Microsoft Future Decoded 2017 – what you may have missed

After two busy days covering over 100 sessions and welcoming tens of thousands of Microsoft partners and customers, Microsoft Future Decoded has successfully ended for another year.


If you didn't make it to the ExCel this week, or only managed to attend on one of the days, we've put together this event round-up from the daily keynotes to provide you with the key announcements.


Day 1: Tuesday 31st October


Day one kicked off with the opening Vision Keynote, seeing Clare Barclay, Microsoft UK Chief Operating Officer, Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice-President, Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Devices, Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Azure & Security Marketing and Haiyan Zhang, Microsoft Innovation Director all take to the stage.



Clare was first on stage, and introduced the release of our latest report, Creating a Culture of Digital Transformation. (You can read more about this and access the report here.) Clare went on to discuss how only 23% of business leaders consider culture when implementing company changes, yet 49% of employees show fear at the thought of an upcoming change. What the report highlights, is that cultural change is a key consideration for any company looking to successfully embrace digital transformation.


An example used was the Met Police, who have successfully implemented cultural and organisational changes to retain their staff and to really engage with citizens to drive change and efficiencies in the way that crimes are solved.


The first guest of the day was Greg Williams, Editor-in-Chief of Wired, who stated that:


"Digital transformation is not optional. It applies to everyone, even individuals. Look at how we are consuming goods and services, radically different to how we did this in the past. The ways we used to interact with customers, to sell and provide services, are changing by the year. Look at financial services, 10 years ago it was very different from now."


Looking at the role of leadership in cultural transformation, Greg went on to discuss the importance of having a leadership that is open, driving integrity and trust throughout the organisation. Forging partnerships is also crucial for progress, exploring relationships with other companies that may previously have been viewed as competition.


Microsoft Future Decoded is all about bringing our partners and customers insights into the developing technologies that are driving the businesses of the future. In light of this, Clare and Greg went on to discuss the emerging technologies that businesses should be investing in now. AI was, as expected, the first area that Greg brought up. Whilst we are a long way from general purpose AI that can be applied to everything, for small organisations the opportunity here is around scale, and for larger organisations, acquisition. What will be interesting further down the line will be if we can get AI as a service, and that's a really interesting opportunity for Microsoft and our partners. Synthetic biology, quantum, and general engagement with technology that will create operational efficiencies and help people communicate and prioritise the best of what they've got were also touched on.

Next on stage was Microsoft Executive Vice President and President, Jean-Philippe Courtois, discussing the exciting world of digital transformation, and the optimism that is sometimes needed to fully embrace change. Cross-industry, we need to look at new ways to empower people, reinvent business models and efficiencies to accelerate change during big technological shifts.


"Businesses need to disrupt before they become disruptive themselves", and this brings us back to the importance of culture, that Clare and Greg spoke of earlier.


Jean-Philippe noted that we are moving into a world where we are seeing three big shifts:

The slide above illustrates the way we are seeing technology disputing businesses to drive digital products and digital services. We are entering an era where every company is becoming a digital business, and a software company.

The widely anticipated Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Devices, then came onto the stage, reflecting on the emerging technologies and the modern workplace.


"[there is a] slightly larger transformation that is coming out of all of this, it's more than just the changing technology, it's how people are working... what they do next, what they create. "


How people work every day is changing, and ''in just 3 years, 50% of the global workforce will be mobile. It is up to us to enable an entirely new culture of work for them... we have to do it all simply, and we have to bring the power of Windows, Office, together, on devices in a secure way so it can all come to life".


Panos then went on to introduce a new Surface Book, with the Surface Book 2 coming to the UK on the 13th November.


Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Azure & Security Marketing and Haiyan Zhang, Microsoft Innovation Director concluded the Vision keynote, moving the conversation from the modern workplace into business applications, and demonstrating how cloud can impact individual lives.


Julia discussed how we really need to free ourselves from thinking about how business processes worked in the past. Data has to reason across business apps, vs thinking about one at a time:

The same can be send across our two other solution areas, as we start thinking about where we are today and where we may be tomorrow:


It's with Azure that we deliver this whole set of technology areas. Azure is a robust set of services and capabilities that you can take advantage of. How we deliver that technology is so important. And with that we have four approaches:


1. Ensuring a consistent hybrid capability end-to-end
2. Making sure your developers and IT organisation is as productive as possible
3. Making sure every developer can build AI, and intelligence is part of every system and application
4. All of course, with rock solid trust


With more and more organisations turning to Microsoft cloud, Haiyan, the creator of the Emma Watch, explained how the cloud can have a profound impact on individual lives too. Talking about Project Fizzyo, Haiyan discussed her bid to help people with Cystic Fibrosis complete their physiotherapy and the amazing potential for technology to improve people's lives.

Day 2: Wednesday 1st November


Day two took a more technical spin, helping to decode the future with a glimpse in to the platform, trends and services at the forefront of digital disruption.



Lorraine Bardeen, General Manager, Windows & HoloLens Experiences, started the session by talking about mixed reality, and how it is acting as a catalyst for digital transformation. But when we talk about mixed reality, how can we best describe it?


Physical and digital reality are two very different worlds. By bringing them together, we can obtain the best of both. This is where we believe computing is going, and it's Microsoft HoloLens that is making that statement. But mixed reality really is a broad spectrum.

Windows Mixed Reality devices must have real world awareness, free from sensors and complicated set ups, and that is why we are doing some exciting work with our partners to bring these products to market this winter.


We can learn a lot from customers using HoloLens in their main operations, across multiple industries, as it helps to:


  1. Open up new lines of revenue for companies, including reducing their customers time to decision
  2. Save expenses in a meaningful way
  3. Enable them to innovate in their space in a way they couldn't before.

There are some really exciting examples of UK partners enabling this just in the last couple of month's alone:

Due to the demand and momentum that HoloLens has created, Lorraine went on to announce the expanding market availability that will come into play in the new year:

Mark Russinovich, Chief Technology Officer, Azure, then gave a further framing to the rising cloud trends and the view of the technical landscape today.

AI is no doubt at the heart of digital transformation, and is what we consider a digital feedback loop, looking at data and processing - taking action and refining processes, products etc to make them better.


We look at machine learning from the top to the bottom. We have a Bot framework - a conversation platform for customers or internal field experts and staff.


Two key aspects of machine learning:
1. Training. Training models to read and understand data
2. Inference. Take the trained models and take them out into production to get real time data and scoring them based on this.



Karin Strauss, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research then took the conversations as step further into the future, exploring the possibilities of storing information in DNA, through a collaboration between Microsoft and University of Washington.


In 2018 we will be able to store about 30% of all the data we produce, and that trend is set to continue, with only 0.5% in 2040. An alternative storage method is therefore needed, and storing data in DNA molecules could help with this problem. A tiny, pin-point sized portion of DNA could store 10TB of data.


Using DNA as a material alone, with no organisms involved, Karin talked through the process and the exciting potential this could bring:



And ending on that exciting note, the final morning keynote concluded. Hopefully this post has given you an informative overview from the two days. You can visit the Future Decoded website for further information on the topics covered, and visit our UK News Centre for more in-depth articles on the announcements and updates.



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