Last week at Microsoft’s 2015 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), the company didn’t miss the opportunity to showcase the big bets it’s making in cloud, big data, and client computing. Microsoft announced a new productivity and collaboration product; it showcased HoloLens, a Windows 10-based holographic computing device; and the company launched initiatives that create more opportunities for Microsoft resellers.

Project GigJam integrates multiple third-party apps

For over two decades, Microsoft’s productivity theme revolved around Office and SharePoint. With the availability of Software as a Service (SaaS)-based solutions, customers started to use multiple cloud services for project management, resource planning, customer relationship management, document management, and collaboration. These disparate tools created silos of applications, making it complex to share information among teams and individuals. Microsoft presented a solution that simplifies this process.

Project GigJam creates a new platform for business users to collaborate — even when using heterogeneous tools and applications. The platform doesn’t force to refactor existing applications; instead, it creates an abstraction layer that connects one application with the other. GigJam uses simple gestures and voice-activated commands for sharing information with individuals.

According to an official Microsoft announcement, “GigJam users just summon the information they need, circle and cross to divvy up, and tap on people to involve them.” It doesn’t matter if the end user is on a PC, a Mac, or a mobile device.

The owner of a gig creates a canvas and connects relevant applications; he then circles areas of the applications that he wants to share with another user. The owner can cross out sections of an application that he doesn’t wish to share with the user; the user will only have access to his assigned task. When multiple team members submit their sections of the gig, the owner can use a playback feature to see the changes made by each user.

Behind the scenes, GigJam is a cloud service running on Microsoft Azure, and it uses oAuth 1.0 and oAuth 2.0 mechanisms to securely connect applications. On the client side, the platform uses standard HTML/JavaScript along with Apache Cordova. As the fabric that brings multiple SaaS services together, GigJam uses REST APIs exposed by SaaS applications.

It is expected that Microsoft will add support for Dynamics, Office 365, and SharePoint Online, along with popular third-party platforms such as SAP, Salesforce, ZenDesk, Box, Asana, and others.

Cortana Analytics democratizes big data

Since 2012, Microsoft has been steadily expanding its data platform with new capabilities. From its SQL Server Database to the recent addition of SQL Data Warehouse, Microsoft has come a long way. With the key components in place, the Microsoft Azure data platform is almost complete in its current form.

Below is a list of services that are part of the Azure platform.

These services are independent of each other and focus on a particular aspect of big data processing and analysis. Azure developers rely on one or more of these services for building a solution.

With all the essential big data building blocks in place, Microsoft creates a fabric that simplifies the use of its data platform. Dubbed the Cortana Analytics Suite, the company is attempting to deliver powerful processing in the cloud, combined with a compelling user experience on the client. Its investments in Surface, Windows 10, PowerBI, and Cortana help in providing the right experiences on a variety of clients.

This service will make it easy for businesses to build big data solutions in the cloud without the required plumbing. Customers will ingest the datasets and visualize the analysis on their devices. The heavy-lifting of big data processing combined with rich visualizations is delivered by the Cortana Analytics Suite. Based on a monthly subscription model, customers can subscribe to a set of vertical services such as a recommendation engine, fraud detection, and forecasting.

HoloLens takes personal computing to the next level

At Build 2015, Microsoft unveiled HoloLens, its virtual reality platform running on Windows 10. During the WPC 2015 keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella highlighted how partners are getting ready to build solutions on its holographic computing platform. For instance, Autodesk is integrating its Spark 3D platform with HoloLens. Nadella also highlighted the use of HoloLens at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Trimble, a leader in the architecture and construction industry, integrated its 3D modeling with HoloLens to enable architects to visualize full-scale holograms of constructions and buildings.

More opportunities for partners

With the Windows 10 launch this month, Microsoft wants its partners charged up to sell to enterprises.

Microsoft is expanding its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program to new markets. This will enable partners to sell the company’s cloud solutions, including Azure, CRM Online, Windows Intune, and Enterprise Mobility Suite, in new geographies.

A new Office 365 suite called E5 was announced at WPC 2015. The suite comes with Skype for Business, Power BI, and advanced security features.

My take

WPC 2015 helped Microsoft instill confidence in the ecosystem. The company successfully convinced resellers and solution providers that it has not lost its mojo.

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