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05/10/2020

Microsoft Ignite 2020 – Event of the “New Normal”

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

- Charles Darwin

There is no doubt that we are living in interesting times. COVID-19 hit us throughout entire globe forcing people to stay home, wear masks and obey social distancing, shutting down gatherings, and making traveling a lot more difficult than it used to be. In the dawn of “new normal”, we have shifted our activities online, as much as we could. That what’s Ignite 2020 was about – from form through contents.

As I read the first words on their homepage:

“Our first-ever, all-digital Microsoft Ignite is over…”

The first thought crossing my mind is: what an incredible shift, bringing entire such an enormous event online! Starting from professional audio & video setup of each and every speaker, regardless they are in a studio or at home, through realization, streaming, the whole infrastructure for handling all those tons of flowing bytes.

For me, as an attendee, the undoubted advantage was that I did not need to cut a few days in my schedule out and fly across the Atlantic. The other – that there was no fee at all 😊. The time difference was somewhat annoying, but a lot of sessions were replayed several times at different times. Also, there were a few interactive sessions dedicated to certain regions (Americas, EMEA, APAC) in the most convenient time zone for the region. Every attendee could make their individual schedule out of available sessions, though some had limited capacity. An interesting feature was “digital backpack” –where you could gather materials from sessions (presentation links and other resources) at a click of a button and then download everything in the form of a Word document.

“New normal” was probably the most used term on Ignite 2020. Starting from “Building Digital Resilience” Satya Nadella’s (CEO) keynote, the main focus was on tools and services for helping businesses to continue and grow in these troubled times of social distancing. A remote (or hybrid) employee might have their laptop managed by a company’s IT while being outside the internal network. Or use Windows Virtual Desktop from any device (including HTML5-compatible web browser). If you happen to develop software, you could edit, build, and debug your code from anywhere and on any device with GitHub Codespaces. Debugging from Codespaces an IoT device connected to a local machine was particularly interesting!

Those who undergo the digital transformation might benefit from no-code / low code solutions like Power Apps, which would (at least in theory) let people with no programming knowledge create working applications, deploy, and store their solutions on GitHub (alongside professional code).  It could break the barrier for small businesses, institutions like schools and communities, who would no longer have to rely on software developers to automate simple workflows. The other two things worth mentioning are Microsoft’s investments into the domestication of ML/AI and IoT. Being able to use an ML algorithm in your app without necessarily doing your PhD first could make a difference!

I must admit that seeing all that, even with my marketing bias amber light on, was a pretty amazing experience. I’d imagine for a startup founder or a local entrepreneur with big ambitions, it would be like the possibility to stand on the shoulders of giants. Literally, being a “giant” Microsoft has the ability to bring big tech into small garages, and both parties would benefit from it. As we read in their mission statement:

… [it] is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

And that’s clearly the impression I have got during Ignite 2020. Will we see wide adoption of those things? Probably some of them. They need to go through the maturity process, no doubt, but I believe it will be significantly shorter than the way products such as Windows had to go.

Microsoft did an excellent job. Not counting a few small glitches with the session scheduler, I was able to participate without interruption on several different broadband and mobile connections, across multiple devices (both in a web browser and MS Teams). With all that, it leaves me with dozens of things to try out & play around and wait for the next event, either in “new normal” or even newer.

P.S. Here, you can explore a summary of Ignite 2020 and The Book of News.

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Bartłomiej Undak
A CSHARK's co-founder and board member. A technical architect. Keeping a pulse on projects and looking for new trends in companies technological advancement makes his days busy and exciting.
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