Microsoft Announces Office 2016 Public Preview, Windows Update For Business, Bevy Of New Windows 10 And Azure Features

Microsoft pulled the curtain back further on its Mobile First, Cloud First strategy Monday before 23,000 Microsoft Ignite attendees in Chicago, unleashing new productivity and security features in Windows 10, the public preview of Office 2016 and a new Azure Stack.

"Mobility is not a single device," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. "It's the mobility of the experience across multiple devices. And it only happens because the cloud enables it. And when we talk about the cloud first, it is the cloud that is the back end for all of your devices, all of your applications and all of your data, adding intelligence to your experience."

Fresh on the heels of last week's Microsoft Build conference, Nadella reminded IT professionals that as IT dollars flow to a growing number of different budgets in a corporation and more hardware tasks head to the cloud, IT administrators were more relevant than ever when it comes to navigating a new business productivity landscape that includes mobile, cloud and a growing number of security challenges.

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"We need to enable users to choose their devices, but we need to ensure the security and management of those experiences," Nadella said. "We want to enable our business unit to choose their SaaS application of choice, but, yet, we need to have the compliance, security and efficiencies. And with these challenges is the opportunity within IT."

With that, and with rapper Common providing live entertainment between speakers, Microsoft announced a number of key pieces to its strategy, tying together Microsoft's ecosystem that stretches across mobile device solutions, 2-in-1 PCs, desktops, Cortana voice assistant, security and, finally, its Azure cloud platform.

During the keynote, Microsoft announced Windows Update for Business, a free, new management option for Windows 10 Pro and enterprise users that updates systems faster, delivering updates and critical fixes to systems on an ongoing basis -- not just the second Tuesday of every month.

Office 2016 also became available for public preview with demonstrations on stage of realtime co-authoring of Office desktop applications and new bells and whistles inside Outlook that allow users to more easily share attachments in a secure cloud.

Microsoft announced a new Advance Threat Analytics technology to be integrated in Windows 10, based on its recent acquisition of Aorato, that uses behavioral analysis and machine learning to fend off security breaches and threats. During the keynote demo, Microsoft showed how the service, using Active Directory, was able to identify rogue users on a corporate network, based on geography and behavior, and block access to secure documents.

"We need to move from delivering IT innovation in our organization, to driving innovation and transformation in our organization," Nadella said. "That's the key to this conference. We want to be the mobility and platform company in a Mobile First, Cloud First world. We want to deliver that platform, productivity and business processes services that you, in turn, can use to achieve your business transformation. That is the core of our strategy.’

Nadella said Microsoft was focused on three interlocking ambitions as part of its strategy. Drivers included heralding in an era of more personal computing; reinventing the "nature" of work with productivity and business processes coming together; and building the intelligent cloud back end for the world's applications.

"These are the three big technology agendas and the big ambitions as a company we have," Nadella said. "They all interlock to create that one platform for you to be able to transform your business."

Microsoft also introduced Microsoft Azure Stack, which it said allows organizations to bring to the customer's database. With Azure Stack, IT administrators can merge enterprise applications with modern, distributed applications and services while maintaining centralized oversight, Microsoft explained.