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My father, a chemical engineer, brought home our first computer, a Sinclair ZX81, which came out in 1981. We played games together and then later, we wrote games together.

Today, for many people around the world, gaming is the first entry point into technology, just like it was for me.

I believe in two fundamental truths about gaming:

First, gaming is for everyone. No one group “owns” gaming. Instead, whether you’re new to gaming or are a diehard e-sports fan, you are welcome to play and welcome to all the fun and skill-building that comes with gaming. In this way, when everyone can play, the entire world wins.

If you imagine gamers as predominantly men and specifically teen boys, think again. We are a 2.6 billion-person strong community of parents playing with our kids, adventurers exploring worlds together, teachers making math wondrous, grandmothers learning about their grandchildren through play, and soldiers connecting with their folks back home. Most gamers today are adults; nearly half are women.

Second, gaming must promote and protect the safety of all. Gaming must be a safe environment. Creating community is shared work, and protecting community is essential work, so, we all carry part of the payload of community safety – game industry and gamers alike.

This widespread embrace of gaming and its global communities have turned video games into the world’s leading cultural industry, bigger than movies or music. But it also comes at a time when digital life includes a growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny.

No different from rock and roll, books and TV before them, video games are often dismissed or maligned as frivolous, fraught with violence or filled exclusively with hate-mongering. But gaming is uniquely designed for equality. We don’t just walk in someone’s shoes – we stand on equal footing, regardless of age, education, socioeconomics, race, religion, politics, gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality, or ability. Gaming doesn’t just bring stereotype-defying gamers together; it unites us through our universal language of fun and answers our human need to play. Research has shown an effective way to battle polarization and prejudice is through relationships with people outside our own groups, known as intergroup contact theory. This is where gaming excels: forging unexpected friendships with people we might never meet in real life. Dr. Linda Tropp, a professor of psychology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, observes, “As an interactive form of entertainment, gaming environments have the potential to bring people together for collaborations across differences, and to build empathy and mutual understanding through play.”

When people call video games a waste a time, I point them to the well-documented health and social benefits of gaming. Beyond pure exhilaration, gaming helps children with autism make new friends and seniors with Alzheimer’s improve their memory. Researchers have found that gaming teaches adults leadership, improves decision-making and reduces stress and depression and also teaches kids computational skills and empathy. Gaming is the gateway to these 21st century skills and to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Just consider: teen girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree. Among teenagers who play games online with others daily, 74% have made friends online and 37% have made more than five friends online. 

By uniting as an industry, we can thoughtfully and deliberately continue building a safe and inclusive gaming environment for everyone. Microsoft, Team Xbox, and I are personally committing to this, beginning with the following principles and actions:

We commit to be vigilant, proactive, and swift. Our Xbox Safety team is nicknamed the “Defenders of Joy” because we will defend you in every humanly and technologically possible way, so gaming remains fun. We will identify potentials for abuse and misuse on our platform and will fix problems quickly. We are also intent on expanding the composition of our safety team so wide-ranging perspectives can help us identify future safety problems and solutions. Because hate and harassment have no place in gaming, we recently published a refreshed version of our Xbox Community Standards to communicate how each of us can keep gaming fun and safe for all and detail the consequences when any of us break these standards. A welcoming community is the key to a safe community, so our 150,000 Xbox Ambassadors – community leaders, stewards, and allies – will be engaged to embark on new community missions to help create an inviting and safe environment for all gamers. We will also continue to roll out new programs for the health of our entire gaming community.

We commit to empowering you to safeguard your gaming experience the way you want. We believe in equipping you with the tools to customize your gaming experience fit for your personal comfort level. This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games. We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019. Creating a Child or Teen Account is the easiest way for parents and guardians to manage who their kids engage with as well as their family’s screen time, content and spending. While more than 26 million Child and Teen accounts have been created to-date, we will make it easier for parents and guardians new to console and PC gaming to discover and create Child or Teen accounts. This year, Microsoft Stores rolled out a series of family workshops to help parents understand the tools available to them on console and PC, and this summer we are launching Gaming Summer Camps offering young gamers new ways to explore life skills and practice healthy habits that can be used in gaming and everyday life. Additionally, we recently launched a new “For Everyone” destination on Xbox.com where parents, guardians and players can learn how we’re making gaming more fun for everyone with our new inclusivity, accessibility, and safety features. We’re innovating now in these and other concrete ways to reduce, filter, and develop a shared understanding of toxic experiences, and to ultimately put our community of gamers, and their parents or guardians, in control of their own experiences.

We commit to working across the gaming industry on safety measures. Because we intend to protect all gamers, we will openly share safety innovations with our industry the same way Microsoft has made PhotoDNA technology universally available to everyone from the police to the tech industry to fight the spread of child pornography. Today, multiple teams working in areas like moderation, user research, data science, and others are already aligning with industry partners to share insights, and best practices in areas of safety, security and privacy.

The gaming community continues to grow rapidly, and the imminent roll-out of new game services such as Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud, will make gaming available to even more people worldwide. Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety.

We invite everyone who plays games, and industry partners, to join us in following these principles to help unify the world and do our part: make gaming accessible for everyone and protect gamers, one and all.

The post Video games: A unifying force for the world appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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My father, a chemical engineer, brought home our first computer, a Sinclair ZX81, which came out in 1981. We played games together and then later, we wrote games together.

Today, for many people around the world, gaming is the first entry point into technology, just like it was for me.

I believe in two fundamental truths about gaming:

First, gaming is for everyone. No one group “owns” gaming. Instead, whether you’re new to gaming or are a diehard e-sports fan, you are welcome to play and welcome to all the fun and skill-building that comes with gaming. In this way, when everyone can play, the entire world wins.

If you imagine gamers as predominantly men and specifically teen boys, think again. We are a 2.6 billion-person strong community of parents playing with our kids, adventurers exploring worlds together, teachers making math wondrous, grandmothers learning about their grandchildren through play, and soldiers connecting with their folks back home. Most gamers today are adults; nearly half are women.

Second, gaming must promote and protect the safety of all. Gaming must be a safe environment. Creating community is shared work, and protecting community is essential work, so, we all carry part of the payload of community safety – game industry and gamers alike.

This widespread embrace of gaming and its global communities have turned video games into the world’s leading cultural industry, bigger than movies or music. But it also comes at a time when digital life includes a growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny.

No different from rock and roll, books and TV before them, video games are often dismissed or maligned as frivolous, fraught with violence or filled exclusively with hate-mongering. But gaming is uniquely designed for equality. We don’t just walk in someone’s shoes – we stand on equal footing, regardless of age, education, socioeconomics, race, religion, politics, gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality, or ability. Gaming doesn’t just bring stereotype-defying gamers together; it unites us through our universal language of fun and answers our human need to play. Research has shown an effective way to battle polarization and prejudice is through relationships with people outside our own groups, known as intergroup contact theory. This is where gaming excels: forging unexpected friendships with people we might never meet in real life. Dr. Linda Tropp, a professor of psychology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, observes, “As an interactive form of entertainment, gaming environments have the potential to bring people together for collaborations across differences, and to build empathy and mutual understanding through play.”

When people call video games a waste a time, I point them to the well-documented health and social benefits of gaming. Beyond pure exhilaration, gaming helps children with autism make new friends and seniors with Alzheimer’s improve their memory. Researchers have found that gaming teaches adults leadership, improves decision-making and reduces stress and depression and also teaches kids computational skills and empathy. Gaming is the gateway to these 21st century skills and to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Just consider: teen girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree. Among teenagers who play games online with others daily, 74% have made friends online and 37% have made more than five friends online. 

By uniting as an industry, we can thoughtfully and deliberately continue building a safe and inclusive gaming environment for everyone. Microsoft, Team Xbox, and I are personally committing to this, beginning with the following principles and actions:

We commit to be vigilant, proactive, and swift. Our Xbox Safety team is nicknamed the “Defenders of Joy” because we will defend you in every humanly and technologically possible way, so gaming remains fun. We will identify potentials for abuse and misuse on our platform and will fix problems quickly. We are also intent on expanding the composition of our safety team so wide-ranging perspectives can help us identify future safety problems and solutions. Because hate and harassment have no place in gaming, we recently published a refreshed version of our Xbox Community Standards to communicate how each of us can keep gaming fun and safe for all and detail the consequences when any of us break these standards. A welcoming community is the key to a safe community, so our 150,000 Xbox Ambassadors – community leaders, stewards, and allies – will be engaged to embark on new community missions to help create an inviting and safe environment for all gamers. We will also continue to roll out new programs for the health of our entire gaming community.

We commit to empowering you to safeguard your gaming experience the way you want. We believe in equipping you with the tools to customize your gaming experience fit for your personal comfort level. This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games. We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019. Creating a Child or Teen Account is the easiest way for parents and guardians to manage who their kids engage with as well as their family’s screen time, content and spending. While more than 26 million Child and Teen accounts have been created to-date, we will make it easier for parents and guardians new to console and PC gaming to discover and create Child or Teen accounts. This year, Microsoft Stores rolled out a series of family workshops to help parents understand the tools available to them on console and PC, and this summer we are launching Gaming Summer Camps offering young gamers new ways to explore life skills and practice healthy habits that can be used in gaming and everyday life. Additionally, we recently launched a new “For Everyone” destination on Xbox.com where parents, guardians and players can learn how we’re making gaming more fun for everyone with our new inclusivity, accessibility, and safety features. We’re innovating now in these and other concrete ways to reduce, filter, and develop a shared understanding of toxic experiences, and to ultimately put our community of gamers, and their parents or guardians, in control of their own experiences.

We commit to working across the gaming industry on safety measures. Because we intend to protect all gamers, we will openly share safety innovations with our industry the same way Microsoft has made PhotoDNA technology universally available to everyone from the police to the tech industry to fight the spread of child pornography. Today, multiple teams working in areas like moderation, user research, data science, and others are already aligning with industry partners to share insights, and best practices in areas of safety, security and privacy.

The gaming community continues to grow rapidly, and the imminent roll-out of new game services such as Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud, will make gaming available to even more people worldwide. Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety.

We invite everyone who plays games, and industry partners, to join us in following these principles to help unify the world and do our part: make gaming accessible for everyone and protect gamers, one and all.

The post Video games: A unifying force for the world appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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When Microsoft and SAP joined forces in 2017, it was aligned with a common goal: to provide enterprise customers with a clear roadmap to drive more business innovation in the cloud. It’s the same principle we called upon last year, when Microsoft teamed up with SAP and Adobe to launch the Open Data Initiative, which empowers companies to unlock more value from their most valuable asset, which is data.

Today, Microsoft and SAP are announcing a new effort that was built with the customer in mind. Microsoft will be the first global cloud provider to join SAP’s new Embrace program.

Project Embrace provides customers with an aligned pathway to the Intelligent Enterprise

Project Embrace is SAP’s collaboration with public cloud providers and Global Strategic Service Partners to simplify and accelerate a customer’s journey to the cloud. Through a combination of market-approved journeys, reference architectures, select service partners, and the power of the Microsoft Azure cloud, customers will be able to accelerate their digital transformation.

Embrace will help customers better manage refactoring and ongoing support costs, access the latest innovations, and improve the performance of SAP applications by leveraging Microsoft and SAP’s unified blueprint running S/4HANA on Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft joins forces with SAP to accelerate customers’ journey to S/4HANA on Azure

Microsoft has been working with SAP on Project Embrace for more than a year to deliver a joint roadmap with specific integrated reference architecture to run SAP S4/HANA on Microsoft Azure. The collaboration will provide customers with prescriptive guidance that facilitates a move from their current on-premise production landscapes to a digital enterprise in the cloud.

Working hand-in-hand with SAP to make Project Embrace a success, Microsoft is developing an integrated, end-to-end process across product engineering, sales, marketing and support teams. As part of this effort, Microsoft and SAP are also aligning their joint Partner Ecosystem, as well as collaborating closely with the SAP Max Attention team to provide a more seamless customer support experience.

Microsoft and SAP work together to drive success for their joint customers

Microsoft’s unique position as the first global cloud provider to support Project Embrace speaks to its long history of partnership and co-innovation with SAP, a focus on joint customer success, and Microsoft’s strength in the enterprise market.

Microsoft and SAP’s mutual customers have been asking for an offering like Embrace. Cemex, a global leader in the building materials industry, sees the enormous opportunity Embrace delivers, as Carlos Mantilla, the company’s Senior Director of Worldwide IT Enterprise Architecture told us:

“We at CEMEX are excited to further explore Project Embrace with SAP and Microsoft! We believe it will assist us in accelerating our, already in-progress, Digital Transformation and Journey to S4/HANA in the Azure Hyperscale cloud.”

This is a true example of partnership—the power of Microsoft, the power of SAP and a trusted relationship coming together to provide the best cloud experience for customers.

The post Microsoft partners with SAP as the first global cloud provider to launch Project Embrace appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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Microsoft Build is underway in Seattle, and this year’s premier developer conference is focused on empowering developers of all kinds, from experienced computer scientists to tech beginners with big ideas. We’re sharing the latest on Microsoft platforms, tools and services that are making it easier to create and innovate using AI and mixed reality with the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge, as well as helping people and organizations do more each day.

Here’s a peek at some of the event’s highlights:

1.

Check out the new features in Microsoft Edge built on Chromium OSS that will make it easier to collect, organize and share content, and give you additional privacy controls to make your own decisions about how third parties can track you.

2.

See how technology is helping Starbucks and their baristas deliver great customer experiences including managing predictive maintenance on coffee machines with Azure Sphere; giving personalized recommendations to customers via the Starbucks mobile app with reinforcement learning on Azure; and powering digital traceability efforts to track coffee beans from farm to store with Azure blockchain service.

Technology is helping Starbucks and their baristas deliver great customer experiences (Photo courtesy of Starbucks) 3.

Read about Fluid Framework, a web-based platform expected to be available later this year that will give teams new ways to create together, enabling content to be deconstructed and reconstructed into modular components and allowing intelligent agents to work alongside people to co-author, provide photo suggestions, translate data and more.

4. 

Learn more about Microsoft’s vision for intelligent agents that leverage breakthroughs in conversational AI and machine learning pioneered by Semantic Machines, which Microsoft acquired in May 2018. We’re showcasing a calendaring application of the technology that can make organizing your day with an intelligent assistant a more natural and powerful experience, and the same technology will eventually be integrated into our conversational AI moving forward across all of Microsoft’s products and services.

A woman engages in a smooth, back-and-forth dialogue with an intelligent assistant that helps her juggle upcoming appointments on her calendar. 5.

See how more everyday uses of AI in Microsoft 365 and Office 365 can help improve productivity, including Ideas in Word for Word Online, which can help you easily design and present polished documents, and Microsoft Search, a new enterprise search experience that applies AI technology from Bing and deep personalized insights surfaced by the Microsoft Graph.

6. 

Learn more about a new platform that can help make it easier for companies to create autonomous systems, whether it’s a robot that can help in life-threatening situations, a drone that can inspect remote equipment or systems that can autonomously calibrate factory equipment. The first component in this platform is now available in a limited preview program.

An experimental version of the Sarcos Guardian S, a robot that can be used in disaster recovery or for industrial inspections, uses Microsoft’s autonomous systems platform. (Photo by Dan DeLong) 7.

Learn what developers will be able to do with Microsoft Graph data connect, a service that helps organizations bring together productivity data from the Microsoft Graph with their own business data securely, providing new opportunities to create insight-powered apps while helping address the challenges of moving and managing large amounts of data.

8.

Learn about the new tools and capabilities in Azure AI for developers and data scientists, including Ink Recognizer, which lets developers embed digital ink recognition, an advanced speech-to-text capability that transcribes meeting conversations in real time so participants can fully engage in the discussion and know who said what later on.

9.

See how the new Azure Blockchain Service will empower developers, letting them deploy a fully managed consortium network with a few simple clicks and use built-in governance to add new members, set permissions and authenticate user applications. They’ll also be able to monitor their network’s health and activity.

10.

Check out IoT Plug and Play. One of the greatest challenges customers face when deploying Internet of Things solutions broadly is connecting their IoT devices to the cloud. IoT Plug and Play offers a new open modeling language to help make this happen seamlessly, as well as a large ecosystem of partner-certified devices that simply work, with over a dozen certified devices now available.

Get more details on all of these announcements and more on our Microsoft Build 2019 website.

Lead photo by Brian Smale

The post 10 cool things to check out at Microsoft Build 2019 appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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Since the inception of Azure, we have been focused on delivering a true hybrid cloud where applications spanning public cloud and on-premises datacenters are built and run consistently. As organizations are now building applications that span the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge, the same approach is needed. Fundamentally, the principles and technology needed for developing hybrid cloud applications are the same as intelligent cloud and intelligent edge applications. Azure’s longstanding leadership in hybrid cloud provides developers with unique know-how toward building modern applications that span the edge and the cloud.

Next week at Microsoft Build, more than 6,000 developers will join us in Seattle to experience the latest advancements in dev tools and cloud services. Today, to help usher in Build, I’m excited to share some of the new Azure innovations that we will be showcasing at Build that enable developers to build this new generation of hybrid applications with greater productivity and success.

To begin, we’re announcing several new AI services and capabilities that makes it easier for developers to build AI-powered applications. Furthering our commitment to building the most productive AI platform, we’re delivering key new innovations in Azure Machine Learning that simplify the process of building, training and deployment of machine learning models at scale. These include new automated machine learning advancements and an intuitive UI that make developing high-quality models easier, a new visual machine learning interface that provides a zero-code model creation and deployment experience using drag-and-drop capabilities and new machine learning notebooks for a rich, code-first development experience. Furthermore, new MLOps (DevOps for machine learning) capabilities with Azure DevOps integration provides developers with reproducibility, auditability and automation of the end-to-end machine learning lifecycle. To enable extremely low latency and cost-effective inferencing, we are also announcing the general availability of hardware-accelerated models that run on FPGAs, as well as ONNX Runtime support for NVIDIA TensorRT and Intel nGraph for high- speed inferencing on NVIDIA and Intel chipsets.

Azure Cognitive Services give connected devices, bots and apps the ability to see, hear, respond, translate, reason and more. Azure is the only public cloud that enables these Cognitive Services to be containerized to run on-premises, in the cloud and at the edge. Today we’re giving developers even more ways to create “smart” devices and services with a new Cognitive Services category called “Decision” that delivers users specific recommendations to enable informed and efficient decision-making. Azure Cognitive Services such as Content Moderator, the recently announced Anomaly Detector and a new preview service called Personalizer, which uses reinforcement learning to provide each user with a relevant experience to drive engagement, will be part of this new category. We’re also delivering several new services in public preview, including Ink Recognizer for embedding digital ink recognition capabilities; Form Recognizer for automating data entry by extracting text, key-value pairs and tables from documents; and new conversation transcription capability in Speech Service, which transcribes meeting conversations in real time so participants can fully engage in the discussion, know who said what when and quickly follow up on next steps.

We are also bringing AI to Azure Search with the general availability of the cognitive search capability, enabling customers to apply Cognitive Services algorithms to extract new insights their structured and unstructured content. In addition, we are previewing a new capability that enables developers to store AI insights gained from cognitive search, making it easier to create knowledge-rich experiences leveraging Power BI visualizations or machine learning models. You can read more about today’s Azure AI announcements here.

Intelligent cloud and intelligent edge applications have evolved from primarily low-compute IoT devices working with the cloud to powerful compute at the edge, which requires a new modern hybrid application approach. A key aspect of enabling this is supporting the spectrum of edge compute and data needs. SQL Server and Azure SQL Database are the leading data engines for enterprise workloads on-premises and in the cloud, respectively, and today we are bringing these powerful data and analysis capabilities to the edge with Azure SQL Database Edge preview. Azure SQL Database Edge runs on ARM processors and provides capabilities like data streaming and time series data, with in-database machine learning and graph. And because Azure SQL Database Edge shares the same programming surface area with Azure SQL Database and SQL Server, you can easily take your applications to the edge without having to learn new tools and languages, allowing you to preserve consistency in application management and security control. This consistency in database programming and control plane across cloud and edge is essential to running a secure and well-managed hybrid application.

In addition, we’re announcing IoT Plug and Play, a new open modeling language to connect IoT devices to the cloud seamlessly, enabling developers to navigate one of the biggest challenges they face — deploying IoT solutions at scale. Previously, software had to be written specifically for the connected device it supported, limiting the scale of IoT deployments. IoT Plug and Play provides developers with a faster way to build IoT devices and will provide customers with a large ecosystem of partner-certified devices that can work with any IoT solution.

Perhaps one of the best examples of a cloud and edge application is with Mixed Reality — using the combination of mixed-reality device with cloud services to create entirely new experiences. We have barely scratched the surface for possibilities with Mixed Reality development. Now we’re making it easier to create applications for HoloLens 2 with the HoloLens 2 Development Edition, which starts at $3,500 or as low as $99 a month. It provides the community of mixed-reality developers with access to solutions to help them build and run mixed-reality experiences across a range of mixed-reality devices, and with Azure credits and three-month free trials of Unity Pro and the Unity PiXYZ Plugin for CAD data. Unreal Engine 4 support for streaming and native platform integration for HoloLens 2 will be available by the end of May for developers to create high-quality, photo-realistic renders and immersive, augmented-reality and virtual-reality experiences for architecture, product design and manufacturing. Read more about our IoT and intelligent edge announcements here.

Blockchain is showing potential across many industries to manage complex workflows and logistics. Last year we announced Azure Blockchain Workbench, which gave developers a simple UI to model blockchain applications on a preconfigured Azure-supported network. Today we are doubling down on our investments to empower blockchain developers by announcing Azure Blockchain Service, which simplifies the formation, management and governance of consortium blockchain networks, allowing businesses to focus on workflow logic and app development. Azure Blockchain Service deploys a fully managed consortium network and offers built-in governance for common management tasks, such as adding new members, setting permissions and authenticating user applications. And, the service is already receiving enterprise traction — we also announced this week that J.P. Morgan’s Ethereum platform, Quorum, is the first ledger available in Azure Blockchain Service, enabling Microsoft and J.P. Morgan to offer the first enterprise-grade Ethereum stack to the industry. Read more about today’s blockchain announcements here.

Today’s announcements give developers cutting-edge tools to create the next generation of hybrid applications spanning the cloud and edge. We have even more to share on Monday at the start of Build. Be sure to tune into Satya’s keynote at 8:30 a.m. PT on Monday, May 6, here, and look forward to seeing what you go build!

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Microsoft Build is our premier developer conference, providing access to cutting-edge technology, the ability to collaborate with peers, and an open door to fresh perspectives. Our goals are to foster community and transparently share our developer roadmap and monetization strategy — which we believe leads to even better collaboration and innovation.

While it maintains its roots of being produced by developers for developers, this year’s event is focused on empowering developers of all kinds, from experienced computer scientists to tech beginners with big ideas we have so much in store! Whether you want to learn a new technology or level up your skills in a certain area, we have you covered. With more than 180 sessions, from developing for accessibility to responsible AI design to building apps for HoloLens, and a gamut of topics in between, class is in session.

Speaking of class, for the first time, attendees are invited to bring two family members ages 14-21 to the event. The brand-new Student Zone is dialed in to provide students access to experts, hands on labs, co-coding opportunities and more. And for the first time, the Imagine Cup World Championship, a strongly contested student developer competition, will open the event!

In the competition spirit, we’re also showcasing eight innovative startups and we invite you to help us determine the “Startups at Microsoft Build: Attendee Choice Award.” Meet these cloud-born founders in person and vote on which startup you feel has the most compelling pitch. To turbo-charge their growth, the winner will be awarded a comprehensive set of go-to-market benefits, valued at more than $1 million USD.

We also have some very exciting news for our partners. We are deepening our investments and will be making several announcements benefiting both our ISV and reseller partners when they leverage our commercial marketplace to collaborate on joint sales. We also have dozens of partners on site at Build with deep dive sessions, hands-on labs, and an exhibition area with a ton of experts on hand.

But that’s not all. We’re weaving wellness and community-focused areas throughout Build as well. Our Hang Out lounge provides a cozy place to recharge between sessions and features a variety of content from our Cloud Advocates and LEAP Program participants. It also plays host to daily popup experiences, including an IoT day and an opportunity to get hands-on with classic Commodore 64s, among other engaging opportunities.

I encourage you to spend some time with the session catalog to craft your ideal schedule. These sessions are created and delivered by the engineers who create our products and provide a great opportunity to connect with them on a personal level. A couple can’t-miss sessions include:

From Zero to DevOps Superhero: The Container Edition
This is not another “Hello World” session with quick tips, but rather a deep dive into how you can truly go from zero to DevOps superhero by selecting container tooling built for simplifying the process. You’ll also learn how these tools can provide better orchestration for cloud services, abstraction and encapsulation for your microservices deployments and visibility into what runs where and why.

Azure IoT platform services: a comprehensive overview
In this demo-heavy session, you will learn what’s available for modern IoT developers. Azure IoT Hub, Device Provisioning Service, Time Series Insight, Azure Maps and Visual Studio Code will all be put to contribution and you won’t believe all that can be achieved in only 60 minutes.

And, we’ll have exciting speakers who were selected from the call for proposals, including this one:

Designing for speech
Designing a natural language interface can be difficult. Is the interface supposed to be able to interpret every single nuance of speech? And how about slang? Or should we aim more towards forced language and make our users learn how to interact with simple commands? According to Comscore, 50% of all searches will be made by voice by 2020. Today, 40% of adults use voice commands at least once per day. Get ready now and your bots and apps will be a delight to talk to!

While we’re hosting the physical event in Seattle, our aim is to make it interactive for those who can’t make it in person as well! Satya Nadella’s opening keynote will be streamed live beginning at 8:30 a.m. Pacific on May 6, and core sessions will be online for free viewing within 24 hours. You can find it all on the Build site.

For those headed to Build, we can’t wait to welcome you to Seattle, to share and collaborate, and to imagine, create and code together!

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The cloud is enabling organizations of all types to innovate and move faster toward their business goals. It has enhanced productivity and security and opened up new opportunities for companies to tap into the potential of technologies like artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT). The cloud is helping businesses in every industry transform: Retail is becoming more personal, banking is becoming more seamless, and healthcare is becoming more predictive and preventive.

This digital revolution demands that technology vendors be open and flexible to help address a wider range of customer needs. Over the years, we’ve worked with partners to create solutions that are customer-centric and enable easier adoption of technology. Some great examples include our partnerships with SAP, RedHat, Adobe, Citrix, and more. These partnerships are enabling customers to take advantage of Microsoft cloud solutions with the tools and technologies that already exist in their environments. Today, we are excited to continue this trend by announcing an expanded partnership with Dell Technologies to provide customers with a native, supported, and certified VMware experience on Microsoft Azure. Additionally, we are welcoming VMware into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem to extend the management and security capabilities of Microsoft Intune, as well as extend the capabilities of Windows Virtual Desktop.

 Azure VMware Solutions

Azure VMware Solutions deliver a comprehensive VMware environment in Azure allowing customers to run native VMware-based workloads on Azure. Customers can now seamlessly run, manage, and secure applications across VMware environments and Microsoft Azure with a common operating framework. Customers will be able to capitalize on their existing VMware investments, skills and tools, including VMware vSphere, vSAN, NSX, and vCenter while leveraging the scale, performance and innovation of Azure.

Azure VMware Solutions enable customers to extend and redeploy their VMware workloads natively on Azure dedicated hardware without having to refactor their applications. This integration also enables organizations to tap into Azure’s massive scale, security, and fast provisioning cycles to innovate and modernize applications while improving performance. Some of the more common customer scenarios include datacenter reduction or expansions, disaster recovery and business continuity and modern application development.

VMware workloads on Azure can be easily modernized via integration with a broad range of Azure services such as Azure Active Directory, Azure AI and IoT enabling new, intelligent experiences. Customers can also take advantage of unmatched Azure pricing and benefits for Windows Server and SQL Server hosted on Azure VMware Solutions including Azure Hybrid Benefits and free Extended Security Updates.

Shifting to a modern workplace

As customers embark on their digital workplace journey, Microsoft 365 provides organizations with a complete, intelligent solution to empower employees to be creative and work together, securely.

We are excited to welcome VMWare Workspace ONE into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. Customers will be able to use Workspace ONE to manage and secure the powerful productivity features of Office 365 across devices via integration with Microsoft Intune and Azure Active Directory Premium as part of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security suite. VMware Workspace ONE will be updated to integrate with APIs provided by Intune to deliver device status and health data to update the Azure Active Directory conditional access policy resolution status. Configuration of conditional access policies for Office 365 and Azure-based apps will continue to be done in the Azure Active Directory administration portal. This integration will provide additional technology choices for customers as they accelerate their digital transformation.

We also recently announced Windows Virtual Desktop, the only service that delivers a multi-session Windows 10 experience, optimizations for Office 365 ProPlus, and support for Windows Server Remote Desktop Services (RDS) desktops and apps. The excitement for the public preview has been incredible, and thousands of customers have already previewed the Windows Virtual Desktop experience. As a part of today’s agreement, VMWare will extend the capabilities of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop to enable customers to further accelerate their cloud initiatives. Initial capabilities are expected to be available as a tech preview by the end of calendar year 2019.

Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. And we’re committed to realizing this mission through technology innovations and strategic partnerships that unlock shared value.  This collaboration is a great example of our ongoing commitment to meet the evolving needs of our customers.

The post Dell Technologies and Microsoft expand partnership with new VMware Solutions appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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Judson Althoff joins in the Redmond opening of the new Bank of America on Microsoft’s campus. The branch is testing new technologies powered by Microsoft Azure and AI.

Recently, I joined a ribbon-cutting at the new Bank of America location on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington. The financial center is a great example of co-innovation with our customers. It features some test technology only available at this location, like a holographic greeter, with capabilities in English, Spanish and American Sign Language. The bank’s associates are equipped with Surface Pros to help stay connected and deliver customer service.

Like Bank of America’s example, businesses around the world are transforming. Our customers across finance, health and manufacturing are partnering with Microsoft to power solutions across cloud, AI and IoT, including companies like Neiman Marcus, Albertsons Companies, TomTom, Goodyear, ExxonMobil, Schneider Electric, Telefónica, AT&T, Razer, Emirates, Daimler AG, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, Electrolux, Airbus Defense and Space and Siemens Gamesa. We also announced new details about the Open Data Initiative, our partnership with Adobe and SAP that will enable mutual customers like Unilever, among others, to unify their business data across lines of business applications and unlock new AI-driven insights.

There are innovation stories behind each of the diverse brands with which we have partnered over the last quarter. What I find most inspiring are examples of how customers are using our IP to innovate faster than ever. Here are just a few examples:

A year ago, we announced a $5 billion investment in IoT. Fast forward to today, where customers like Starbucks, Chevron, Walmart, Walgreens, BMW, Volkswagen and Toyota Material Handling Group are leveraging Azure as their cloud platform with IoT and AI services to accelerate their digital transformation. In fact, IoT is creating a big impact in industries you encounter daily. For example, Ohio-based GOJO Industries, the inventor of PURELL Hand Sanitizer, is a growing digital innovator in public health. The company is using Azure IoT to power its PURELL SMARTLINK Technology solutions. It has about 25,000 connected dispensers that help more than a hundred healthcare facilities streamline hand hygiene compliance through motion sensors, Internet-connected dispensers and a cloud platform that collects and analyzes data.

GOJO Industries, inventor of PURELL Hand Sanitizer, helps hospitals monitor hand hygiene with secure IoT dispensers and hand hygiene data from a PURELL SMARTLINK Technology solution running on Azure IoT.

In the manufacturing sector, digital transformation from the top floor to the shop floor continues to reshape how customers and partners run their businesses. At Hannover Messe 2019, for instance, we partnered with BMW Group to launch the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) built on the Azure Industrial IoT cloud platform and designed to break down productivity-slowing data silos by creating an open technology framework and cross-industry community. The OMP’s goal is to significantly accelerate future industrial IoT developments, shorten time to value and drive production efficiencies while addressing common industrial challenges.

Microsoft’s Azure Industrial IoT cloud platform powers the partnership announced with BMW Group.

A long-standing challenge for manufacturers is how best to boost productivity while simplifying employee training and development. Commercial truck designer and manufacturer PACCAR shows digital solutions can be applied to manufacturing and across other industries as well. Thanks to its adoption of Dynamics 365 Guides and HoloLens 2 — our next generation  wearable holographic computer that enables businesses to take advantage of out-of-the-box applications — PACCAR employees can access step-by-step holographic instructions to guide them through unfamiliar tasks like assembling a truck door or follow lighted arrows from each instruction card to the precise hole where a wire needs to be threaded or to the location of the correct tool on the factory floor. Holographic drawings superimposed on the actual door demonstrate how to perform that task and brighten structures behind the steel panel that normally cannot be seen.

PACCAR is exploring Guides and HoloLens 2 to improve manufacturing productivity and employee onboarding. PACCAR employee Chelsey Potts works on a Kenworth truck assembly line.

Toyota Material Handling Group offers an additional manufacturing example. The company is the largest forklift maker in the world, but its customers require much more than warehouse trucks and equipment. By providing solutions with artificial intelligence, mixed reality and the IoT, Toyota Material Handling Group is helping customers meet the global rise in ecommerce, and move goods quickly, frequently, accurately and safely. With Microsoft technologies, the solutions range from connected forklift and field service systems available today to AI-powered concepts that pave the way for intelligent automation and logistics simulation – all designed with Toyota’s standards for optimizing efficiency, operation assistance and kaizen, or continuous improvement.

Toyota Material Handling Group innovates forklift, factory, service and logistics solutions with digital transformation, and Microsoft Azure AI, IoT and mixed reality.

Customers looking to accelerate the digital evolution of their business need partners who can collaborate, co-create and co-innovate with them. That was the impetus behind the February launch of the Accenture Microsoft Business Group, a venture created by Accenture and Microsoft, in conjunction with Avanade, that brings together more than 45,000 professionals — the world’s largest group of Microsoft solution experts — to advance organizations’ digital transformation agenda.

When it comes to collaboration and the modern workplace, Razer is a global phenomenon in a multibillion-dollar industry that boasts 2.3 billion customers worldwide. Razer has 15 offices and is recognized as the leading brand for gamers. Today, the company uses Microsoft 365, a complete, intelligent solution that supports creative teamwork, to achieve the same rapid communications, fast decision making and real-time collaboration required to win a game, while using these same attributes for a competitive advantage in the business world.

Virtual teamwork that happens regularly in the Teams collaboration environment inspires creative problem solving at Razer where stakeholders in product development weigh in on design issues, despite time zones and geographies.

In the airline industry, Virgin Atlantic wants employees to have the tools and information they need to make each travel step as smooth as possible. Using Microsoft PowerApps and Dynamics 365, Virgin Atlantic now has a better view of its customers and can quickly and easily develop apps that help its business and field workers excel at their jobs and create an enjoyable travel experience.

Virgin Atlantic turns to Microsoft PowerApps to help increase customer satisfaction, boost employee engagement, and reduce costs.

Digital is also changing how public sector agencies help families and children. For example, New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) caseworkers are using Microsoft  365 security, Office apps, and Surface Pro devices running on Windows 10 to investigate more than 50,000 cases a year of suspected child abuse or neglect. That time-sensitive work used to involve hours of typing reports and multiple trips between families’ homes and the office to retrieve documents. Now, from anywhere in the field, they can instantly access critical resources and capture notes to focus on protecting and advocating for children and families.

New York City children’s services caseworkers are using Surface Pro devices enabled with LTE to help manage their digital files and notes securely. Shown here: Eric Blackwood, Child Protective Specialist.

No matter the industry sector or geography, digital continues to drive how companies and organizations are reimagining their business models — from how they generate new data and insights, to how they engage customers and enhance workplace experiences for employees. We look forward to extending our collaboration with our customers and partners as they unlock new capabilities and pursue new markets thanks to their digital transformation.

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IoT sensors are being infused into just about everything, from industrial equipment to consumer devices, and increasingly these devices are connecting to the cloud. By 2020, Gartner predicts there will be more than 20 billion connected devices. In April 2018, we announced we’re investing $5 billion in IoT and the intelligent edge over the next four years. Since then, we’ve been making a number of investments from product innovation – including Azure Sphere, Azure Digital Twins, Azure IoT Edge, Azure Maps and Azure IoT Central – new partnerships with DJI, SAP, PTC, Qualcomm and Carnegie Mellon University for IoT and edge app development, and programs to help drive the next wave of innovation for our customers.

Today, I am incredibly excited to share we have acquired Express Logic, a leader in real time operating systems (RTOS) for IoT and edge devices powered by microcontroller units (MCUs). Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS has over 6.2 billion deployments, making it one of the most deployed RTOS in the world. This widespread popularity is driven by demand for technology to support resource constrained environments, especially those that require safety and security. Manufacturers building products across a range of categories – from low capacity sensors like lightbulbs and temperature gauges to air conditioners, medical devices, and network appliances – leverage the size, safety and security benefits of Express Logic solutions to achieve faster time to market. Even highly constrained devices (battery powered and having less than 64KB of flash memory) can use Express Logic solutions. Over 9 billion of these MCU-powered devices are built and deployed globally every year, many of which can benefit from Express Logic solutions.

With this acquisition, we will unlock access to billions of new connected endpoints, grow the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure and enable new intelligent capabilities. Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS joins Microsoft’s growing support for IoT devices and is complementary with Azure Sphere, our premier security offering in the microcontroller space. Our goal is to make Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS available as an option for real time processing requirements on an Azure Sphere device and also enable ThreadX-powered devices to connect to Azure IoT Edge devices when the IoT solution calls for edge computing capabilities. While we recommend Azure Sphere for customers’ most secured connections to the cloud, where Azure Sphere isn’t possible in highly constrained devices, we recommend Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS over other RTOS options in the industry because of its additional certifications and out-of-the-box connectivity to Azure IoT Hub.

As we’ve stated consistently in the past, our primary goal is to simplify IoT – from the cloud all the way down to the smallest MCU based devices. We do this by meeting our customers where they are with the right developer tools, software and intelligent cloud services to manage their solutions at scale. Express Logic’s technology and team will be an incredible addition to Microsoft in our quest to give every customer the ability to transform their businesses, and the world at large, with connected solutions.

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Every year, professionals from around the globe join us at Build, our premier developer conference, to learn about new technologies, gain hands-on experience, and level-up their development skills. It’s one of my favorite events, and this year, it’s getting even better as we extend these opportunities to students.

For the first time, Build attendees are invited to bring up to two family members aged 14-21 to participate with them—for free. We’ll also bring in local Seattle-area high school students to participate in some of these learning opportunities. The newly created Student Zone at Build is designed to provide an immersive educational experience for the students and attendees, with access to a Surface-equipped lab, on-site experts, a career center, workshops, tech talks and live co-coding opportunities. Naturally, there will be Minecraft—and so much more. Students can talk to cloud engineers, explore data with Azure Cognitive Services, learn about how to code on GitHub and use Visual Studio Code. There will be opportunities learn more about AI and explore the most important technologies and skills developers of tomorrow will need.

Microsoft is committed to empowering the next generation of creators to pursue their dreams through access to technology, resources and learning opportunities. One way we encourage students to break boundaries and address real problems is through the Imagine Cup, which has seen students from around the world continually raise the innovation bar through teamwork. Now in its 17th year, the competition empowers tomorrow’s talent to use their creativity, passion and diverse perspectives to solve the world’s most pressing issues.

Momentum for the Imagine Cup continues to grow—more than 2 million students from 190 countries have competed in Imagine Cup since it started—and this year, I’m excited the World Championship will be held during Build. In fact, the Imagine Cup champion will be announced to kick off Day One of the event and will be immediately followed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote.

Returning host, Corey Sanders, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Solutions, is especially fitting for the Imagine Cup—he holds four patents and was the creator of the Infrastructure-as-a-service offering for Azure, so he’s deeply familiar with the innovation cycle on many dimensions. Last year’s MC, Kate Yeager, is also making a return appearance to call the action.

To get to the World Championship, teams must win their highly competitive regional competitions, which are wrapping up soon. These finalists have developed truly life- and world-changing ideas, like last year’s winning concept, smartARM, a robotic hand that uses a camera embedded in the palm to recognize objects and calculate the most appropriate grip for the object.

This year’s champion will take home $100,000 USD, $50,000 USD in Azure credits, mentorship from the team at M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures) and a mentoring session with Satya Nadella. A team of business and technology professionals will collectively decide the 2019 winning team, and you can watch the championship via live stream on the Build site on Monday, May 6 at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. If you are interested in attending Build and haven’t signed up, there is still time to register.

Judges include:

  • Amy Hood, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, who leads Microsoft’s worldwide finance operations, including acquisitions, treasury activities, tax planning, accounting and reporting, and internal audit and investor relations.

  • Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, who built a venture capital fund from the ground up, while homeless. Her firm is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBTQ.

  • Amjad Masad, CEO and founder of it, who has dedicated his career to making programming more accessible. A founding engineer of Codecademy, he helped build the platform that introduced tens of millions of people to coding. He later joined Facebook to lead the JavaScript Infrastructure team to build and maintain developer tools like React.js. With Repl.it, he’s focused on building collaborative developer tools that lower the barriers to entry for building and shipping software.

Each year, I’m more and more impressed by the solutions created by Imagine Cup students. And I’m thrilled that hundreds of students will be joining us at Build this year to form lifelong memories while exploring what could become a future career in tech. The future is in their hands, and I’m confident they’re up for the challenge!

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