Microsoft Ignite in the rear-view mirror: What we learned

If you wanted to attend Ignite this year, you could go in person or keep tabs on things via the web. Either way, there was a lot to sort through.

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Martyn Williams/IDG

Microsoft this year treated its big Ignite event as more of a marketing presentation than a full-fledged conference, offering up a variety of announcements that affect Windows users, as well as large enterprises and their networks. (The show was a hybrid affair, with a small in-person option and online access for those unable to travel. I "attended" online.)

At these kinds of events, I always look for products I might need in my home or office, as well as any licensing changes that will affect my yearly budget. I have a mixture of licenses, from one-time purchases to three-year volume licensing to annual 365 licenses — so keeping track of each can be daunting.

Among the changes Microsoft announced: all of the company's Endpoint Management products are being rolled into Intune. With Endpoint Management no more, cloud-based management will be known as Microsoft Intune and on-premises management as Microsoft Configuration Manager. (Not surprisingly, the company is already hinting at more licensing changes.) The Microsoft 365 E5 license used to be at the top of the heap, and included security products such as Advanced Threat Projection and various threat insights.

Now, the company is talking up additional premium features users will need to purchase in addition to the base license. For example, Microsoft announced a cloud-based Microsoft Intune Premium suite that will include Endpoint Privilege Management, Remote Help, and Microsoft Tunnel for Mobile App Management in 2023. Endpoint Privilege Management is designed to help firms provide temporary administrative rights to users when they need to install software. The administrator can approve the request, allowing the user to perform the activity securely.

The company also highlighted Remote help, which will be a business version of QuickAssist; it allows an admin to remotely log into any joined domain or Microsoft account desktop to see and manage what a user is doing.

These are slated to both be offered in preview in the coming months, then released officially for an additional subscription after that.

If you are a Microsoft Teams user, take note: Microsoft unveiled a Premium version of the collaboration platform. From advanced security features as well as options for larger meetings such as live translation for captions, Teams also will use artificial intelligence to trigger recaps and to-do lists. In addition it will allow customized branding for backgrounds and landing pages. The public preview will be out later this year and is expected to be priced at $10 per user per month.

Microsoft Office is also getting a new coat of paint and rebranding as Microsoft 365. For anyone used to checking you’ll need to get used to going to starting in November.

It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft moves more of its features to online- or cloud-only offerings or continues to offer desktop versions of its business-critical software. As someone who uses various Outlook and Word plugins to provide  additional features, I remain curious about whether other firms can migrate to online-only apps. (Microsoft is starting to hint that it may be moving to online versions.)

Microsoft’s security offerings were also highlighted at Ignite, and the company has a full suite of tools to choose from:

Beginning Nov. 1, Microsoft plans to offer a carrot for organizations to move away from traditional antivirus platforms; it will give new and existing customers 50% off the price of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 and P2 licenses. If you're an existing Microsoft Defender Endpoint P1 customer and upgrade to P2, that discount will be available between now and June 30, 2023. Note: you can also try out the offering before you purchase it.

Because Ignite was designed as a hybrid event, many of the sessions were recorded and are now online. I found many of the sessions focused on ransomware and prevention to be of interest. Some, like “Stories from DART: Taking the ware out of ransomware,” showcased how attackers gain access to systems and provided action items to protect against ransomware (such as discontinuing public exposure of Remote Desktop Protocol). Other sessions focused on moving from on-premises active directory to Azure AD, demonstrating that we still have a long way to go to protect logins and identity.

I hope Microsoft will continue to ensure these big tech events aren't just limited to in-person presentations but can be offered externally online. Virtual attendees might lose the “hallway” talks that are often as valuable as the conference itself, but moving the show online exposes information to a wider audience. Take the time to check out the recorded sessions and see for yourself.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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