What a year 2016 has been for Microsoft! Here’s our roundup of the best stories from the last twelve months:
Microsoft Philanthropies donates US$1 billion in cloud resources
Microsoft kicked off 2016 with the promise to donate US$1 billion of Microsoft Cloud Services to nonprofits and university researchers over the next three years. The donation was part of Microsoft’s new three-part initiative to ensure Microsoft Cloud Services can ‘serve the public good in the broadest sense’ and lead to breakthroughs in science and technology, and various economic and social challenges, including ending poverty and ensuring affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all.
“Microsoft is empowering mission-driven organisations around the planet with a donation of cloud computing services – the most transformative technologies of our generation,” commented Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO. “Now more than 70,000 organisations will have access to technology that will help them solve our greatest societal challenges and ultimately improve the human condition and drive new growth equally.”
The rise of Windows 10
In February Microsoft announced that Windows 10 continues to be on the ‘fastest growth trajectory of any version of Windows’, outpacing Windows 7 by nearly 140% and Windows 8 by nearly 400%. In fact, more than 40% of new Windows 10 devices have become active since 27 November 2015 (Black Friday).
“Overall, we are seeing significantly higher customer satisfaction with Windows 10 than any prior version of Windows,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, in a blog post. “Recently we reached another milestone – people have spent over 11 billion hours on Windows 10 in December (2015) alone, spending more time on Windows than ever before. Whether using our new web browser, getting help from Cortana – our personal assistant – playing games, or being productive, people are spending more and more time on Windows.”
Microsoft helps to transform Rolls Royce’s service offering
At Hannover Messe 2016, Microsoft announced that Rolls-Royce, whose engines power more than 50,000 flights around the world every month, will partner with Microsoft to evolve its service offering. Later on in the year it was revealed that the manufacturer will use Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Intelligence Suite to quickly diagnose issues with plane engines. Mechanics can then have the right tools in the right place to be able to fix the problems.
It is hoped the increased data that Rolls will receive will improve airline efficiency and lead to “every journey, for every passenger, taking off and landing on time, every time”. With a one per cent fuel saving equating to $250,000 per aircraft per year, the partnership is expected to save airlines millions of dollars.
Microsoft and R3 accelerate adoption of blockchain
In April Microsoft joined with financial technology group R3 Consortium to accelerate the use of distributed ledger technologies, also known as blockchain, among R3 member banks and global financial markets.
Blockchain modernises legacy financial processes, offering a more secure and transparent way to complete financial transactions and digitally track the ownership of assets. Not only does this enable stocks and bonds trades to be finalised in minutes rather than days, but it also eliminates the need for clearing houses. This cuts costs and significantly reduces the risk of fraud.
As part of the partnership, R3 named Microsoft Azure the preferred cloud services provider for its virtual R3 Lab and Research Center, which serves more than 40 member banks.
Microsoft and SAP extend long-term global partnership
May 2016 saw Microsoft and SAP expand their global partnership to improve cloud and data interoperability on Microsoft Azure, as well as to deliver new Windows Phone and productivity solutions.
The new deal extended the companies’ 20-year partnership in three critical areas and aimed to help partners deliver solutions that improve employee productivity and enhance workforce mobility.
Rio 2016 Olympic Games breaks streaming records with Azure
NBC Olympics’ live streaming for Rio 2016 broke a number of world records. Across NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, there was a record 3.3 billion total streaming minutes. Viewers live streamed 2.71 billion minutes of Olympic coverage – a new record for live event coverage. The 2.71 billion live minutes nearly doubles the combined live streamed minutes of ALL prior Games (1.48 billion). What’s more, NBC Olympics digital coverage amassed 100 million unique users – 29% more than the 2012 London Olympics. And more than 50% of viewers live streaming Olympic events on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app were under 35 years old.
Renault-Nissan and Microsoft partner to deliver the future of connected driving
Microsoft and the Renault-Nissan Alliance signed a multi-year agreement to develop connected services and in-car productivity tools powered by the Microsoft Azure cloud.
The partnership is part of Renault-Nissan Alliance’s plan to develop features and services for connected cars, and launch more than 10 vehicles with autonomous driving technology by 2020.
“A car is becoming increasingly connected, intelligent and personal,” said Ogi Redzic, senior vice president of Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services at the Renault-Nissan Alliance. “Partnering with Microsoft allows us to accelerate the development of the associated key technologies needed to enable scenarios our customers want and build all-new ones they haven’t even imagined. We aim to become the provider of connected mobility for everyone with one single global platform.”
Microsoft creates new Artificial Intelligence and Research Group
September saw the launch of the Microsoft Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Research Group, bringing together Microsoft’s research organisation with more than 5,000 computer scientists and engineers focused on the company’s AI product efforts. The new group is led by computer vision luminary Harry Shum, a 20-year Microsoft veteran whose career has spanned leadership roles across Microsoft Research and Bing engineering.
This comes following Microsoft’s commitment to democratising AI for every person and organisation, making it more accessible and valuable to everyone and ultimately enabling new ways to solve some of society’s toughest challenges.
“We live in a time when digital technology is transforming our lives, businesses and the world, but also generating an exponential growth in data and information,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, in an official press statement. “At Microsoft, we are focused on empowering both people and organisations, by democratising access to intelligence to help solve our most pressing challenges. To do this, we are infusing AI into everything we deliver across our computing platforms and experiences.”
HoloLens goes global
Microsoft HoloLens, the world’s first self-contained holographic computer, was made available in a number of new markets including Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK.
Various organisations have worked with Microsoft in 2016 to develop applications for HoloLens, including thyssenkrupp Elevator, which will use the devices to reduce service intervention times by up to four times. US retailer Lowe’s Home Improvement will use HoloLens to help customers make quick decisions about their home improvement projects, while Case Western Reserve University in the US will use the devices to teach anatomy.
Meanwhile, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has used HoloLens to enable Earth-based scientists to operate the Curiosity Mars Rover, and to allow the public to virtually walk around Mars at the ‘Destination: Mars’ exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center. Two devices on the International Space Station enable station crews to get remote expert assistance when completing tasks, and the ProtoSpace HoloLens application will enable NASA to build the next generation of spacecraft and space rovers.
Commercial partners such as Airbus, and vehicle manufacturers Audi and Saab are piloting HoloLens to see how it can help to transform the way their teams work, communicate and collaborate.