Microsoft Surface Hub announced

Unlock the power of the group with Microsoft Surface Hub, a powerful team collaboration device designed to advance the way people work together naturally.

Make working together the most productive part of your day. Share your ideas with others on a canvas that is as big as your imagination. Bring teams together in a way that feels completely natural, with technology that doesn’t intrude, but helps ideas flow. Expand what can be accomplished in the moment and then don’t lose the momentum – capture your work so you can act on it later.

Microsoft Surface Hub reimagines the meeting experience so that you can unlock the power of the group. You can walk up and join a Skype for Business meeting with a single tap, and share content effortlessly, so that you spend your time connecting to people rather than technology. And since you can easily send meeting notes and content, you can communicate outcomes and action points.

In addition to the built-in team experiences like Skype for Business, Microsoft Office and OneNote, Microsoft Surface Hub is customizable with a wide array of applications. Universal apps built for Windows 10 shine on Microsoft Surface Hub and scale to the large screen. You can also connect apps from your personal device and drive them from Microsoft Surface Hub.

Microsoft Surface Hub integrates beautifully into the modern workplace, enabling productivity in any space where people come together to get things done, from large conference rooms to informal huddle spaces to offices. The fully integrated design, choice of two screen sizes, and flexible mounting configurations means there’s a solution for your business needs. Microsoft Surface Hub is also designed to be easy to deploy and manage remotely.

 

Powering distance education with modern collaboration using Pexip & Lync

As part of the bigger expansion of its distance education offerings, Charles Sturt University – World’s leading and largest distance education network, has chosen a solution based on Pexip Infinity and Microsoft Lync to deliver scale, improved learning and flexibility to its 20,000+ students.  ServicePoint and Generation-e partnered to create a comprehensive solution and support offering for the University.

See also: www.pexip.com/pexip-powers-world’s-largest-distance-education-network

 

My One Big Fat Cloud Computing Prediction For 2015

It’s that time of year, again, and the predictions for the year ahead (as well as retrospectives of the year just past) are rolling across the Internet. Rather than put another list of predictions out there, I’ll focus on one trend that stands out above the rest.

Last year’s one big fat cloud prediction was simple: that cloud computing would become so ubiquitous — simply a form of computing — that people would even begin to stop referring to it as “cloud.” Well, cloud is now all around us in many ways, so that part came true. But, we still call it “cloud,” so there’s some assimilation that needs to occur.

Which brings us to the year ahead. For 2015, it’s all about the data. Not just any data, but the select data that will provide insights on what customers are up to, what they are thinking, and what’s ahead in the market. The way to compete in today’s hyper-competitive global economy is to become a data-driven enterprise. The cloud will get us there. As Motley Fool’s Tim Beyers put it not too long ago: “Big data is the new cloud computing.”

We’ve reached a point where comfort levels about putting data in the cloud are rising. Data security is always something to which enterprises need to pay a lot of attention. But it is being addressed.

Cloud offers a powerful means to manage and analyze huge amounts of data. It also provides a place to access the industry’s most powerful analytics tools. In fact, most, if not all, of the leading business intelligence and analytics vendors offer cloud-based versions of their tools — if not online, at least for private cloud. While only small percentages of the user bases of these vendors use cloud-based access, the numbers are increasing. Plus, because it is cloud, and therefore highly accessible, it also enables dashboard views right from mobile phones.

Cloud-based data analytics also relieve enterprises of the headaches involved with storage and scalability. Many on-premises systems are choking in all the big data now flowing through enterprises. From a business perspective, the availability of cloud processing power and storage space also allows for inexpensive experimentation and product simulations with the data — in line with many businesses’ desires to “fail fast” their way to greater innovation. This isn’t possible with on-premises data systems.

Speaking of innovation, GE — which has taken data analytics to a whole new level as part of its “industrial internet” initiative — also is employing the cloud to get it there. As Chris Drumgoole, CEO of IT for GE stated in an interview with InfoWorld’s Eric Knorr, the company is moving as much as it can to the public cloud.  He noted that “north of 90 percent” of the company’s new applications have been deployed within public cloud settings. GE is working with a lot of data, which emanates from all the various products it sells and installs, from jet engines to pumps to power plants. A typical jet engine will send GE about 500GBs of data per engine per flight. Cloud provides the highly scalable environment needed for all these demands.

Looks like GE will be a good role model in the year ahead.

This article excerpt, by Joe McKendrick, originally appeared: http://onforb.es/1EqkAQK

Living With Lync: 2014 In Review, 2015 Ahead

Microsoft Lync has had a good year in 2014, with a reported 5 million Lync voice seats now deployed and an ecosystem expanding around the tool. This isn’t to say there aren’t challenges ahead, though, especially as Microsoft moves ahead on its Skype for Business rebranding initiative. Let’s take a closer look at this year’s highlights and next year’s intentions.

As noted, Microsoft has reported deployment of some 5 million Lync voice seats in 2014. Other voice-related Lync highlights include:

  • Lync ranks third among IP PBX vendors in North America in organizations with more than 100 extensions, as noted by Peter Hale, an enterprise consultant with UK-based telecom and IT analyst firm MZA, at Enterprise Connect 2014 in March.
  • In October, for the first time ever, Gartner placed Microsoft in the Leaders section of the Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony.
  • As part of its report, Gartner rated Microsoft as the seventh-largest global corporate telephony vendor with significant annual growth––of 106%––in 2013.

Along with these rating and deployment successes, the Lync software, hardware and services ecosystem continued to grow:

  • An increasing number of IP phone set device vendors, including Polycom, Aastra, HP, snom, AudioCodes, Logitech and Spectralink, now support Lync.
  • A growing variety of USB audio and video devices support Lync: 34 wired headsets, 34 wireless headsets, 14 webcams and 11 USB speakerphones.
  • 55 SIP trunking service providers are qualified to connect with Lync 2013 (and 57 qualified with Lync 2010).
  • The number of Lync-compatible choices for gateways, survivable branch appliances and session border controllers is growing.
  • Lync Room Systems are now available from Crestron, Polycom and Smart.
  • Microsoft now has 81 certified Lync support partners, including 16 global support partners.
  • Lync functionality is expanding via a growing catalog of add-in applications for contact center, reporting, attendant console, recording, knowledge reinforcement and more (see the Office TechCenter for the most up-to-date list of qualified Lync infrastructure components).

And yet with all of the success in 2014, many enterprise communications managers still aren’t convinced that Lync alone can act as a PBX replacement. Consider these results from an attendee quick poll taken during my keynote for the recent Enterprise Connect/No Jitter virtual event, “Microsoft Lync: What Is the Impact for Your Enterprise?” (available on demand). When asked, “What do you think about Lync as a PBX replacement?,” respondents said:

  • Lync can be a PBX replacement: 38%
  • I would combine Lync and a traditional PBX: 40%
  • I would never trust Lync as my PBX: 7%
  • I am using Lync as my PBX: 15%

In 2014 the challenges associated with implementing Lync successfully remain much the same as over the past several years. These are:

  • Convincing naysayers that Lync absolutely can serve as a PBX replacement.
  • Realizing that implementing quality of service/class of service to prioritize real-time traffic on the network is a must.
  • Assembling a team with network, telecom, application and change management skills.
  • Recognizing that after you build your Lync environment you need the tools and skills to manage it (ongoing support often requires very different skills than design and implementation).
  • Committing to monitoring and driving quality, usage and adoption.

Looking Ahead


On Nov. 11, Microsoft announced that the next version of Lync will be called Skype for Business and is expected for release during the first half of 2015.

While much of the focus has been on the new name for Lync, the transition to Skype for Business is much more than a simple rebranding.

The next version of Lync brings together the development teams and technologies associated with Lync and Skype and in doing so provides unique business-to-consumer opportunities as Lync plugs into the massive scale that Skype has achieved: more than 60 million concurrent users, more than 550 million registered users, and 2 billion minutes of communications per day.

Specifically, Skype for Business will let corporate users directly connect to external parties using their Skype ID … no more complex and confusing process whereby Skype users need to sign in with a Microsoft ID in order to connect. Already we are seeing improved video interoperability between Lync for Windows desktop and Skype.

Skype for Business will provide an improved and streamlined user interface. Blind and consultative transfers will take fewer clicks, a small item but one that has been a top user requested feature. Interestingly, the new Skype for Business client will include both the classic Lync interface and the new Skype UI. IT shops will be able to flip the UI for specific user groups through a central policy. This is one of the ways that Microsoft is trying to help smooth the transition to Skype for Business. The promised in-place server upgrades is a second feature designed to accelerate adoption.

Moving Forward


Looking to another poll from the Dec. 10 Lync virtual event, we see that organizations are at many different points in their UC journeys:

  • We are piloting/deploying UC from our incumbent PBX vendor: 22%
  • We are trying to decide which vendor’s UC platform to select: 15%
  • We have not begun piloting/deploying, and don’t expect to in 2015: 10%
  • We have not begun piloting/deploying, but plan to in 2015: 16%
  • We are piloting/deploying UC from a vendor other than our incumbent PBX vendor: 37%

I suspect that most of the 37% who responded that they are piloting a solution not from their incumbent PBX vendor may be piloting Lync. If you are in the process of piloting or upgrading to Lync 2013, then I would recommend that you move ahead. Being on the Lync 2013 platform will make transitioning to Skype for Business easier when you decide to do this.

Lync continued its upward trajectory in 2014 and so far 2015 is looking good for the Skype for Business nee Lync team.

This article originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1AZQH5S


Cloud productivity on the road

First stop Hong Kong. Host Jeremy Chapman explores what is driving demand for Cloud-based productivity solutions with perspectives from Emperor Group and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Don’t miss the bartering challenge in a Hong Kong street market aided by Microsoft Lync video and his friend Steve, real-time cloud image to text translation services in action to navigate Hong Kong and much more.

Sonus Networks acquires SDN technology from Treq Labs

Sonus Networks announced that is has acquired the SDN technology assets of Treq Labs. Treq’s SDN technology is designed to optimize networks for voice, video and UC for both enterprise and service provider customers.

Treq’s solutions for the enterprise give priority to latency-sensitive and business-critical traffic based on business rules. For service providers, the technology is also designed to help operators offer on-demand network services to their enterprise customers.

Treq’s SDN solution is intended to help network operators:

  • -improve network utilization
  • -streamline provisioning
  • -transform networks from traditional IT operations to a Network-as-a-Service model
  • -better enable complete network QoS (quality of service) and SLA assurance

Kevin Riley, CTO of Sonus, said, "Networks are becoming increasingly congested due to the growing consumption of media-rich applications such as video and UC.  Historically, network operators have over-provisioned their networks to handle this congestion, which has resulted in inefficient network monetization. This model is no longer economically feasible given the rapid increase in network bandwidth driven by video and UC. A solution is required which can deliver predictable behaviour in an environment of congestion via intelligent network control and application-aware policies.“

Enterprises have been shifting to SDN for several years, and carriers are now beginning to embrace SDN as a solution to evolve their networks. AT&T for example has been especially vocal about their strategy, setting a goal to have software control 75% of the network by 2020. This investment by Sonus is evidence of SDN’s evolving importance to network operators’ unified communications infrastructures.

3 reasons why voice communication is still king

In our ever-connected online world, we often spend the majority of our time communicating by text messages, emails, and other forms of non-verbal communication. These methods can be efficient in transmitting data and information, but they lack a certain human element.

Using our voices, we can do many things we can’t accomplish with email, like get immediate answers, collaborate, infer tone and emotion, and reduce our cluttered in-boxes. So the million dollar question is, how can you put voice to work in your business? Here are three reasons to encourage employees to use voice communications:

1. Reduce email clutter.

Feeling overwhelmed by email? Everyone can relate, but one simple way to reduce email overload is just to pick up the phone!

One phone call can often save the time of an entire email thread and several back-and-forth exchanges—you know, those email threads that waste the whole day. Encourage employees to make calls instead, and time can actually be saved! 

To encourage voice communications, why not give your employees the ability to create and manage their own conference calls? By not requiring authorization or having to schedule around their coworkers, employees will feel empowered to use their voices to save time and reduce the need to create email mega-threads.

2. Provide immediate responses.

Pavlov’s dog would salivate when a bell rang, because the dog was conditioned to believe that the sound of the bell meant that food was coming. Today, our “food bell” is the email notification, but unlike nutritious food, consuming a lot of email isn’t necessarily the best diet.

When we’re conditioned to get email at all times, we often come to expect these various delays and waiting periods in our workflows as we respond or wait for replies. Instead, employees who are able to pick up the phone can get answers quickly, without waiting to resolve tough problems through an email chain.

3. Convey emotion and tone.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to detect someone’s emotions over email? It can be difficult to tell if someone is being funny, sarcastic, rude, happy, or sad just from their text alone. So, a question to consider is, “How can employees know if a coworker is having a bad day or just has poor email etiquette?”

The answer, once again, is to encourage employees to use their voices to communicate. When employees can speak, their voices allow them to bring emotion and tone to their communications. No more misunderstandings over a misread email.

Email has made our business lives easier, but it’s not always the easiest way to work. While it may not be the cutting edge of technology, it’s important to remember that a good old-fashioned phone call can actually be the height of efficiency.

Article originally appeared at http://networkingexchangeblog.att.com/enterprise-business/let-power-voice-guide/?bref=mbar-linkedin#fbid=PAUUjFObzFb

 

Microsoft, the Looming SmartVoice Powerhouse

Over the past year, Microsoft has been advancing its new vision of “mobile first/cloud first.” Voice is emerging as a key player and may ultimately turn into a key profit generator for the company.  Microsoft’s growing portfolio and power in voice applications is going to have a significant impact upon emerging SmartVoice companies while telephone companies continue to travel down a “dumb pipe” road.”

Three key examples to Microsoft’s growing voice technology portfolio include the Cortana intelligent assistant, Skype Translator and support of WebRTC in Internet Explorer. Each part blends well with the mobile first/cloud first (M1C1) vision, with the underlying technologies able to be used as building blocks for more sophisticated value-added services.

Microsoft Cortana, an intelligent personal assistant first introduced for Windows Phone and Windows wearable tech is now expected to proliferate to Windows 10 and the Xbox One. People will be able to access it through any Windows platform, including tablets, notebooks and desktop PCs. Cortana is currently region-specific, adapting to the global markets it is (virtually) located in, be it the U.S., the U.K., or China, with global access available by 2015.

Cortana is currently steered to the personal assistant role, but imagine the behind-the-scenes work going to meld it to a more business centric-approach. Imagine Cortana being teamed with a Lync/Skype for Business cloud service to provide a natural language IVR experience ahead of anything currently on the market. After that, add a business customization module for Cortana to schedule conference calls, meetings, calendar updates, and links to customer resource management (CRM) database services. You may even be able to verbally flip Cortana between personal mode and business mode, with the personal assistant putting on its “business hat” when you are dealing with work issues.

Skype Translator conducts real-time transcription and translation from one language to another.  Businesses can use real-time transcription for conference calls, even without translation.  Again, imagine a Lync/Skype for Business cloud offering low-cost or even “free” real-time transcription and call recording for 30 days. Mid-sized and larger businesses will, in the future, be able to access a Microsoft-based voice analytics service; the company already has demonstrated cloud analytics services for Internet of Things (IoT) applications, so voice is simply shifting data types and conducting a bit more processing.

Call recording and transcription also leads to the world of Hypervoice applications, with voice recording easily searchable via key word index. Microsoft has to be aware of the Hypervoice consortium and the early applications built around voice-as-searchable, so it’s not unreasonable to think the company might offer its own spin on Hypervoice in the future.

WebRTC may be the common “glue” to bind and fit pieces together outside of the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft is incorporating WebRTC into Internet Explorer and other services. Providing WebRTC support also means Android and iOS devices can access Microsoft-hosted voice-based applications, with the end-game being more mobile devices—regardless of operating system—feeding into the Microsoft cloud.

As some point in time, I expect Microsoft to open up access to its voice processing services via API.  The WebRTC world has established a market for “API as a service,” and there are hordes of developers who would love cost-effective access to natural language processing and call transcription as a start. Voice analytics and Hypervoice services are likely to remain Microsoft-owned (closed) for the short term.

The only piece missing from Microsoft’s voice portfolio is voice biometrics. Is the company working on its own service, planning to buy someone not named “Nuance” or simply going to work out some strategic licensing? Voice identification is a moving target. I have no doubts Microsoft has done some work in the arena, but I’m not sure if the company is prepared to commit the resources to make voice biometrics a business line. On the other hand, it has a lot of cloud service cycles to fill up.

Article first published: http://www.webrtcworld.com/topics/webrtc-world/articles/395214-microsoft-looming-smartvoice-powerhouse.htm

 

Continuous Innovation Makes Office 365 the Clear Choice for Productivity

The technology industry runs on innovation: new products, new features and new ideas. Innovation is the arena in which technology companies compete to offer products and services that are better, faster and more secure.
Our commitment to innovation and delighting customers has been a hallmark of Microsoft Office since we introduced the very first version of the productivity suite. Since then, our nonstop innovation has enabled us to far outpace competitors such as Google, who suggests their Google Apps for Work are “good enough for most people,” including those who rely on the rich, full-featured experience of Office 365. (Could that be one reason why the annual Thomson Reuters “Top 100 Innovators” study recognized Microsoft as a leading Software innovator again this year while Google was recognized only for Search?)
Over the past year, Microsoft developers and engineers have introduced a stunning array of new Office 365 innovations, more than 60 in all, including:
  • Office Graph and Delve—Office Delve is a new way for you to discover the most relevant and important information and connections from across your work life. With Delve, you don’t have to go searching for the information you need; the information finds you and is presented in a beautiful and intuitive card design. Delve knows what is relevant to you because of the insights it receives through Office Graph, which uses sophisticated machine learning to map the relationships between people, content, and activities across Office 365.
  • Office for iPad, iPhone and Android—After introducing Office for iPad in March, we added printing and a host of other top-requested features. In designing Office for iPad, we didn’t attempt to overlay our existing Office suite on the iPad platform. Instead, we re-imagined Office, building the new product from the ground up to make sure iPad users would have the same great Office experience that our other customers enjoy. In November, we released new Office apps for the iPhone, updated our Office for iPad apps, and made them all free, so users are no longer required to have an Office 365 subscription to create, edit and share Office documents on their mobile devices. We also kicked off the preview of Office for Android tablet, which will enable even more people to enjoy the same great Office experience on all their devices.
  • Office Sway—With Office Sway, we introduced a brand new app to the Office portfolio and an entirely new way to express yourself and bring your ideas to life. Sway makes it easy for you to create a beautiful, interactive, web-based expression of your ideas from your phone or browser—and your creation will look great on any screen. You provide the ideas and inspiration; Sway will take care of the design work.
  • Office Mix—Office Mix is another way that Office 365 helps you get creative, by enabling you to transform your PowerPoint slides into interactive online lessons and presentations. After we invited customers to preview Office Mix in May, it quickly became a game-changing technology for teachers. We recently added more innovative features to Office Mix, such as easier editing and the ability to create mixes “live” while you are giving your presentation.
  • Tell Me—Designed to be fast, convenient and efficient, the new Tell Me feature in Office Online can help you be more productive by showing you how to perform any Office task that you can’t quite remember how to do or still need to learn. Use simple language, or even partial words, to ask your question, and Tell Me provides the answer.
Why settle for “good enough?” At Microsoft, our goal is to make all of our products the best in their class—and to keep making them better. Office 365 is a great example.

This article excerpt, by Office 365 Team, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/16AiKxJ

Continuous Innovation Makes Office 365 the Clear Choice for Productivity

The technology industry runs on innovation: new products, new features and new ideas. Innovation is the arena in which technology companies compete to offer products and services that are better, faster and more secure.
Our commitment to innovation and delighting customers has been a hallmark of Microsoft Office since we introduced the very first version of the productivity suite. Since then, our nonstop innovation has enabled us to far outpace competitors such as Google, who suggests their Google Apps for Work are “good enough for most people,” including those who rely on the rich, full-featured experience of Office 365. (Could that be one reason why the annual Thomson Reuters “Top 100 Innovators” study recognized Microsoft as a leading Software innovator again this year while Google was recognized only for Search?)
Over the past year, Microsoft developers and engineers have introduced a stunning array of new Office 365 innovations, more than 60 in all, including:
  • Office Graph and Delve—Office Delve is a new way for you to discover the most relevant and important information and connections from across your work life. With Delve, you don’t have to go searching for the information you need; the information finds you and is presented in a beautiful and intuitive card design. Delve knows what is relevant to you because of the insights it receives through Office Graph, which uses sophisticated machine learning to map the relationships between people, content, and activities across Office 365.
  • Office for iPad, iPhone and Android—After introducing Office for iPad in March, we added printing and a host of other top-requested features. In designing Office for iPad, we didn’t attempt to overlay our existing Office suite on the iPad platform. Instead, we re-imagined Office, building the new product from the ground up to make sure iPad users would have the same great Office experience that our other customers enjoy. In November, we released new Office apps for the iPhone, updated our Office for iPad apps, and made them all free, so users are no longer required to have an Office 365 subscription to create, edit and share Office documents on their mobile devices. We also kicked off the preview of Office for Android tablet, which will enable even more people to enjoy the same great Office experience on all their devices.
  • Office Sway—With Office Sway, we introduced a brand new app to the Office portfolio and an entirely new way to express yourself and bring your ideas to life. Sway makes it easy for you to create a beautiful, interactive, web-based expression of your ideas from your phone or browser—and your creation will look great on any screen. You provide the ideas and inspiration; Sway will take care of the design work.
  • Office Mix—Office Mix is another way that Office 365 helps you get creative, by enabling you to transform your PowerPoint slides into interactive online lessons and presentations. After we invited customers to preview Office Mix in May, it quickly became a game-changing technology for teachers. We recently added more innovative features to Office Mix, such as easier editing and the ability to create mixes “live” while you are giving your presentation.
  • Tell Me—Designed to be fast, convenient and efficient, the new Tell Me feature in Office Online can help you be more productive by showing you how to perform any Office task that you can’t quite remember how to do or still need to learn. Use simple language, or even partial words, to ask your question, and Tell Me provides the answer.
Why settle for “good enough?” At Microsoft, our goal is to make all of our products the best in their class—and to keep making them better. Office 365 is a great example.

This article excerpt, by Office 365 Team, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/16AiKxJ