Nadella Embraces the Metaverse and Support for Remote Work in Ignite Talk

An Ignite keynote talk by Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, focused on the shift to "hybrid" remote work, the use of artificial intelligence and an emerging "metaverse" of digital experiences.

The talk is available on demand here.

The Metaverse
Microsoft defined a metaverse as "a digital space inhabited by digital representations of people and things" in this short video and in this announcement. It's also described as a sort of inhabitable Internet (via 3-D avatars instead of people).

Several products mentioned by Nadella touched on this theme, including Microsoft Mesh for Teams, Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces (previously called "Dynamics 365 Connected Store") and Azure Digital Twins representations of physical environments. Also, Microsoft introduced Loop components, pages and workspaces in Teams, which allow the sharing of "lists, tables, notes, tasks" that are synchronized and stay updated. A new Context IQ solution coming to Office 365, Teams and Dynamics 365 subscribers uses AI to offer predictions, as well as information and people-contact suggestions.

Microsoft Mesh, now coming to Teams, was highlighted during Microsoft's last Ignite event in March. It's an Azure service for building mixed-reality applications for multiple participants, and is associated with Microsoft's HoloLens 2 headsets, used for mixed-reality experiences.

Nadella asserted that every business will need to be "hyperconnected," using data and AI, to address the current hybrid work shift, which includes using metaverse-type technologies.

"Going forward, every business process will be collaborative, powered by data and AI, and will bridge the digital and physical worlds," Nadella said. He added that organizations will need to have multicloud capabilities and be able to tap network edge technologies.

Nadella's concluding statement about the metaverse suggested that it wouldn't turn into some inhuman digital world, perhaps reminiscent of "The Matrix" movie:

In a sense, the metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world and to embed the real world into computing, bringing real presence to any digital space. For years we've talked about creating this digital representation of the world. But now we actually have the opportunity to go in that world and participate in it. What's most important is that we are able to bring our humanity with us and choose how we want to experience this world and who we want to interact with.

Artificial Intelligence
A lot of the talk referenced AI. Microsoft's AI technologies are becoming platforms that developers can use, Nadella said, and creating "ambient intelligence," as well. Microsoft's use of AI via a supercomputer partnership with OpenAI also was touted.

"Five years ago here at Ignite, we shared with you the world's first AI supercomputer and today we have the most powerful AI supercomputer in the world," Nadella said.

Microsoft this week announced its new Azure OpenAI Service, currently available as a preview by invitation only. It uses Azure Cognitive Services and OpenAI's GPT-3 natural language model, trained on 175 billion parameters.

Microsoft is also working with Nvidia on the "Megatron Turing natural language generation model" that uses "530 billion parameters" to process natural language tasks. Another project is the Z Code multilingual model, which lets individual languages "learn from each other with much lower data requirements."

Such work will be used for products like Microsoft Translator and translation in PowerPoint, Nadella indicated.

Identity Systems and Teams Connect
Organizations will need to have trusted connections to meet the new hyperconnected world, Nadella asserted. Here's how he put it, alluding to an "identity system of the future" being built by Microsoft:

All of the trends I've talked about today so far, whether it's the hybrid work, hyperconnected business, multicloud, multiedge computing, or zero-trust security, requires a boundaryless digital ecosystem where trust between different parties needs to be established in real time. We're building the identity system of the future. A connective network that enables people organizations, apps, and even smart things to make real-time access decisions.

Of course, Microsoft already has Azure Active Directory as its cloud-based identity and access management solution. Nadella said that Azure AD "now extends beyond securing and managing access to also defining customer journeys, and business collaboration, with anyone."

That's also the concept behind Teams Connect, currently at the private preview stage. It lets organizations use Microsoft Teams with other organizations, bringing capabilities such as chat, as well as document sharing and real-time coauthoring, plus online meetings, via a "shared channel." Microsoft also has a similar Azure AD B2B collaboration service, but Teams Connect will be "a brand new way of working that should be very popular," according to a March Microsoft Tech Community comment by Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Tony Redmond.

Nadella highlighted ease of use with Teams Connect.

"With Teams Connect powered by our identity platform, you can establish seamless, secure and trusted collaboration across organizational boundaries in matter of minutes, instead of days or even weeks," Nadella said.

He suggested Teams Connect could be used to address supply-chain issues between organizations. Translations could occur when exchanging messages, he added.

Microsoft Predictions
Nadella offered some predictions for the next four years:

  • By 2025, sales and marketing processes will be more proactive than reactive.
  • In the next four years, "the percentage of industrial control systems that will include analytics and AI inference capabilities at the edge will increase by sixfold."
  • Cybercrime costs more than $6 trillion each year, but that figure is "expected to increase to 10 trillion by 2025."

More Ignite keynote comments from Nadella can be found in this LinkedIn article abstract.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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