A few members of our service team spent last week at Microsoft Ignite, the annual conference for IT admins, engineers, computer scientists and other technical folks. Most every Microsoft conference includes major product announcements, and Ignite 2017 was no exception.
Most focused on the tech side (hello, quantum computing), but there were also some product announcements that will likely affect the day to day of every employee – not just IT admins.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Office 2019 is coming
Microsoft announced the next version of the Office suite: Office 2019. No release date has been announced yet, but it will likely be released sometime in the latter half of 2018. Based on their announcement, Office 2019 is geared more towards businesses who still need on-premise licensing, but want more capabilities than they have now (especially for IT admins).
Office 365 users will still have access to the latest and greatest features as they come out (in fact, some of the features mentioned in the 2019 announcement are already available in Office 365).
What it means for you: If your business isn’t ready for the cloud quite yet, this update is for you. It includes new features in programs like Excel and PowerPoint to make working with and presenting data easier. It also includes new management capabilities, making it easier for IT admins to control your environment.
2. New Microsoft 365 Plans and Features
Microsoft announced several new Microsoft 365 plans for employees and industries that didn’t quite fit in the Business and Enterprise plans:
- Field – This plan is for field workers or workers who don’t have a dedicated computer, but still need access to email and Office programs. In Office 365, field licenses were previously called kiosk licenses – these work the same way.
- Education – Two plans were introduced for Education. These are geared towards student use and will include Minecraft for Education.
- Non-profit – A nonprofit plan was announced, however, not too much is known about it yet. We’re not sure if this will be its own plan or non-profit pricing for existing plans.
Along with the new plans, Microsoft announced some new features that will be added to Microsoft 365, like Windows Autopilot (for configuring new devices), co-management, and usage analytics.
What it means for you: It’s getting easier to move your company to Microsoft 365. Many businesses are already using the different components of Microsoft 365 (Office 365, Windows 10, Enterprise Mobility + Security), so combining them under one license is a logical step. But, so far, that’s been limited to only three license options, which don’t fit the needs of many organizations.
The new options mean Microsoft 365 works for more businesses and schools. Given how many Office 365 options there are, we suspect Microsoft is just getting started with new Microsoft 365 plans.
3. Teams will replace Skype for Business in Office 365
This one wasn’t a huge surprise for us. Microsoft will eventually phase out Skype for Business and replace it Microsoft Teams in Office 365. Teams already has the chat functionality of Skype for Business, and over the next few months, it’ll start getting the voice and video features, including dialing into meetings and PSTN calling.
What it means for you: If you’re using Skype for Business in Office 365 for instant messaging and/or calling, you’ll need to make the transition to Teams. Microsoft will still be supporting Skye for Business for a while. If you’re using Skype for Business with an on-premise server, you don’t need to make the transition just yet – in fact, Microsoft is releasing a new Skype for Business server in late 2018.
4. Office 365 Security and Compliance Upgrades
Microsoft announced new features and upgrades to existing Office 365 security features and add-ons to help businesses continue to defend against cybersecurity threats. Highlights include:
- Advanced Threat Protection is expanding to new programs (SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and Teams) with enhanced capabilities.
- Office 365 Threat Intelligence is growing with new features like Attack Simulator (which lets you simulate an attack in your own environment) and Threat Explorer (reports showing risky and potentially suspicious behavior in your environment).
- Compliance features are getting upgrades and new additions, including Compliance Manager – a dashboard to help you see and manage your compliance needs. Microsoft has almost made improvements to encryption and rights management.
The announcements above are only the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft made dozens of announcements about upgrades to existing products, new products, and other projects they’re working on as a company. Here some of the other announcements made last week (in no particular order):
- SharePoint and OneDrive Upgrades: Microsoft announced dozens of upgrades and changes to SharePoint and OneDrive to make the services more user-friendly.
- SharePoint Migration Tool: Migrating from SharePoint On-Premise or OneDrive to SharePoint online is going to get a lot easier.
- New devices for Windows 10 S: New laptops, geared towards frontline workers, with Windows 10 S will be released over the next few months. Prices for these start at $275 each.
- AI-driven digital transformation: Microsoft has gone all in on artificial intelligence – the easiest place to see that is the updates they announced to services like Azure Machine Learning and Microsoft Cognitive Services.
- New SQL Server: SQL Server 2017 is now available and will run on Linux as well as Windows.
- Quantum Computing: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spent some of his keynote talking about the future of computing – specifically quantum computing and the research Microsoft is doing to make it a reality.