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Satya Nadella’s 5 Biggest Statements At Microsoft Ignite Fall 2021

The Microsoft CEO highlighted new innovations and opportunities across AI, security, Teams collaboration and the metaverse during remarks at the virtual Ignite conference.

Microsoft sees the urgency for bringing improvements to security and collaboration capabilities—as well as new opportunities for using the metaverse in a business—and is responding with a number of breakthrough technologies, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Tuesday.

Speaking at the company’s virtual Ignite conference for the fall 2021, Nadella pointed to new innovations being announced at the show as well as other strides Microsoft is taking to better equip customers in an age of rapid digital transformation and widespread hybrid work.

[Related: 10 Microsoft Teams Updates Unveiled At Ignite Fall 2021]

“The Microsoft cloud offers the best integration across the entirety of the tech stack while offering openness at every layer,” Nadella said during the prerecorded remarks. “This is so important. The Microsoft cloud helps orchestrate all of your heterogeneous digital investments across every layer of the tech stack.”

At Ignite, Microsoft is unveiling more than 90 new services and updates, Nadella said. Key areas addressed by Nadella during the remarks include AI, security, identity, Teams collaboration and the metaverse.

What follows are Nadella’s five biggest statements at Microsoft Ignite fall 2021.

AI

Underlying every major tech trend of the moment is artificial intelligence—and specifically, “how large-scale AI models are becoming platforms in their own right” and creating “ambient intelligence all around us,” Nadella said.

“This means that we are taking the AI breakthroughs and translating them into platforms for you to build upon—whether it’s deploying intelligent agents to speed up customer service, or extracting insights from volumes of unstructured data,” he said.

Microsoft will continue to take “incredible breakthroughs” in AI and “turn them into new capabilities for our customers—whether it’s speech transcription, speech translation in PowerPoint, or now [the] 100+ languages and dialects we support in Microsoft Translator,” Nadella said.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced updates to its Azure Cognitive Services suite, including invitation-only access to OpenAI’s GPT-3 models for security, compliance and other enterprise capabilities on Azure. The new Azure OpenAI Service “brings together the power of GPT-3 with the enterprise capabilities of Azure,” Nadella said during his remarks Tuesday.

Security

For businesses in 2021, the “need to protect everything with end-to-end security” is paramount, Nadella said.

“Cybersecurity is the biggest threat to digital transformation today. And it’s the No. 1 risk facing every business going forward,” he said. “If you think about the amount of change during the pandemic that our IT and cyber operations had to go through—as every business process became remote—this complexity will only increase.”

Cybercrime is a massive and fast-growing threat, and thus “every organization needs comprehensive tools across identity, security, compliance, privacy, as well as management. And they need a cross-platform, multi-cloud, zero trust architecture,” Nadella said.

One focus area for Microsoft at Ignite will be on highlighting “how we’re building end-to-end solutions that span all clouds and all platforms—including for small and medium-sized businesses, with the new Defender for Business,” he said.

Microsoft Defender for Business offers “next-generation” protection to SMBs including through endpoint detection and response capabilities as well as threat and vulnerability management, Microsoft said in a blog post Tuesday. The solution also offers a simplified approach for setup and management, the company said in the post. Microsoft Defender for Business enters public preview “later this month” and is aimed at SMBs with 300 or fewer employees, according to the post.

Identity

One area of security that is changing dramatically is “how the entire identity ecosystem is evolving to create a complete new trust fabric that spans organizational boundaries,” Nadella said.

“In the physical world, identity has always been critical to establishing trust and driving commerce. In the digital world, this is even more important,” he said. “In our interconnected world, we don’t just collaborate digitally within our own organization, but with our customers, partners, suppliers. All of the trends I’ve talked about today so far—whether it’s the hybrid work, hyperconnected business, multi-cloud, multi-edge computing, or zero trust security—requires a boundaryless digital ecosystem, where trust between different parties needs to be established in real time.”

Ultimately, Microsoft is “building the identity system of the future—a connective network that enables people, organizations, apps, and even smart things to make real-time access decisions,” Nadella said.

The identity system starts with the Azure Active directory authentication solution, “which now extends beyond securing and managing access, to also defining customer journeys and business collaboration with anyone,” he said.

Teams Collaboration

One solution that is leveraging Microsoft’s efforts in enhanced identity security is Microsoft Teams Connect, which enables shared channels that could be useful for communicating with external parties such as customers, partners and suppliers. The shared workspace offers standard Teams capabilities such as chat, meetings and collaboration on apps—as well as the ability to collaborate jointly on documents in real time.

Microsoft’s “trust fabric” is “what makes experiences like Teams Connect possible today,” Nadella said. “With Teams Connect, powered by our identity platform, you can establish seamless, secure and trusted collaboration across organizational boundaries in a matter of minutes.”

Using the Teams Connect capability, individuals across companies “can easily collaborate as one extended team—chatting, collaborating on files, scheduling meetings with the right access necessary to do their work,” he said.

This is a “critical” capability for activities such as customer service swarming, “where you have to bring together people across the company and beyond to resolve a ticket,” Nadella said. “Or take supply chain, which is perhaps the most topical thing for any business today … A manufacturer can use Teams to work across all their partners and suppliers to mitigate a supply chain disruption--by collaborating before, during and after a meeting.”

Metaverse

“As the digital and physical worlds come together, we are creating an entirely new platform layer, which is the metaverse,” Nadella said. “We’re bringing people, places and things together with the digital world, in both the consumer space as well as in the enterprise.”

For instance, the newly announced Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces “provides a new perspective on the way people move and interact in physical spaces—whether it’s a retail store or a factory, or even how organizations manage health and safety in a hybrid work environment,” he said. “You can do analytics, you can get real-time insights, you can run simulations, you can automate routine tasks. And when we talk about the metaverse, we are describing both a new platform and a new application type--similar to how we talked about the web and websites in the early ‘90s.”

Across the Microsoft cloud, “from Azure IoT, to Azure Digital Twins, to Connected Spaces and Microsoft Mesh, we are building ... the metaverse platform for you to build upon,” Nadella said. “In a sense, the metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world, and to embed the real world into computing, bringing real presence to any digital space. For years, we’ve talked about creating this digital representation of the world. But now we actually have the opportunity to go into that world and participate in it.”

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