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Microsoft Ignite 2023 Highlights: Transforming Business with Azure Innovations, Microsoft 365 Upgrades, and Breakthroughs in Teams and Copilot AI

At the recent Microsoft Ignite event, Microsoft unveiled a series of innovations aimed at enhancing productivity for business owners. Let’s look at the major announcements about Azure cloud infrastructure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, and Copilot AI that are most relevant to your business operations.

Microsoft AI Hardware Innovations: Azure Cobalt and Maia

Microsoft is now building its own AI-focused chipsets called Azure Cobalt and Maia 100. Built in-house by Microsoft, the Azure Cobalt central processing unit (CPU) is designed for the hyperscale datacenter servers that power workloads in the Microsoft Cloud. Unlike the power-hungry Intel CPUs commonly used for this purpose, Azure Cobalt is built using the energy-efficient Arm processor architecture to achieve optimal performance per watt. Working in concert with the Azure Cobalt processor is the new Azure Maia 100 chip. This specialized hardware is made specifically to handle complex AI computations such as training large language models (LLMs) more efficiently. By integrating these custom-built and energy-efficient Cobalt and Maia chips into the Azure cloud infrastructure, Microsoft plans on enabling businesses wanting to use AI with faster and more accurate results—delivered at a cheaper price.

New Features For Windows 365 Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktop

I recently wrote how the Microsoft Windows 365 Cloud PC represents the future of work and the new features announced at Ignite only reinforce my beliefs. Here are the key highlights:

The Windows App Delivers a Better Device Experience

The introduction of the new Windows App represents an interesting evolution around how business IT leaders will think about the venerable Microsoft Windows operating system. This app, currently in preview and available on the Microsoft Store and Apple’s TestFlight program for iOS and macOS devices, is designed to simplify the management of connected devices and applications, including Windows 365, Azure Virtual Desktop, and Remote Desktop. The cross-platform Windows App has the potential to become the new standard in Windows deployments to employees. Rather than an IT leader managing a variety of devices—some with the Windows OS preinstalled, some using virtual desktops, and all having multiple methods of management—the Windows App will deliver the Windows experience to every device. When it becomes mainstream, the Windows App could usher in a whole new level of IT efficiency for businesses.

Accelerated GPU Support in Windows 365

The addition of GPU support to Windows 365 Cloud PC, now in preview, is a response to the growing demand for high-performance computing. This feature is particularly crucial for professionals in fields such as graphic design and video editing, where GPU-accelerated workloads are the norm. It’s a wise acknowledgment by Microsoft of the evolving needs of their user base.

Enhancing Security and Productivity

During Microsoft Ignite 2023, the company unveiled several additional security focused and productivity enhancing features for Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop:

  • Customer Lockbox: This feature gives users control over data access, an essential aspect of data security.
  • Customer Managed Keys: By allowing users to manage their encryption keys, Microsoft adds an extra layer of security.
  • MSIX app attach: A compressed file format used to distribute and install Windows 10+ apps, MSIX support for Cloud PC and AVD simplifies app deployment, a nod to the importance of streamlined management.
  • Single-sign-on (SSO): This cybersecurity must-have feature enhances user convenience without compromising security.
  • Watermarking: An additional tool for compliance and security.

When viewed in total, these enhancements to Windows 365 Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktop are designed with a clear vision of what users need and where technology is headed.

Microsoft Teams Now Faster and More Efficient

Microsoft Teams, a cornerstone of modern business communication and collaboration, has undergone significant improvements. During Ignite 2023 Microsoft touted how the new Teams is up to two times faster and uses 50% fewer resources. This enhancement not only makes Teams more efficient but also more sustainable, reducing its carbon footprint. The streamlined user experience in Teams means fewer clicks to get more done, facilitating smoother and more efficient collaboration among team members.

Mesh for Microsoft Teams: Revolutionizing Remote Collaboration?

Mesh for Microsoft Teams, scheduled for general availability in January 2024, gives businesses the option to add augmented reality spaces to Microsoft Teams. It allows users to engage in regular 2D meetings and new 3D-generated immersive spaces. Mesh enables organizers to generate custom spaces for specific needs such as employee events, training, or product showcases with just a few text prompts. Along with features like spatial audio and custom avatars that mimic user movements, Mesh for Microsoft Teams could transform how employees across remote and hybrid work environments connect and collaborate. However, mainstream business adoption of these Mesh features will likely depend on how much an organization values creating these virtual immerse spaces for employees—and how much it will cost to do so.

Microsoft Copilot: The AI Game-Changer for Business Efficiency

It might sound like hyperbole, but Microsoft Copilot is poised to fundamentally alter how people interact with technology in the workplace. As shown during Microsoft Ignite 2023, the Copilot AI assistant experience will understand the “context” of whether you’re on the web browser at a hotel business center kiosk, on your mobile device in an airport, or at your desk in the office. Copilot for Microsoft 365, now generally available, can access information across the Microsoft Graph, providing contextual assistance in applications such as Teams, Outlook, and Excel.

A key feature of Copilot for Microsoft 365 is the ability to “reason” across the entirety of the Microsoft Graph, accessing information in your emails, calendar, meetings, chats, and documents to answer questions and complete tasks. This integration means that Copilot can provide contextual assistance, enhancing productivity and decision-making.

Microsoft wants businesses to extend the Copilot AI experience beyond just Microsoft 365 apps and the web browser. To accomplish this, Microsoft is releasing the Copilot Studio tool for businesses to build custom GPTs, create new plugins, and orchestrate workflows. Copilot Studio comes with prebuilt plugins for integrating business data from applications such as SAP, Workday, and ServiceNow. This tool enables businesses to tailor Copilot to their specific needs, workflows, and security requirements.

Bing Chat Transforms into Copilot

Bing Chat for Enterprise will be rebranded using the Copilot name. Microsoft promises the rebranded Copilot will continue to function as a standalone AI assistant that works across various platforms. Copilot will appear in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari web browsers today, and soon, in mobile apps as well. The enterprise version of Copilot includes commercial data protection, making it a secure and efficient tool for business owners.

Get Ready for an AI-Powered Future

The announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2023 were exciting for anyone with even a passing knowledge about Microsoft 365 and Azure cloud’s capabilities today, because they represent a significant step forward in empowering business owners with new technologies. The advancements in Microsoft Teams, the introduction of Copilot AI, and the exploration of AI with mixed reality are not just technological; they are transformative in that they could potentially redefine how businesses operate and collaborate.

However, these new Microsoft advancements won’t magically integrate into your business processes overnight. Blue Mantis has a dedicated team of trusted and certified Microsoft experts to help assess your IT environment and advise you on how to modernize with Copilot AI, Windows 365, and other future-proof Microsoft solutions. Contact us to learn how to get started today.

Josh Morganthall headshot.

Josh Morganthall

Blue Mantis’ Microsoft Practice Manager Josh Morganthall has nearly a decade of hands-on experience architecting, deploying, and administering Microsoft Windows, Active Directory, and Azure cloud infrastructure for SMBs and enterprises. Josh attended the University of South Alabama and holds almost a dozen current IT industry certifications specializing in the cloud and virtualization. Connect with Josh on LinkedIn.