10 Major Microsoft Products Unveiled This Fall

Redmond Reloaded

Microsoft was on something of a tear over the past few months, debuting new hardware and software at a quicker-than-normal pace. The Redmond, Wash.-based company was so busy this fall that you couldn't be faulted for missing some of the major news. But we can get you up to speed. In the following slides, the CRN Test Center has rounded up 10 recent announcements from Microsoft around Surface, Windows 10, Office 365, Azure and Windows Server.


Microsoft Teams is a "chat-based workspace" that's aimed at improving collaboration within organizations. Microsoft Teams will become part of Office 365 and will include integrations with other apps in the Office 365 suite. Group chat on Teams is both "persistent" -- it's saved so you can go back and review it later -- and also "threaded," meaning that different branches can be broken off from the main conversation to minimize confusion. Other features include the ability to create specific channels for certain topics, hold video meetings and use bots to supply information (such as details on co-workers).

Surface Studio

An all-in-one PC in the Surface line, the Surface Studio features a 28-inch touch display and is aimed at creative professionals. The most groundbreaking aspect is that the Surface Studio brings the ability to use a digital pen on a huge display. Adjusting the display all the way downward lets users work in a drawing board mode, and the display is designed to allow them to lean into it while working without doing any damage. In our tryout of the digital pen on the Surface Studio, the pen felt very natural to use and didn't suffer from any noticeable lag. The starting price of the Surface Studio is $3,000.

Surface Dial

A new scroll-wheel device, the Surface Dial will be built into Windows and can be used as a tool for navigating between tasks or different tools. The Dial can be utilized either off the screen or on top of the screen for additional functionality. In our tryout of the Surface Dial, it worked well for simple tasks like turning up the volume on the Surface Studio or zooming in on a webpage. The larger intent, though, is for Surface Dial to make creative work such as design and illustration easier to accomplish on Surface devices. The Surface Dial is priced at $100.

Surface Book i7

An updated version of the Surface Book -- dubbed Surface Book i7 (or "Surface Book with Performance Base" on the specs page) -- upgrades the laptop to a sixth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and expands battery life by 30 percent, to up to 16 hours on a charge. The Surface Book i7 also gets a stand-alone graphics processor, the GeForce GTX 965M, from GPU vendor Nvidia, and can include up to 1TB of storage. The starting price of the Surface Book i7 is $2,399.

Windows 10 Creators Update

Microsoft said the next major update to Windows 10 – called the Creators Update, slated for early 2017 – will make it easier to capture and manipulate 3D objects, including with the debut of a new version of Paint, dubbed Paint 3D. The Creators Update will also enable mixed-reality experiences by working in tandem with new VR headsets from HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer and Asus. Meanwhile, the Windows 10 Creators Update will include a new feature called MyPeople, which will let users pin top contacts to the Windows task bar, and then share content with those contacts using drag and drop.

Artificial Intelligence

In a series of announcements, Microsoft made clear this fall that it's bringing artificial intelligence to more of its product ecosystem. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced it's working with NVIDIA to upgrade the Microsoft AI platform Cognitive Toolkit so that it's more useful to enterprises. And in September, during Microsoft Ignite, the company revealed a new AI-powered feature in Word and Outlook, called Tap, which lets users more easily incorporate content from their organization’s documents into their emails and documents. Meanwhile, another new AI-based feature, called Quickstarter, will offer up curated outlines that PowerPoint users can leverage for their presentations.

Azure Bot Service

Also in the realm of artificial intelligence is Microsoft's "Cloud Bot-as-a-Service," the Azure Bot Service, which the company announced Tuesday. The service can be used for building and managing artificially intelligent bots--and those bots can be deployed in an organization’s apps and websites, or in existing services such as Slack, Facebook Messenger, Office 365 mail and Skype. The Azure Bot Service runs on Microsoft's serverless Azure Functions environment.

Security Enhancements

This fall, Microsoft announced a slew of security upgrades to its products, among them: Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection will now share intelligence with each other; Office 365 Threat Intelligence, an enhancement to Office 365 security, will provide alerts and data on where attacks are coming from; and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection will be extended to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

Windows Server 2016 With Docker Engine

As Microsoft made Windows Server 2016 available in October, the company said Server 2016 would include one previously undisclosed feature of note--the Commercially Supported Docker Engine, And, it would be included at no extra cost to users. "This makes it incredibly easy for developers and IT administrators to leverage container-based deployments using Windows Server 2016," said Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive vice president for cloud and enterprise, during Ignite 2016.

Azure Container Service Updates

Microsoft announced in November that the Azure Container Service, used for managing software containers in the cloud, is getting some improvements. The newly released Kubernetes 1.4, an open-source container orchestration tool, will now be supported by Azure Container Service, Microsoft said. And so will DC/OS 1.8.4, another open-source platform that includes container orchestration.