Category Archives: Microsoft

Ecolab and Microsoft work together to face water shortage challenges

Water is vital to life, but it’s a finite resource – 97.5 percent of it is salt water. The 2.5 percent that is fresh comes from glaciers, ice caps, groundwater, lakes, rivers, ice and snow. Your morning cup of coffee takes 55 gallons of water to produce, the shirt you’re wearing commanded another 700 gallons of water to produce, and the car you drive to work requires a staggering 39,090 gallons to build.

The demand for water has risen alongside population growth, urbanization, changing diets, rising demand for energy and increasing industrialization. Recent events such as the California drought are currently keeping water management in the public spotlight. Personal conservation – not watering lawns and taking shorter showers – is a start. But it’s only part of the solution.

Ecolab, a $14 billion company that is a leading global provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, has partnered with Microsoft to use recent and future developments in cloud computing, applying cutting-edge technology to speed up how worldwide industries tackle water scarcity.

Read what they’re doing on the Transform business blog.

Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

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Microsoft Envision: A conversation on digital transformation

Yesterday marked the first day of what we hope will be a long tradition. Our new flagship event for business leaders — the Microsoft Envision conference — kicked off in New Orleans with a keynote from Satya Nadella and a guest appearance from astronaut Captain Scott Kelly. The topic of digital transformation was the red thread that connected the keynote, the drill-down sessions and conversations on-and-off the expo floor.

With Microsoft Envision, we’re creating a truly global summit for issues critical to CxOs and other business leaders. More than 6,000 leaders from 70 countries representing every walk of industry are here in New Orleans. We’ve moved some of our deeply technical content to Microsoft Ignite and Microsoft Build so attendees here can focus on challenges, trends and disruptors that are making and breaking companies today. This conference is designed to give everyone a chance to step back and learn about smart strategies to tackle emerging issues, power new efficiencies and build new business models and revenue streams.

We’ve convened one of the more impressive slates of speakers I can remember. There are sessions with top leaders like Paypal CEO Dan Schulman, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle and Special Olympics Chairman Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D.—all of whom are sharing their perspective and career lessons on transforming for success. I even got the chance to sit down with Captain Kelly, who shared his experiences with Microsoft HoloLens in Redmond, Washington, and on the International Space Station. He talked about the future opportunity for HoloLens to create better connection with astronauts in space and on the ground resources.

Digital Transformation

Yesterday Satya discussed the benefits of digital transformation in business. He shared stories about amazing companies doing incredible things with technology. He discussed how Virgin Atlantic is deepening its relationship with customers by using analytics to get a 360-degree view of a customer and turn those insights into predictive power to deliver personalization at scale.  He also talked about how Ecolabs, a $14 billion global provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, is using a combination of sensors and data to predict the flow of business and automate decisions.

Illustrating the scale of disruption we’re seeing today, Satya announced that Microsoft and R3 (a consortium of 40+ banks around the world) have formed a partnership to help accelerate the implementation of distributed ledger, blockchain technology—a big step in modernizing the way financial institutions conduct transactions. He also shared that Toyota is partnering with Microsoft to bring cloud intelligence into the driving experience.

In planning this new conference, we wanted it to be a place that would foster the free exchange of ideas, build a strong community and bring together leaders in business to learn from each other. So far I have been impressed by the conversations and stories I’ve heard of customers, speakers and analysts at different stages of their digital transformation.

The expo floor has also been impressive, with hundreds of booths from Microsoft and its partners, more than 100 Microsoft Theater Trend sessions, and 300-plus customer and partner meetings.

I’m looking forward to an exciting day two. As Satya said in his keynote, we want attendees to envision what a difference they can make for their customers, and how technology can be used to change the world. We feel like we have a responsibility to bring together different industries and leaders, because technology is transforming every industry.

Follow more stories on today’s digital transformation on our new business blog.

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Toyota and Microsoft team up to connect drivers to the future

Toyota announced on Monday that it’s creating a new company called Toyota Connected to serve as the carmaker’s data science hub as it seeks to connect cars to people’s daily lives. Microsoft Azure will be the cloud computing platform, providing a hybrid solution for everything Toyota Connected creates as it works to make driving more personal, more intuitive and safer.

“We’ve all been talking about big data for a long time, but we are at a unique point in history where the technology is catching up with what we hope to achieve by delivering new services and capabilities into the vehicle,” said Zack Hicks, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Connected.

With the new venture, Toyota and Microsoft envision a world where cars are giant smartphones you ride in, with a virtual assistant that knows the best routes, whom to notify if traffic will make you late for a meeting, what your blood pressure is doing during stop-and-go, and which restaurants at the next exit might be most to your liking.

Read more at the Transform blog.

Vanessa Ho
Microsoft News Center Staff

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At Microsoft Envision, the financial services blockchain revolution begins

At Monday’s kickoff to Microsoft Envision in New Orleans, Peggy Johnson, executive vice president for Business Development at Microsoft, announced a strategic partnership with R3, a consortium of leading banking institutions, to help move blockchain technology from hype to reality for the financial services industry.

“Together, we will help R3’s over 40 member banks develop, test and deploy blockchain technologies to modernize decades-old processes and streamline operations, potentially saving billions of dollars from back-office operations,” she writes on the Transform business blog. “Digital transformation is lighting up across industries in every region of the world. It brings with it new challenges and new opportunities, opens up new markets and new customers, and demands a fundamentally new approach to thrive in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.

“One undeniable force in this transformation is the emerging use of blockchain technology in the enterprise,” Johnson continues. “Known by many as the backbone of bitcoin, blockchain offers a secure and transparent way to digitally track the ownership of assets. Simply put, it promises to revolutionize the way financial institutions conduct transactions.”

Read more about how blockchain modernizes legacy financial processes and eliminates the need for middlemen on the Transform business blog.

Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

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Build 2016: Conversational intelligence, new innovations for Windows 10 and cloud tools for all developers — Weekend Reading: April 1 edition

Welcome to the Build 2016 edition of Weekend Reading, highlighting all the news from Microsoft’s annual developer’s conference this week.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined the company’s vision to help developers embrace a new era of conversational intelligence, with additions to the Cortana Intelligence Suite and new cloud services and toolkits to help us understand the world around us and create intelligent, helpful bots.

“As an industry, we are on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence,” Nadella said. “At Microsoft, we call this Conversations as a Platform, and it builds on and extends the power of the Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Windows platforms to empower developers everywhere.”

The Cortana Intelligence Suite – the new name for the Cortana Analytics Suite – can transform lives, with a prime example being Seeing AI, an app in development to help people with visual impairment understand their surroundings.

Additions to the Cortana suite include Microsoft Cognitive Services, a collection of intelligence application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret our needs with natural communication. Also new is the Microsoft Bot Framework, which helps developers build intelligent bots that allow users to chat in natural language on many platforms. Both additions are in preview.

Microsoft also announced at Build the Skype Bot Platform, which allows developers to create bots that leverage Skype’s many ways to communicate, including text, voice, video and 3D interactive characters.

Terry Myerson, Microsoft executive vice president of Windows and Devices Group, shared the company’s next chapter to create more personal computing, with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and new capabilities for the Universal Windows Platform.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update features Windows Ink, which lets you handwrite on your device and create sticky notes. The update includes a proactive Cortana that can guide you even when your device is locked. And it has new Windows Hello features that extend the security of Windows 10 to multiple devices and Microsoft Edge.

“With Windows 10 now running on over 270 million active devices, we’re celebrating with our fans by delivering the Windows 10 Anniversary Update,” Myerson said. “This significant update will help you interact with your Windows 10 devices as naturally as you interact with the world around you — using your pen, presence and voice.”

New developer capabilities for Windows 10 include full access to Cortana’s intelligence, and new APIs and tools to integrate Windows Ink, Windows Hello and other Windows 10 innovations into apps. And Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition shipped, allowing developers to start building the future of holographic computing. Plus a new Xbox Dev Mode turns any Xbox One into a dev tool, enabling anyone to develop for the living room.

On Thursday at Build, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group, announced new tools and resources for developers to tap into the cloud’s possibilities.

“Today, we made targeting every device and platform a lot easier by making Xamarin available to every Visual Studio developer for free, including the free Visual Studio Community Edition,” Guthrie wrote in his blog post.

“We are also making available a free Xamarin Studio Community Edition for OS X. Developers worldwide can now easily create apps using an end-to-end mobile development solution – joining companies like Slack, Pinterest, Alaska Airlines and more.”


BMW Connected

Guthrie also announced new Azure services to help developers address operational realities and take advantage of emerging trends, including the Internet of Things and microservices. BMW demonstrated how it’s using Azure, with the launch of its new digital mobility app, BMW Connected, which is based on a flexible platform the automaker built using Azure.

Also on Thursday, Qi Lu, Microsoft executive vice president of the Applications and Services Group, highlighted how developers can use the Office platform to create new business opportunities. Office developers can now build apps and place them into Word, Excel and PowerPoint ribbons. And on the Build stage, Starbucks showed off an Outlook add-in that enables people to send Starbucks e-gifts within Outlook and schedule meetings at Starbucks locations.

For the closing keynote, Steven Guggenheimer, Microsoft corporate vice president of Developer eXperience and chief evangelist, showed how partners are innovating with Azure, Office and Windows. And actor Kevin Hart weighed in with a hilarious video on how everyone wants to be a developer, highlighting Muzik LLC’s software development kit that turns headphones into a platform.

For more wrap-ups of Build, check out the Top 10 ways Build rocked it for developers on Day One and Day Two.

And finally, we heard from Nadella, Myerson, Guthrie and Lu across the Microsoft social communities as they announced the latest Microsoft updates at Build.

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

Vanessa Ho
Microsoft News Center Staff

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Build 2016: Announcing tomorrow’s cloud innovations for today’s developers

Every business and industry is being transformed by the cloud – and as cloud speed, scale and agility continue to increase, so too does what’s possible using cloud services. Imagine a dairy farmer who can improve his cows’ milk production by hooking them up to monitoring sensors. Or a hospital that can auto-monitor hygiene practices to make it a safer place. Or a car that can alert you to traffic and save you hassle on the way to work. All this is happening today, thanks to exponentially increasing amounts of data, and new ways to analyze this data for better business insights and connect it to a growing number of devices.

But helping businesses evolve to the next generation of cloud computing isn’t easy on developers. The pressure to innovate faster falls squarely on their shoulders, tasking them with building applications that can process and analyze data at cloud speed, while targeting any device or platform. Today at Build, our message is simple: We’re here to take the pressure off. With unparalleled scale via 30 worldwide regions, Microsoft Azure is the best environment for developers to easily build intelligent applications – across any device or OS.

Today, we made targeting every device and platform a lot easier by making Xamarin available to every Visual Studio developer for free, including the free Visual Studio Community Edition. We are also making available a free Xamarin Studio Community Edition for OS X. Developers worldwide can now easily create apps using an end-to-end mobile development solution – joining companies like Slack, Pinterest, Alaska Airlines and more. To enable even more choice and flexibility for developers, we announced a commitment to open source Xamarin’s runtime, libraries and command line tools as part of the .NET Foundation. Both the Xamarin SDK and Mono will be available under the MIT License.

Xamarin capabilities and services will also be added to Microsoft DevOps and Enterprise development tools offerings, providing a comprehensive solution that spans every phase of the mobile development cycle.

With the combination of Xamarin and Azure App Service for rich mobile backends, Microsoft is helping developers embrace the next generation of app development – but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Developers also need to take advantage of the data explosion to build more intelligent, predictive apps, while ensuring those apps stay connected across a growing number of devices. Today, we announced several new innovations to help.

First, we announced a preview of Azure Functions, extending Azure’s market-leading application platform with new serverless compute for event-driven solutions. Functions lets developers easily handle on-demand tasks that respond to events, common in Web and mobile applications, IoT and big data scenarios. Working across Azure and third-party services, it enables developers to write functions in a variety of languages, such as JavaScript, C#, Python and PHP, with the ability to automatically scale out to meet demand, only charging for the time a function runs. And with an open source runtime, developers will be able run Functions anywhere – on Azure, in their datacenters or on other clouds –taking flexibility and choice a step further.

We also announced easier ways for developers to embrace the Internet of Things to connect data and devices for greater innovation. For example, we now have Azure IoT Starter Kits available for purchase. With development boards, actuators, sensors and easy user-friendly tutorials, now anyone with Windows or Linux experience – whether a student, inventor, device maker, hobbyist or developer – can quickly build IoT prototypes inexpensively. Once a prototype is ready for full-scale deployment, these users can leverage all of Azure’s comprehensive IoT offerings already on the market. In addition, we announced the Azure IoT Gateway SDK, along with device management in Azure IoT Hub – further easing the path to IoT by connecting legacy devices and sensors to the Internet without having to replace existing infrastructure, and managing these devices at scale via a standards-based approach. Using Azure IoT technology, customers like Schneider Electric have connected more than 3 million devices this year alone, transforming them from a traditional electric company to a modern, connected, global leader in sustainable energy management.

Connecting devices and data through IoT is critical for developers – but so is ingesting, storing, processing and analyzing that data. To help developers help their customers get insights from data we announced a preview of Power BI Embedded, which allows developers to embed fully interactive reports and visualizations in any customer-facing application, on any device.  Customers can choose from a broad range of Power BI data visualizations that come out of the box, or easily build custom visualizations for their unique applications. To help developers scale it all while maximizing choice and flexibility, we also announced today that applications can now communicate with the scalable NoSQL service DocumentDB, using existing Apache License MongoDB APIs and drivers. This extends the reach of DocumentDB, a proven service that enables companies like NextGames, makers of the multi-player Walking Dead video game run on Azure, to handle 75 billion requests per day.

Helping developers embrace new app models in a cloud-first world is a priority, especially with the growing demand to build highly scalable apps that are always-on and agile. In a 24×7 world, businesses cannot afford to have apps down for maintenance. Increasingly, developers are turning to microservices, independent components that work together to deliver an application’s overall functionality, to help address these business requirements.

Today we announced the general availability of Azure Service Fabric, our microservices application platform, to help developers design apps and services with always-on availability and scale. This battle-tested platform has been used for years as the foundation for Microsoft cloud services like Azure SQL Database, Azure Document DB, Cortana and Skype for Business. Features like automated health-based upgrades and rollbacks, support for stateful and stateless microservices, and deep Visual Studio integration make Service Fabric a compelling choice. We also announced previews of Service Fabric for Windows Server, for deploying on-premises and on other clouds, and Service Fabric for Linux and Java APIs – extending scale, availability and agility to developers everywhere.

From intelligent data and machine learning advancements, to IOT innovations and microservices offerings, Microsoft is helping developers build applications for the cloud realities of today, and the cloud evolution of tomorrow. We’re in a unique position to do this, as the only cloud provider that supports every organization and developer – from core infrastructure services, to platform services and tools, to SaaS – with the flexibility to build and run apps in any language across any platform. Today at Build, I am humbled to have the opportunity to share our innovations with developers – and hear firsthand their feedback so we can continually shape, deliver and improve the offerings that will make them more productive and successful. Together with our customers, we’re building the next generation of the cloud to achieve more.

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Microsoft Build: The top 10 reasons Day 2 rocked the developer world

On Thursday, Microsoft unveiled more technology and innovations that help every developer easily and simply build intelligent apps and services. You can find out more with our top 10 list of why Day 2 of Build rocked it for developers.

For starters, at No. 10, Skype me, baby: The new Skype for Business App SDK and Skype Web SDK allow companies to integrate Skype calls directly within their Web or device offering.

Read the full list, and get more details from the event at the Microsoft Build news site.

Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

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BMW releases new digital mobility experience based on platform using Microsoft Azure

Imagine a future in which a personal travel assistant looks over your schedule, checks traffic for you, tells you when to leave for an appointment, ferrets out parking spaces and alerts people of your arrival time — all while learning your driving patterns to get more helpful over time.

That assistant will be BMW Connected, whose first version made its debut Thursday at Build 2016, Microsoft’s developer conference in San Francisco.

“Mobility needs are unique and personal and a very important aspect of our everyday life,” says Thom Brenner, BMW Group vice president of Digital Life. “We are really focused on how we can integrate our offerings smoothly and seamlessly into the digital life of our customers.”

Powered by the Open Mobility Cloud, which is based on Microsoft Azure and available for iOS, BMW Connected is part of the automaker’s vision for the “future of mobility,” which includes digital services, automated driving and assistance, and interiors designed for digital seamlessness. BMW built the Open Mobility Cloud, a new flexible, scalable platform, using Microsoft Azure technologies and tools.

Read the story on the Transform blog.

Vanessa Ho
Microsoft News Center Staff

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Microsoft Build: The top 10 reasons Day 1 rocked it for developers

Build 2016, developers

On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled technology and innovations that help every developer easily and simply build intelligent apps and services. You can find out more with our top 10 list of why Day 1 of Build rocked it for developers.

For starters, at No. 10, the future is here now: Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition shipped!

Read the full list, and get more details from the event at the Microsoft Build news site.

Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

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Learning from Tay’s introduction

As many of you know by now, on Wednesday we launched a chatbot called Tay. We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for, nor how we designed Tay. Tay is now offline and we’ll look to bring Tay back only when we are confident we can better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values.

I want to share what we learned and how we’re taking these lessons forward.

For context, Tay was not the first artificial intelligence application we released into the online social world. In China, our XiaoIce chatbot is being used by some 40 million people, delighting with its stories and conversations. The great experience with XiaoIce led us to wonder: Would an AI like this be just as captivating in a radically different cultural environment? Tay – a chatbot created for 18- to 24- year-olds in the U.S. for entertainment purposes – is our first attempt to answer this question.

As we developed Tay, we planned and implemented a lot of filtering and conducted extensive user studies with diverse user groups. We stress-tested Tay under a variety of conditions, specifically to make interacting with Tay a positive experience. Once we got comfortable with how Tay was interacting with users, we wanted to invite a broader group of people to engage with her. It’s through increased interaction where we expected to learn more and for the AI to get better and better.

The logical place for us to engage with a massive group of users was Twitter. Unfortunately, in the first 24 hours of coming online, a coordinated attack by a subset of people exploited a vulnerability in Tay. Although we had prepared for many types of abuses of the system, we had made a critical oversight for this specific attack. As a result, Tay tweeted wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images. We take full responsibility for not seeing this possibility ahead of time. We will take this lesson forward as well as those from our experiences in China, Japan and the U.S. Right now, we are hard at work addressing the specific vulnerability that was exposed by the attack on Tay.

Looking ahead, we face some difficult – and yet exciting – research challenges in AI design. AI systems feed off of both positive and negative interactions with people. In that sense, the challenges are just as much social as they are technical. We will do everything possible to limit technical exploits but also know we cannot fully predict all possible human interactive misuses without learning from mistakes. To do AI right, one needs to iterate with many people and often in public forums. We must enter each one with great caution and ultimately learn and improve, step by step, and to do this without offending people in the process. We will remain steadfast in our efforts to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an Internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity.

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