Microsoft Ignite 2017 – Day 1 Highlights


Another year, another huge crowd at the annual Microsoft Ignite conference – hosted in another warm place (Orlando). Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO… for the 3 people on the planet who didn’t know that) gave the Keynote – and I enjoyed it (unlike the sales-oriented keynote by Scott Guthrie last year).

Satya’s keynote featured a nifty Mixed Reality demo by Ford Motor engineers wearing HoloLens headsets. It was a clever demo, with engineers in separate physical locations – collaborating on car grille and side-view mirror designs using a 3-D car image overlaid with virtual text, menus, and car parts. (Incidentally, this was my first time hearing “Mixed Reality”…  shouldn’t it be called “Augmented Reality”?)

The virtual scene rendering appeared (to me) to be sluggish – what kind of processing power and network bandwidth is required to pull this off? And speaking of processing power… we got a glimpse of quantum computing.

Satya brought on stage 4 PhDs – a famous mathematician (well.. his credentials sounded impressive, anyway), two physicists and a computer scientist – and they took their seats on bar stools, facing Satya, in what looked like a TED-Talk. My friends, this was a whole new level of geekiness….  and I – along with 20,000 fellow geeks – sat in quiet, curious anticipation.

The mathematician was the first up, describing the mathematics of quantum computing. I took a lot of advanced math and physics in college, but I couldn’t understand 95% of what the mathematician said – as if “the topology of spatial chronological whooshwixers” was common lingo. Next up were the physicists – injecting “this is hard stuff” into every second sentence, followed by the computer scientist explaining she had to invent an entirely new computer language with a data type called a qbit. And oh yes, the entire shebang needed to run at 0.1 degrees Kelvin… well beyond the comfort zone of the typical home computer (and my refrigerator). Satya looked like a pleased father encouraging his children…  and heck, can you blame him? Quantum computing could change the world… and these enthusiastic, smiling PhDs are on the bleeding edge… and they know it.

And then…  some quantum hardware was revealed. One of the physicists handed Satya a Quantum chip, which Satya accepted with the reverence of being handed the world’s first transistor.  Was it for real?  How could I know?

Next, the curtain was raised to reveal a Quantum computer that appeared to come from the 1960 H.G Wells ‘The Time Machine” movie.  No mention was made about whether this thing worked… but someone gets extra credit for it’s very cool retro sci-fi movie design.

The other sessions today were rather pedestrian….  I attended the talk on “What’s new with Search”.. or something like that.  Not much, apparently, but the presenters were pumped. Ok, to be fair, there were a few nice innovations, like “automatic OCR” for images dropped into SharePoint. OCR is performed automatically, creating an image with searchable text. This is akin to scanning a physical image and having the scanner perform OCR and output a dual-layer searchable PDF file – one layer for the scanned image, another for the text. SharePoint does this “scanning” for you now. Nice.  And further down the road, the presenters promised SharePoint will automatically extract meta-data contained in documents and images and auto-categorize them. That seems ambitious to me…  given the difficulty of categorizing documents even when you know what’s in them.  So I’m keeping an eye on that one.

Another claimed innovation is how SharePoint search is able to extract location information and show it on a Bing map. Am I mistaken, or is this old hat for Google search?

I finished the day attending a “What’s new with AD FS”. Security is a particularly interesting topic for me…  and underlies the entire Microsoft universe. AD FS is enormously important for secure Enterprise computing. But….  I just… couldn’t … stay focused watching variations of login sessions. But I am looking forward to exciting sessions later this week.

Stay tuned.