5 Major Microsoft Moves This Week

Eye On Microsoft

It was a nonstop week in Redmond, Wash., as Microsoft unveiled an array of upcoming updates to some of its signature offerings, including Windows 10 and the Azure cloud platform. The company also made an announcement on the hardware side, with a disclosure that an update to the Surface Hub collaboration display is in the works. In addition, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 10 S will be positioned as a "mode" of the operating system going forward. What follows are the key details on Microsoft's five major moves this week.

Surface Hub V2

Initially made commercially available in early 2016, the Surface Hub is an interactive conferencing and white-boarding display that runs Windows 10 and comes in 55- and 84-inch sizes. Microsoft said this week that it's "thrilled with the strong momentum we have seen across the globe" for Surface Hub—though the collaboration-focused product hasn't had a major refresh since its debut (the device, for instance, is powered by fourth-generation Intel Core processors while Intel is now on the eighth generation). Microsoft is now signaling to customers and partners that an update is on its way for the Surface Hub, however. "We’re working on V2 and will share more in the first half of this year," Microsoft said in a statement.

Windows 10 AI Platform

Microsoft revealed a broadened push into artificial intelligence this week with the news that the next major Windows 10 update will support a new AI platform for developers. The AI platform will enable developers to use "pre-trained" machine-learning models in Windows apps, offering benefits such as low-latency data analysis, reduced operational costs (thanks in part to using training models in Azure) and flexibility to perform AI tasks on a device or in the cloud.

On a related note, a test build for the next major Windows 10 update that was released this week indicates that the new version will be known as the "Windows 10 Spring Creators Update"—the third time that Microsoft has opted to use the phrase "Creators Update" for naming Windows 10 versions.

Windows 10 S Mode

While launching Windows 10 S last May, Microsoft promoted it as a simplified new edition of Windows 10 tailored to the needs of education (aka, Microsoft's answer to Google's Chrome OS). The big difference with Windows 10 S—which has come on devices such as the Surface Laptop—is that it only runs apps that are downloadable from the Windows Store, and thus verified for security. Now, though, Microsoft is confirming reports that Windows 10 S is not, in fact, a stand-alone edition of Windows 10. In reality, 10 S is a "mode" of Windows 10 (switching to Windows 10 Pro has always been an option for 10 S).

Microsoft has "heard feedback that the naming was a bit confusing for both customers and partners," said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft corporate vice president for Windows, in a blog post. "Based on that feedback, we are simplifying the experience for our customers." With the next major update to Windows 10, commercial customers will be able to deploy Windows 10 Enterprise with the S mode enabled, while consumers will be able to buy a PC running either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro with S mode enabled, Belfiore said.

Azure Stack For Government

Microsoft revealed a new initiative to win government business this week with an upgrade to its Azure Stack on-premises solution, which meets compliance standards for sensitive federal workloads. Microsoft also said new data centers are being constructed in secret locations and a Microsoft 365 release hosted in such secured facilities. At the Microsoft Government Tech Summit in Washington, D.C., Microsoft told partners it's taking the next steps in meeting the mission-critical needs of U.S. government customers. The Azure Stack upgrade that's planned to hit the market later this year will integrate Microsoft's on-premises solution for facilitating hybrid cloud architectures with Azure Government, an environment tailored to meet federal security and management requirements, Tom Keane, Azure's head of global infrastructure, said in a blog post.

Azure App Migration

Microsoft unveiled several investments this week aimed at enticing more customers to migrate SQL Server and open-source applications to Azure. The company said that the SQL Database Managed Instance is now available for public preview, making it easier to move SQL Server applications to Azure without making application changes. Microsoft's Azure Hybrid Benefit will now also support SQL Server—so that customers can move on-premises SQL Server licenses with active Software Assurance to Managed Instance—while the Azure Database Migration Service is expanding to support the Database Managed Instance solution. In addition, Azure now offers built-in support for Apache Tomcat and OpenJDK, and Azure Database for MySQL and PostgreSQL will be generally available in the next few weeks, Microsoft said.