced and launched (starting today) Microsoft Start, which is a new(ish)/revamped personalised news service which pulls together personalised and targeted news and information from the Microsoft anews Service (MSN) and from “more than a thousand” other publishers.

“Microsoft Start” (image (C) Microsoft)

Microsoft Start will be available via the web at MicrosoftStart.Com, from the Microsoft Edge “new tab” page, Windows PCs, tablets and mobile devices and will provide a consistent yet personalised feed with news feeds and stories coming from a over a thousand selected publishers, which will be fine tuned as users like or dislike content or content types that appear in their feeds as Microsoft Start learns more about the user.

“Microsoft Start brings new technology to content experiences, including Microsoft’s latest advancements in AI and machine learning, coupled with human moderation, to help people stay up to date with information that is personalized for their interests.”

Liat Ben-Zur | Microsoft CVP

You can read the official annoucement from the Microsoft blog here:

Get started with MicrosoftStart

The Start experience currently looks and feels familiar (I’d almost go as far as saying the same) as the existing MSN service. Users can customise Start by clicking on the “Personalize” button which will allows access to managing interests and tweaking the types of news recommendations the service provides.

Microsoft Start seems to be a combination of a number of different Microsoft services, including Cortana and MSN. For example the Cortana app (as it was) was able to use AI and Machine Learning to determine your interests and display the latest “useful” news and headlines in the feed, as well give you travel time estimates based to meetings based on your location.

Microsoft Start has adaptive “cards” similar in some ways to the old “live tiles” in Windows 8-10 and the widgits in Windows 11 today. These cards provide updates to things like local weather, breaking news, finance, traffic, and sports etc.

The experience on Edge is pretty much no different to the current MSN one and the http://microsoftstart.com url even redirects you to https://www.msn.com but I expect this will change over the next few days as the service rolls out.

Microsoft do say though that Microsoft Start doesn’t replace MSN.com, and the dedicated Microsoft News app for Windows 10 and Windows 11 will continue to exist for the time being.

Why the name change?

You’ve got me on this one….

Microsoft haven’t offically revealed why they have brought in a brand new name for the service. Microsoft News Service (MSN) worked for me (like Apple News, or Sky News or BBC news) it was it was and did…

I’m sure we will find out more at somepoint though… There’s always a reason after all..

Available now…..

Microsoft Start is live now at MicrosoftStart.com, and is live on the Microsoft Edge new tab page (try it), the News and interests taskbar thingy on Windows 10, and also in the Widgets app IN Windows 11.

In the coming days, the Microsoft News app on Android and Apple iOS will be updated and rebranded to Microsoft Start (so don’t confuse it with something else!) .

Microsoft search in Google play store.

Thoughts?

What do you think of the new service?

What do you think of the name change?

Windows 11 release date announced …

Windows 11 logo

Microsoft announced today that Windows 11, will be officially released on October 5, 2021 and will start rolling out to “eligible” Windows 10 devices on that date onwards.

Windows 11 will also come pre-installed on many new devices from Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Samsung etc.

Windows 11 is already available for WindowInsiders and the “beta testing” will continue though to October 5 and then continue for the next batch of feature releases as it did with Windows 10.

Windows 11 start menu

Windows 11 requirements

Whilst Microsoft annouced last week that some select 7th gen Intel chipsets (like Surface Studio 2) will support Windows 11, in most cases the core system requirements include:

  • ‘modern’ 64bit dual-core or higher CPU
  • 4GB of RAM (but 8GB ideally)
  • 64GB storage (SSD ideally)
  • DirectX12 supported GPU
  • Secure Boot
  • TPM 2.0 chip (enabled) in UEFI settings

Phased Rollout

As usual with Windows updates and upgrades the  Windows 11 upgrade will roll out gradually to devices that meet the minimum requirements for Windows PCs and say their upgrade system will use “intelligence algorithms” to make it available on more devices over time. “We expect all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022,” Microsoft said in the annoucement.

Interestly, Microsoft said last week that users will be able to use Windows 11 ISOs to manually install Windows 11 on unsupported PC though there is a caveat in that Microsoft are not committed to service these devices via Windows Update, and that includes security updates.

One thing to note is that Android app support, a feature announced during the Windows 11 unveiling event, won’t be shipping this year but will start testing with Windows Insiders soon.

What about Windows 10 support

For devices not capable of running Windows 11, or for users/organisation not ready to move to Windows 11, Windows 10 will still be supported through to 2025.

Read more about Windows 11

You can read more about the new and upcoming features in my previous blogs or on the official Microsoft Blog

Microsoft 365 E5 becomes more “cost efficient” as non E5 SKUs get first price increase in years..

Microsoft’s have annouced the first ‘substantive’ price increase for many of its commercial Office 365/Microsoft 365 subscription plans is coming in March 2022.

On March 1, 2022, Microsoft will be increasing prices for most of its commercial Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscriptions with the exception of consumer, education and also Microsoft 365 E5, which will not be increased.

The increases will range from $12 per user per year more for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, to $48 per user per year more for Microsoft 365 E3. In some cases, Microsoft is increasing prices to match those of the competition (read, Google), officials said. In other cases, it is adjusting prices to reflect the considerable value added to the Office 365/Microsoft 365 suites over the past several years, they added.   

Microsoft have said in a blog post that since the introduction of Microsoft 365 four years ago, they has added 24 apps to their Office 365/Microsoft 365 suites, including Teams, Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate, Stream, Planner, Visio, OneDrive, Yammer and Whiteboard as well as over 1,400 new features to its the core products across Microsoft 365 subscriptions over the past decade.

How much are the increases?

I’ve only seen the US$ pricing so far, but price increases range from $12 pupm for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, to $48 pupm for Microsoft 365 E3. In many cases the reason for these increases is to reflect the considerable amount of value added services added to the Office 365/Microsoft 365  over the past few years.

Microsoft 365 Business Basic up $1 to $6pupm

Microsoft 365 Business Premium up $2 to  $22 pupm

Office 365 E1 up $2 to $10 pupm

Office 365 E3 up $3to $23 pupm

Office 365 E5 up $3 to $38 pupm

Microsoft 365 E3 up $4 to $36 pupm

Microsoft 365 E5 No change at $57 pupm.

Microsoft 365 F SKUs – No change.

Jared Spataro, Microsoft Corporate VP for Microsoft 365 said “Microsoft believes the changes in prices may make the Microsoft 365 E5 SKU even more attractive” to customers”.

Take but give back..

Microsoft also said (more quietly) that that will be adding unlimited dial-in capabilities for Teams meetings across all its paid enterprise, business, frontline worker and government suites over the next few months (after offering free conferencing on a limited time for the last 12 months). This will help drive more people towards audio dial in (and presumably voice services) within Microsoft Teams and allows meeting participants to dial-in and join a Teams meeting from any device. Without needing the Teams client installed.

Read more….

For the official annoucement (US only at time of writing), read the official blog here.

New “Side-by-Side” and “Reporter” Presenter modes coming in August to Teams

ReporterMode_InTeams

Coming to complement the newly released “Standout mode” that rolled out to Microsoft Teams last months, 2 new immersive presentation modes are about to start rolling out.

This update is referenced within Microsoft 365  Roadmap ID 83371.

What do the new modes mean for presenters?

Thia update will enhance the presenter view to make desktop or app sharing more inclusive and better for hybrid meetings, ensuring the presenter can be seen at all times. Side by Side and Reporter Mode

Side by Side Mode

In this mode, meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed and content overlaid on a background image (which can be customised).

Side-By-Side mode in Teamss
Side by side presenter mode in Teams

Reporter Mode

In this mode, the meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed superimposed over the background image while having the content over their shoulder, placed diagonally. Like. TV broadcast.

ReporterMode_InTeams
Reporter Mode in Teams

The modes are customisable….with different backgrounds (not custom ones yet though).

What can be customised?

  • Presenters are able to customise the background image before starting the presentation.
  • Presenters are able to enable or disable the video feed during the presentation from the sharing bar.

Zoom gets into Contact Centres with acquisition of Five9

After experiencing huge growth like many Cloud UC vendors) during the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom has made its first major acquisition by agreeing to buy cloud contact center Five9 for $14.7 billion.

In the past year, Zoom have been adding more enterprise and home collaboration tools to its services including new room systems partnerships and office collaboration products, their new cloud phone system, and an all-in-one home communications appliances in an aim to rule the home and enterprise market space.

This acquisition will allow Zoom to expand into call center space (a market said to be worth around $24 billion. In the official announcement, Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan said “We are continuously looking for ways to enhance our platform and the addition of Five9 is a natural fit that will deliver even more… value to our customers,”.

Once the audition completes in early 2022,Five9 will become an operating unit of Zoom and its chief executive, Rowan Trollope (Ex Cisco), will become a president of the company.

How are Five9?

Five9 was founded in 2001 and has around 2,000 customers globally, including major brands like SalesForce and Under Armour. They processes in excess 7 billion minutes of calls annually.

Zoom, (like other leading UCaaS vendors) already partner and integrate their solutions Five9 to add integrated contact and customer experience solutions into its platform. The contact centre business has grown hugely since the start of COVID-19 and with customer habits now “the way of life”, the move to deliver a better online customer experience will now benefit zoom through these new integrated revenue streams.

It’s a 3 legged race in the UCaaS market…

According to Gartner, global spending on cloud-based video conferencing technology is forecast to reach $5.5 billion this year, up from $5.0 billion in 2020, a space where today, Zoom, Microsoft and Cisco as the clear front runners leaders. Cisco and Zoom will now own a slice of the contact centre market directly while Microsoft continue to leverage the partner eco system to drive options and choice to customers.


Thanks for reading and I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this acquisition and the UCaaS space generally…

#Windows365 is here as Microsoft announces Cloud PC at Inspire2021

Windows365 is a new service that will let users access their corporate ‘cloud’ PC from anywhere by streaming a version of Windows 10 (or Windows 11 when released) in a web browser. At initial launch, (2nd August 2021), organisations have two edition options – Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise – with multiple Cloud PC configurations in each edition based on performance needs.

Designed for the disparate and agile workforce

Windows 365 allows organisations to equip distributed workforces, temporary and seasonal employees, contractors, and employees who have a need for specialised workloads in a flexible and highly secure manner – regardless of their location or device. Windows 365 will allow organisations to add and remove users with secure managed Cloud PCs according to the changing needs of the business and of the individual user, allowing them to scale for busy periods without the logistical challenges of issuing new hardware. Cloud PCs can be scoped, and scales based on the specification/power that best meets the user need and is paid for on a simple per user per month price.

Built on Azure Virtual Desktop – runs on anything

Windows 365 is built on Azure Virtual Desktop but simplifies the virtualization experience and licensing. Organisations that require greater customization and flexibility can of course still opt for Azure Virtual Desktop to modernize their VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) in the cloud or use a combination of both. 

Windows 365 offers a consistent Windows experience, across any device/operating system including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android. It promises to support all your business apps such as Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, line of business apps, and more as well as the Office 365 suite.

It provides an instant-on boot experience that enables users to stream all their personalized applications, tools, data, and settings from the cloud across any device and allow them to pick up right where they left off. The state of a user’s Cloud PC remains the same, even when they switch devices.

Feature Support for Windows 365
Windows 365 Device Support (July 2021)

Consistent Device Management

Microsoft Endpoint Manager is used to procure, deploy, and manage Cloud PCs for their organisation, since Windows 365 is consistent with how they manage physical devices with Microsoft End Point Manager. Cloud PCs are managed alongside physical devices and can apply management and security policies to them in the same way as they do on physical devices.  There is extensive monitoring too and IT can change on the fly the specification (processor, RAM, and disk) to adjust the performance of the Cloud PC to make sure the users are getting the best experience. There’s also built-in analytics and performance metrics to look at connection health across network to make sure the Cloud PC users can reach everything they need.

Build on Zero Trust Foundation

Windows 365 is built with a focus on a Zero Trust architecture. It stores information in the cloud, not on the device, and encryption is used everywhere as you’d expect with an Azure service. All managed disks running Cloud PCs are encrypted, stored data is encrypted at rest, and all network traffic to and from the Cloud PCs is also encrypted.

Licensing Information

Unlike other virtualisation services, Windows 365 is priced on a per-user price and are allocated via the Microsoft 365 admin centre portal in the same way as other Microsoft 365 E3/E5 licenses.

Windows 365 will initially come in two flavours – Business and Enterprise, and Microsoft will offer 12 different configurations for both the editions. The Cloud PCs can be configured with a single CPU, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage at the low-end, all the way up to eight CPUs, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.

A full range of available configuration and example scenarios is available here.

Windows 365 will be officially available on August 2, 2021, and pricing will be announced on the same day, though rumours say we expect pricing to start from ~£25pupm

 

There are no clouds in space… But there is Azure!

I read an article recently about Stephen Kitay – the Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, who is now  Senior Director at Microsoft Azure Space. It got me thinking… Firstly.. what a cool job title…. and secondly… what is Azure Space..

It’s quite cool.. Tech and Space!

Microsoft says that “Azure Space was created to be the platform and ecosystem of choice for the mission needs of the space community” . It’s designed to make connectivity and compute increasingly attainable across industries including agriculture, energy, telecommunications, and government.”

Azure Space Overview

I loved researching and sharing some of what I read. What a great project to be part of… Imagine being asked what do you at a networking event and saying “supporting customers on their space missions off and on the planet, using the power of cloud and space technology to help business across industries re-imagine solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems”

Taking cloud-powered innovation beyond Earth with “Azure Space”.

With the enormous challenges space presents, there also comes great opportunity. The space community is growing rapidly, and innovation is lowering the barriers of access for public and private sector organizations.

Microsoft is the first hyperscale cloud service provider to join the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) as a member organization and they plan to share our unique global threat insights to protect critical infrastructure and strengthen cybersecurity expertise across the space community.

What is the purpose and applications for Azure Space?

Microsoft are diligently working to make Azure the platform of choice for the mission needs of the space community, bringing our unique global threats insights to protect critical infrastructure and strengthen cybersecurity expertise in the space industry“.

But…. Its not just about sticking Azure in space stations and shuttles.

Putting compute, data and AI into space makes connectivity and compute increasingly more attainable and accessible across the globe and has huge benefits across industries such as agriculture, energy, telecommunications as well as across the public sector and in particular in regions where traditional connectivity and access to compute is more sparse. Third and developing world nations will also hugely benefit. “ our ambition is to grow the entire world community, which is the basis for Azure Space.”

OK so what is Azure Space though?

Azure Space is basically a set of innovative service offerings, a new partner ecosystem and a global strategy focused on specific core areas to addresses never-before-seen security challenges. Azure Space is made up of 3 main things..

Azure Space Components Overview

Azure orbital

Azure Orbital is a Ground Station As-a-Service that provides communication and control of a satellite and enables satellite operators to communicate with and control their satellites, process data, and scale operations within Microsoft Azure.

Azure Orbital brings satellite data directly into Azure, where it can immediately be processed with market-leading data analytics, geospatial tools, machine learning, and Azure AI services.

In essence Azure Orbital will allow  organisations/providers of “space connected stuff”, to take full advantage of the Microsoft’s global network and services infrastructure to build new product offerings and services with the edge, 5G, SD-WAN, and AI.

Azure Modula Datacenter

 The Azure Modular Datacenter (MDC) is a complete, rugged datacenter solution for organisations/servjce providers that need cloud computing capabilities in hybrid, sparse or challenging environments like space.

Microsoft designed the MDC to support high-intensity, secure cloud computing in challenging environments, such as situations where critical prerequisites like power and building infrastructure are unreliable. Built on Azure Stack(r), it is a self-contained unit the provides the capability to deploy a complete datacenter to remote locations, or to complement existing infrastructure. The MDC runs primarily on terrestrial fiber, low-bandwidth networks, or be completely disconnected.

Azure Orbital Simulator

With space mow opening up to more commercial and government space organisation, the pace and demand of developing interconnected satellite networks increases exponentially.

To aid with this, Microsoft have created Azure Orbital Emulator, an emulation environment that conducts massive satellite constellation simulations with software and hardware in the loop. This allows satellite developers to evaluate and train AI algorithms and satellite networking before ever launching a single satellite reducing cost, time and money as well as human safety naturally. With Azure Orbital Emulator, Azure can emulate an entire satellite network including complex, real-time scene generation using pre-collected satellite imagery for direct processing by virtualized and actual satellite hardware.

“The Goal of Azure Orbital Emulator is to aid the preparation of space missions with the power of Azure.”

Azure Orbital Emulator is already being used Azure Government customers globally.

Credits and further reading

Some of the content here is referenced/quoted from the full comprehensive report. https://www.helpnetsecurity.com/2021/07/13/microsoft-azure-space and on twitter at @helpnetsecurity. Much of the information comes from Microsoft Azure blogs referenced below.

For further reading (it’s quite interesting) you can read Microsofts official blurb and ongoing updates here.

Microsoft makes another security acquisition…

Microsoft has just announced that they are to acquire cyber security company RiskIQ in a $500m deal.

RiskIQ provide cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) for businesses to identity various phishing, fraud, malware and other online threats.

Risk IQ

Microsoft’s Eric Doerr (VP of Cloud Security) explained in their annoucement how RiskIQ’s expertise and global threat intelligence platform will help their customers to better apprehend online threats in their digital transformation journey with the technology to become part of their integrated Security and Threat protection suite(s).

“The combination of RiskIQ’s attack surface management and threat intelligence empowers security teams to assemble, graph, and identify connections between their digital attack surface and attacker infrastructure and activities to help provide increased protection and faster response”.

Eric Doerr (Microsoft VP of Cloud Security)

Microsoft have a growing and comprehensive industry leading portfolio of integrated security and threat protection solutions for addressing the needs of hybrid and multi-cloud environments. The acquisition of RiskIQ’s expertise follows an ongoing list of acquisitions in the cybersecurity area.

“Our (Risk IQs) technology and amazing people will be a powerful addition to Microsoft solutions. Together, we’ll empower CISOs and security operations teams to proactively detect and defend their enterprise against all threats, both on-premise and across multi-cloud. “

Statement from RiskIQ

You can read the full annoucement in the Microsoft Security Blog here.