My colleague Stephen O'Connor (@stojr) and I sat at Microsoft IGNITE 2015 jammed in a room with some 23,000 people for the keynote address from Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO.

The main theme at the start of the keynote, before Mr. Nadella spoke, was the concept of "empowerment." Ideas are brought to life, ideas that empower people. IgniteKeynote_2015

Mr. Nadella noted that this is the very first "IGNITE" conference, which brings together all of "our IT communities." He said IGNITE is about bringing together people for business transformation. In the last 12 months, Mr. Nadella said, Microsoft has undergone significant change, with an amazing opportunity for the company in terms of driving product innovation. Microsoft is fundamentally changing what it builds, how it partners, and how it creates flexibility to meet the needs of customers. Mr. Nadella, continued by stating that Microsoft's mission is to "empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more." Bringing people and organizations together is key, as is empowering IT professionals.

Microsoft is "mobile first" and "cloud first."  That was a big theme for the day.  Mobile is enabled by cloud.  Cloud first means that the cloud is the backend for all devices and data, adding intelligence to user experiences.  Every layer of the IT stack will be profoundly impacted. New applications will both generate data and consume data, and this will require the distributed cloud model.  Security, privacy, regulation, and data sovereignty will all matter.

According to Mr. Nadella, there are
 three key areas that Microsoft will focus on going forward:

  1. Create More Personal Computing – Enable mobility, natural interactions, and innovation
  2. Reinvent Productivity and Business Processes – Build for mobile, collaboration, and machine supported intelligence; focus on people-centric security and compliance
  3. Build the Intelligent Cloud – To enable enterprise mobility, unlock insights from data and transform the data center.

The keynote also included presentations by Corporate Vice President Operating Systems Group Joe Belfiore and Corporate Vice President Office Lync & Speech Group Gurdeep Singh Pall.  Mr. Belfiore focused on Windows10, which is scheduled to be released soon.  Key features of Windows10 include:

  • Responsive Design – it works the same no matter the platform (interesting that they demonstrated quite a few times on iPhones and iPads)
  • “Universal” Applications – their approach to make responsive design work
  • Encryption within the User Experience – the ability to encrypt files so they can be visible (including content) within the organization but not outside (and even within the organization they can be secured to specific people and groups). He gave a great demonstration of this by copying content from an encrypted file and he was able to paste into his work email account in Outlook on an iPhone, but the paste function was not available in the same application when he switched to his personal account. He also demonstrated visual face-recognition login.

I also attended sessions on the Evolution of SharePoint, Information Architecture Planning for O365, as well as an afternoon keynote on Innovation at Microsoft and the future.  All very interesting.

Other significant announcements on Day 1 include:

  • The Microsoft Delve feature will be mapped into a SharePoint 2013 patch later this year (showing that commitment to on-premise).
  • SharePoint 2016 will be in beta later this year, and released in 2016.
  • A product called “Sway” will be incorporated into the Office experience.
  • Delve will be an integral part of SharePoint, with new blogging and “About Me” features that drive connectedness.
  • Microsoft will release a series of “Next-Gen” portals, building on the video portal.
  • OneDrive for Business will be vastly improved.
  • Encryption will be included in the entire Microsoft stack, including within SharePoint.
  • Monthly O365 updates will continue, while On-Premise will be slower.
  • Microsoft will enable zero downtime patching in the future.

Machine Learning is a big thing as well, and it is powered by Office Graph and Delve. Microsoft will make this work across on-premise and cloud platforms (hybrid approach), as well as a single index search function across the hybrid model. That’s a big win.

That’s it for day one. Stay tuned for more to come. What are your thoughts on what’s been presented so far?