What We Can Expect From the Ignite 2022 Keynote
Don't be surprised if Microsoft spends a good amount of time on its Flight Simulator. Yes, you heard that right.
Next week Microsoft will deliver its first in-person Ignite event since 2019. I am scheduled to do a series of underwater spacewalks that week, so unfortunately I won't be at the event. Even so, I wanted to talk about what we might expect from the Ignite keynote.
Some aspects of the Ignite keynote are absolutely predictable based on the format that Microsoft has adhered to in past years. For example, we will no doubt hear several case studies involving ways that Microsoft is helping insanely large companies to do amazing things. There are also sure to be some product announcements made during the keynote.
All of that is good and well, but the thing that I find to be a lot more interesting is that the Ignite keynote has historically given attendees a feel for Microsoft's current priorities and where it sees the industry heading over the next year. I have not yet seen a pre-release transcript of the Ignite keynote, nor have I looked at the book of announcements that is usually published just prior to an Ignite event. Even so, there are a few things that I am expecting Microsoft to discuss.
One of the biggest things that I am expecting Microsoft to talk about is Loop. For those who are not familiar with Loop, it is a new collaborative technology in which document elements such as paragraphs, lists and that sort of thing can be made collaborative. If for example, such an element were added to a Word document, anyone who has access to that element (not the Word document, but rather the Loop content within it) could make changes to that content using their tool of choice. The next time that the document is open, it would automatically display the updated Loop data.
Even though Loop has been slow to gain traction, it is sure to be a complete game changer for Microsoft 365 - especially when third-party application vendors begin to Loop-enable their content. Given the investment that Microsoft has made in Loop and the potential that Loop has for improving document consistency while also simplifying collaboration I would be shocked if Microsoft did not discuss Loop during the Ignite keynote.
I am also expecting Microsoft to dedicate at least a small portion of the keynote to talking about Flight Simulator. A couple of years ago, Microsoft released Flight Simulator 2020. In doing so, Microsoft had created a multi-petabyte model of the entire world that could be rendered photo realistically within the game. Being that this year marks Microsoft Flight Simulator's 40th anniversary, the company has created a special 40th Anniversary Edition. Microsoft has introduced several new aircraft, some city enhancements and other visual improvements.
It may seem odd to suggest that Flight Simulator will be a topic of discussion at Ignite being that the Ignite conference has historically focused on enterprise computing, not gaming. Even so, there are a couple of things that make me think that it will be a topic of conversation (besides the fact that Microsoft has mentioned it in at least one past Ignite keynote).
First, Flight Simulator is the Microsoft product with the longest longevity. Fourty years is a long time to keep any software product going, and so I think that Microsoft is sure to mention this accomplishment.
More importantly, the 40th anniversary update to Microsoft Flight Simulator offers some truly incredible visuals, all of which are rendered in Azure in real time. It seems almost certain that Microsoft will make the point that if Azure is capable of rendering those types of graphics in real time for thousands of concurrent gaming sessions, it can handle even the most demanding business workloads.
There is one more thing that I halfway expect Microsoft to announce, although I'm not sure if it is actually a prediction or just wishful thinking on my part. By creating the 40th Anniversary Edition of Microsoft Flight simulator, the company has created a beautifully detailed 3D world. In doing so, Microsoft did not just model buildings, clouds and airplanes. The latest edition of Flight Simulator models other things as well including ocean waves, road traffic, humans and animals (the trailer shows all of these). Being that Microsoft has put so much work into modeling the entire world, I can't imagine that the company intends to use the model solely for Flight Simulator. After all, can there really be enough virtual pilots in the world to justify all of the resources being consumed in Azure and the huge development effort?
My guess is that Microsoft will eventually announce an API that allows other applications to take advantage of the virtual world that Microsoft has created for Flight Simulator. Having access to such a rich virtual world would not only be useful to game developers -- the data could be put to work for metaverse applications, and even for business applications that involve digital twins. For example, I once saw a demonstration in which a company had 3D modeled a shipping port as a way of making it easier to see where congestion was occurring and to iron out inefficiencies. Such an application could surely make use of a detailed 3D model of the world.
Besides Microsoft Loop and Flight Simulator, there are plenty of other things that I expect Microsoft to discuss during the Ignite keynote. Security will undoubtedly be a big topic, especially as it pertains to Microsoft Defender and to Windows 11. I am also expecting Microsoft to discuss what they are doing with machine learning to improve both security and business processes.
Brien Posey is a 21-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.