Archive for Microsoft

Microsoft Infuses Products with Machine Learning and the Social Graph

Micsoroft plus LinkedIn Social Graph

This article was recently published on Amalgam Insights.

 

This past week (September 25 – 27, 2017) Microsoft held it’s Ignite and Envision Conferences. The co-conferences encompass both technology (Ignite) and the business of technology (Envision). Microsoft’s announcements reflected that duality with esoteric technology subjects such as mixed reality and quantum computing on equal footing with digital transformation, a mainstay of modern business transformation projects. There were two announcements that, in my opinion, will have the most impact in the short-term because they were more foundational.

The first announcement was that machine learning was being integrated into every Microsoft productivity and business product. Most large software companies are adding machine learning to their platforms but no company has Microsoft’s reach into modern businesses. Like IBM, SAP and Oracle, Microsoft can embed machine learning in business applications such as CRM. Microsoft can also integrate machine learning into productivity applications as can Google. IBM can do both but IBM’s office applications aren’t close to having the market penetration of Microsoft Office 365. Microsoft has the opportunity to embed machine learning everywhere in a business, a capability that none of their competitors have.

For the average knowledge or office worker, having machine learning embedded in the applications that they use every day means help doing their normal daily tasks. Machine learning in of itself is useful for analysis or automation. The real power of machine learning will be most evident when it is available to help with everyday tasks such as scheduling, analyzing data in spreadsheets, managing customers, developing financial projections, enhanced search capabilities, and creating impactful presentations. For corporate workers, this is the type of AI technology that helps them to do their jobs better, making them more valuable rather than obsolete.

The second was the integration of Microsoft 365, Microsoft’s social graph platform, with LinkedIn and Dynamics social graphs. Since Microsoft purchased LinkedIn, the big question has been “how will they leverage it?” The answer is finally here. By combining the Microsoft 365 (contacts internal to the company) and Dynamics (contacts external to the company) social graphs with the personal connections of employees, Microsoft products will help to surface and leverage useful relationships no matter what they are. There are some obvious advantages. First, it means being able to connect the right group of people together to accomplish something no matter how they are linked. By breaking down the walls between the personal, internal, and external relationships, Microsoft will allow knowledge workers to find and foster essential connections that are at the heart of business. The most obvious beneficiaries will be sales and marketing by surfacing paths to and intelligence about people that they need to do business with. Social graphs also represent rich data that can be mined for a variety of other purposes. Since the Microsoft 365 is extensible, other information about people, relationships, and location can be added to the extended social graph. This will create a rich pool of information that can be mined for a variety of purposes. Applications include finding and managing vendors and partners, recruiting new personnel from internal and external pools, identifying better ways to communicate, and seeking out M&A targets.

Microsoft’s announcements are, aside from the quantum computing announcement, more incremental but in a good way. They are taking highly hyped but useful technology and making it relevant to the masses. Both machine learning and social graphs will no longer be primarily the realm of specialized applications. Instead, through inclusion in Microsoft’s most ubiquitous apps especially Office 365, they have the potential to become part of the fabric of everyday work life.

Why is The Internet Losing Their Minds Over MS Paint

A picture of the sadness that is MS Paint.

Yesterday, July 24, 2017, Microsoft announced that it would be deprecating MS Paint for the Fall Creators Release of Windows 10. Immediately the Internet went crazy with grief. There were even petitions! The reaction to the rather nonchalant announcement that MS Paint would no longer be part of Windows was so strong that Microsoft had to announce today that Paint wasn’t going away at all. Instead, MS Paint would still be available from the Windows Store, though it would no longer ship with Windows 10.

Why?!

MS Paint has been around over 30 years. That’s four centuries in computer time. It hasn’t changed much in that time and is, let’s be honest, a pretty feeble program by modern standards. This is like weeping for the demise of the Ford Model T.

There are so many other simple drawing applications out there I can’t even count them all. Paint.net is better. GIMP is a hundred times better, free, and runs on everything shy of an MVS mainframe. Ask you grandpas about that one kiddies. Microsoft has also recently released an updated version called, unimaginatively, Paint 3D.

So why all the Sturm und Drang and gnashing of teeth? Nostalgia. That’s the only viable explanation. What else could it be? It’s like retro computing. No one really yearns for the days of DOS commands or thinks that a 25 year old Mac is better than a modern one. Yet, hobbyists fill their basements with ancient computers. MS Paint was, for many, the first graphics program they ever used, perhaps even one of the first programs they used. It’s not about the utility of a 30 year old piece of software; it’s about retaining a small piece of youth.

Give it up campers. If you want to regain the wonder of youth, listen to U2 or get a NES Classic. Crying for MS Paint is like trying to fit into that concert t-shirt from freshman year in college – a guarantee of embarrassment and sadness.

It might have helped if Paint 3D wasn’t, in of itself, kind of boring. Even so, embrace the new. Besides Paint 3D, Microsoft has also made Fresh Paint available from the Windows Store. Those are just the Microsoft offerings. The Windows Store and Internet are overflowing with low-end graphics programs. Use one of those.

But please, stop whining over an application from the Reagan era that should have been put down long ago.