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Microsoft Inspire 2023: Round-up of the keynote highlights

Published: August 1, 2023
Updated: October 03, 2023
In a nutshell:
There were an exceptional amount of updates at the 2023 Inspire conference – here are just some of our favourites…
“We are in the midst of a massive platform shift with the new generation of AI”

Microsoft Inspire, an eagerly anticipated virtual event in the technology calendar for us Microsoft partners. Taking place on the 18th and 19th of July, this annual conference serves as a platform for the latest Microsoft news and technology updates, and this year it was a big one.

Naturally, artificial intelligence took centre stage at the event this year, with Microsoft Chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, highlighting that:

“We are in the midst of a massive platform shift with the new generation of AI”.

Among the key announcements at Inspire were the pricing details for Microsoft 365 Copilot, the introduction of Bing Chat Enterprise (a privacy-focused chatbot integrated into Microsoft 365 for businesses), and enhancements to the Azure AI model catalogue. These offerings, alongside other new releases, promise to bring significant advancements to the AI landscape.

There were an exceptional amount of updates at the 2023 Inspire conference – here are just some of our favourites…

Focus on generative AI

Nadella fully embraced the potential of generative AI, highlighting two key applications: enhancing computer user interfaces with natural language and revolutionising information management. Generative AI acts as a reasoning engine, leveraging all available data.

Microsoft envisions natural language becoming the primary interface with computers, and their recent strategic investment in generative AI spans their entire product portfolio, relying on their partner ecosystem for success.

As Gartner analyst, Jason Wong, emphasises “Partners will be critical to ensuring customer readiness of data and talent, effective implementation across multi-vendor technology stacks, and change management to ensure value attainment.”

One of these revolutionary AI applications, is one we’ll likely all soon be familiar with… Microsoft Copilot.

Microsoft 365 Copilot

Who it for: This one is for pretty much every Microsoft user.

What does it do: During Microsoft Inspire, Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President, Modern Life, Search, and Devices at Microsoft, revealed that Microsoft 365 Copilot, featuring a ChatGPT-based conversational AI integrated into 365 applications. This will be very reasonably priced at $30 per month, per user, in the US (with UK prices yet to be disclosed).

So how does it work? Well, Copilot is integrated into Microsoft 365 in two ways. It works alongside you, embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps you use every day — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and more. The other integration is Business Chat. Business Chat works across the LLM, the Microsoft 365 apps, and your data — your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings and contacts — to do things you’ve never been able to do before. You can give it natural language prompts like “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy,” and it will generate a status update based on the morning’s meetings, emails and chat threads.

During the Inspire demonstration, Copilot showcased its capabilities by creating a PowerPoint presentation and summarising it, all within Teams. Did someone say AI personal assistant?

The specific general availability date for Copilot has not yet been confirmed, but we certainly can’t wait.

Bing Chat Enterprise

Who’s it for: For Bing users, this is a fantastic new application…

What does it do: Introducing Bing Chat Enterprise, a new offering granting organisations secure access to Bing Chat within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. This solution crucially will address business concerns over data privacy, ensuring that user data is not collected, shared with Microsoft and not used to train AI models. Commercial data protection ensures that company information remains secure. Bing Chat Enterprise includes up-to-date data sourced from Bing search.

Users can access ChatGPT through Bing with their Microsoft 365 work credentials, ensuring data protection. Bing Chat Enterprise is provided at no extra cost with Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium plans (great new for Business Premium customers).

As far as we know, Microsoft plans to integrate Bing Chat Enterprise with Windows Copilot in the future, available as a standalone application at $5 per user per month (UK process soon to be released).

Sales Copilot is Here

Who’s it for: Business Development is about to become a whole lot faster.

What does it do: During Microsoft Inspire 2023, Microsoft introduced Sales Copilot, a new application integrating Copilot functionality and CRM data from platforms like Salesforce and Dynamics 365 into Microsoft 365. Sales Copilot empowers users with automated information on sales opportunities, seamless integration with Microsoft 365 Copilot and PowerPoint, and real-time tips during Team meetings.

Want to see how Microsoft basically created a follow up pitch deck and email following a sales call?

Check out the demo below.

AI features added to Power Automate Process Mining

Who’s it for: This one is for the operations team.

What does it do: Process intelligence is changing the way businesses optimize their processes, save costs, and discover opportunities to run more efficient business operations. Power Automate Process Mining, infused with next-generation AI, now enables organizations to easily understand what is happening across their business, maximize process insights, use out-of-box recommendations to reduce the complexity of processes, transform operations, and drive continuous process improvement with automation and low-code apps.

Users can inquire about top insights to identify work bottlenecks, their causes, and receive suggestions for automating tasks or closely tracking data points with other tools – another time saver on the horizon for many businesses.

Power Automate Process Mining will be generally available from the 1st of August, enhancing business processes through AI-driven capabilities.

Enabling Developers with AI Options: Azure AI Model Catalogue

Who’s it for: The next update is for our developers.

What does it do: In recent years, advancements in AI have led to the rise of large Foundation Models that are pre-trained on a vast quantity of data. These Foundation Models serve as a starting point for developing specialized models and can be easily adapted to a wide variety of applications across various industries. This emerging trend gives rise to a unique opportunity for enterprises to build and use these Foundation Models in their deep learning workloads.

The Azure AI model catalogue, currently in public preview, empowers developers with a wide range of AI options, including GPT-4 and a library of other AI models. Developers can seamlessly integrate these models into their applications by browsing, fine-tuning, and deploying them within Azure sandboxes.

With private instances of the models, organisations can quickly leverage their power while ensuring data privacy and adhering to AI safety best practices. Jessica Hawk, Corporate Vice President in data, AI, and digital applications at Microsoft, emphasised “This means organisations can quickly and easily benefit from the power of these foundational models, yet they have their own private instance of the model,”.

New Features Added to Azure Migrate

Who’s it for: Shout out to the cloud engineers.

What does it do: Microsoft has made significant improvements to the Azure Migrate and Modernize tool, enhancing its capabilities for cloud migration. Designed for partners assisting customers with cloud assessments and Azure migration, the tool allows partners to access the customer’s data centre inventory through Azure Migrate in the Azure portal. With assessment tools at their disposal, partners can chart out a migration path and develop a compelling business case for migration.

Want to know more? Watch the video below:

Microsoft 365 Backup & Archive

Who’s it for: Businesses that want to free up space and effectively store their data.

What does it do: Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive, part of the Microsoft Syntex family, enables you to cost-effectively keep your Microsoft 365 data in place with the existing security, compliance, and search benefits.

The value add for Microsoft 365 Backup is simple – the ability to backup and restore data quicker than any other backup solution, and this application provides a scalable and secure native backup solution for M365 content, covering SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange.

M365 Archive however, offers a cold data storage tier, ideal for keeping inactive or aging SharePoint data at a low cost. The major advantage gained by moving sites to an archived state is that the storage they consume is no longer charged against the tenant’s SharePoint storage quota. “With Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive APIs, our partners can uniquely provide a single and seamless experience that protects your data estate, whether inside or outside of Microsoft 365, in combination with our speed and storage innovations,” explained Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President – Microsoft 365 Collaboration at Microsoft”

You can watch the full demonstration here.

Microsoft Fabric

Who’s it for: One for those illusive global M365 admins.

What does it do: Microsoft Fabric is a comprehensive analytics solution designed for enterprises, encompassing data movement, data science, real-time analytics, and business intelligence.

Fabric brings together experiences such as Data Engineering, Data Factory, Data Science, Data Warehouse, Real-Time Analytics, and Power BI onto a shared SaaS foundation. This integration provides the following advantages:

  • An extensive range of deeply integrated analytics in the industry.
  • Shared experiences across experiences that are familiar and easy to learn.
  • Developers can easily access and reuse all assets.
  • A unified data lake that allows you to retain the data where it is while using your preferred analytics tools.
  • Centralized administration and governance across all experiences.

With Fabric, there’s no need to integrate various services from multiple vendors. Instead, you benefit from a highly integrated, end-to-end, and user-friendly product that streamlines your analytics requirements. The platform is built on a Software as a Service (SaaS) foundation, taking simplicity and integration to new heights. Want to know more? Watch the overview here.

Security Copilot Updates: Early access program

Who’s it for: Good news for anyone that works in security

What does it do: Later this year, Microsoft is set to launch the Security Copilot Early Access Program, inviting customers and partners currently using Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to explore the advanced capabilities of Security Copilot. During this early adopter phase, valuable insights and feedback will be gathered to refine and enhance the program’s features and functionalities.

To promote the adoption of Security Copilot, Microsoft has established the Security Copilot design advisory council. This council will collaborate closely with Microsoft partners to develop innovative solutions and services powered by Security Copilot, empowering organisations to proactively combat evolving cyber threats.

In its commitment to supporting SMBs, Microsoft has introduced several initiatives, such as streaming APIs from Defender for Business, enabling advanced hunting and attack detection capabilities. Additionally, integration with Managed Detection and Response (MDR) providers enhances the range of security services available to SMBs, reinforcing Microsoft’s dedication to transforming the cybersecurity landscape.

Want to know more about Microsoft Security Copilot? Read our recent insight here or watch this explainer video.

New Defender for Business Updates

Who’s it for: Here’s one for our Cyber Security Analysts

What does it do: Defender for Business has introduced a new streaming APIs feature, now available in preview for both stand-alone Defender for Business and as part of the Microsoft 365 Business Premium plan. According to Microsoft, streaming APIs offer valuable support for partners engaged in advanced hunting and attack detection. This feature is especially beneficial for partners interested in building their own Security Operations Center (SOC) or managed detection and response (MDR) service.

Furthermore, Microsoft has made Mobile Threat Defence generally available for stand-alone Defender for Business users. This extension of mobile protection to smaller users includes a monthly summary report, enabling security solution providers to showcase the value they provide to customers by highlighting threats prevented, current Microsoft Secure Score status, and recommendations. For those that love the Defender suite of products, you can take a look through our latest Expert Intel, ‘Demystifying Defender For Cloud’, written by our Cyber Security Engineer, Liam Jones

A note on the Microsoft & Meta partnership

Microsoft and Meta (parent company of Facebook) are expanding their partnership to jointly develop the Llama family of large language models on Azure and Windows. Microsoft will support Meta in releasing Llama 2, allegedly the next-generation open-source large language model.

Llama 2 is designed to enable developers and organizations to build generative AI-powered tools and experiences. This solution offers developers choice in the types of models they build on, supporting open and frontier models. Now Azure customers can fine-tune and deploy the 7B, 13B, and 70B-parameter Llama 2 models easily and more safely on Azure, in addition, Llama will be optimized to run locally on Windows. Windows developers will be able to use Llama by targeting the DirectML execution provider through the ONNX Runtime, allowing a seamless workflow as they bring generative AI experiences to their applications.

This collaboration provides Azure customers access to AI features that drive innovation, productivity, and growth, empowering companies across sectors with advanced AI tools for success. John Montgomery, Corporate Vice President, Azure AI at Microsoft wrote in a recent blog post “Today’s announcement builds on our partnership to accelerate innovation in the era of AI and further extends Microsoft’s open model ecosystem and position as the world’s supercomputing platform for AI.”

Dedication to collaboration

The announcements made during the conference underscore Microsoft’s dedication to fostering collaboration, driving innovation, and empowering partners to thrive amidst the ever-evolving landscape of AI and cloud technologies. With big things coming, we certainly can’t wait for the release of all these new features.

We’d recommend watching the Microsoft Inspire sessions, and browsing the session catalogue to catch up on all the learnings – you can watch on demand here.

If you’re a business leader looking to understand more about how you can leverage the power of these new Microsoft technologies, we’re here to help. As a certified Microsoft cloud and security solutions partner, specialising in Microsoft 365, Azure and Sentinel, our team can help you understand, prepare for, and leverage this growing suite of AI-centric, cloud technologies.

Make sure you’re ready of the AI evolution and get in touch today.

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